Rural and regional education gap

It is widely acknowledged that individuals who hold an undergraduate degree will on average earn much more over their lifetime than those without a degree.

ClassroomHowever, in rural and regional areas tertiary study is being left behind as school leavers strive for mediocrity says La Trobe University Director Albury-Wodonga Campus Professor Lin Crase.

‘It concerns me that many people who could do better chose to go into short-term jobs for reasonable money when they are capable of going for a professional career,’ he says.

There has been much attention recently towards the growing gap between metropolitan and non-metropolitan school leavers seeking a place in higher education place. 

For example, the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in 2009 found that about 81 per cent of metropolitan school leavers enrolled in a university in 2007-08 compared to 53 per cent of those students in non-metropolitan Victoria. 

‘In addition, a non-metropolitan school leaver is more than twice as likely to defer taking up that place compared to their metropolitan counterpart.

‘From the student’s perspective the opportunity cost of the study period is probably of greatest concern.  This is likely to be most pressing when local employment options are plentiful and the work environment is perceived as tolerable,’ says Professor Crase.

The ball-park figure in many studies indicates that the lifetime income for an individual that holds a tertiary qualification is around $1 million or the equivalent of a premium of at least 10 per cent per year compared to those without a degree.

‘What is really worrying is that most of the jobs of the future are likely to be in the services sector, where a professional qualification is required.  The outlook for regional communities is thus pretty bleak. 

‘Not only will these communities be poorer because their residents are not earning as much, the communities themselves will lack the services they need. Current government policies in this field are unlikely to bridge the gap,’ Professor Crase said.

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