Costs of a Postsecondary Education Essay - 3277 Words

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Costs of a Postsecondary Education

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The premium that belongs to obtaining post-secondary education seems to slowly be slipping away. With the advent of rising tuition to Universities and Colleges, students now face a potentially life-changing decision of whether or not to incur the (expensive) cost of higher education. A striking statistic that jumps out however is that postsecondary enrolment has been increasing over the past few decades despite the increase in tuition and other related costs associated with attending a college or a university. To put this in perspective, total enrolment has increased at a rate of 2.78% between 1973 and 2005 even though the costs of attending a postsecondary education increased by a real annual rate of 6.53% over the same time period (Hu & Miao, 2010). Human capital theory (HCT) suggests that investments in education allow individuals to increase their stock of human capital, which in turn increases productivity. Another interpretation of HCT suggests that differences in human capital can also help explain wage differentials, i.e. the higher the human capital accumulated by an individual, higher the wages. However, with the rising costs of postsecondary education over the past three decades and projections showing these costs will only go higher, is undertaking a postsecondary education worth it? Are the wage differentials and net benefits (personal as well as social) for someone with a university degree as compared to someone with a high school diploma high enough to justify pursuing a postsecondary education? This paper aims to explore these issues with the help of mathematical tools such as earnings premiums, net present value, and also look at the positive externalities generated by acquiring a postsecondary degree while determining whether further education is worth the cost.

 

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Introduction
The cost of postsecondary education has been on the rise for students since the early 1990s when the average tuition fees increased by 10% for two years in a row and has been increasing consistently since. This rise in average tuition fees can be attributed to a substantial shift in the funding methods of postsecondary education requiring students to increasingly pay more while governments pay less. Between the period 1989 and 2009, average tuition fees as a percentage of total revenues for universities more than doubled from 10% to 21% while funding from the government fell from 72% to 55% (Luong, 2010). Though costs may not discourage students from acquiring a postsecondary education, the debts continue to accrue and can become substantial. The Longitudinal Survey of Low Income Students (L-SLIS) offers some insight into debt accumulation by third year university students. Third year students in universities across Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia reported $18,480 in government debt over the period 2006-2009 (Finnie, Childs, & Wismer, 2010) as compared to $7,725 over a four-year degree in 1996 (Statistics Canada, 1999) across universities in Canada showing a 139% increase over 10 years. Furthermore, the returns to postsecondary education are not always equal for all graduates as some realize the benefits sooner than others and some realize higher returns than others. However it is important to realize that returns to education are not always in terms of monetary gains but can also be in the form of improved health, longer lifespan and reduced involvement in crime. To a large extent returns to education and wage rates depend on how well the employers’ needs are being met and how well prepared students are for the job market upon graduation. While some university programs prepare students

 

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well for their future occupations, more often than not a lot of students are found lacking in basic skills required in the workplace.
Literature Review
There is no doubt that individuals with postsecondary education reap higher... Show More

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