Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Here Here!

For once an economist who people actually listen to has actually spoken up about one of the premier whinges of our time. 
In a perfect world tertiary education would be free but unfortunately it's not - and in some ways that's actually a good thing.  It costs money to give students those specialised skills which are going to give those graduating students a vastly improved earning potential (perhaps not the Arts students but that's besides the point) - so many employers want to see their potential employees have that "piece of paper" which, in lieu of real business experience, is potential proof that the would be employee is capable of doing actual work.  Going to university is also (apparently) a great experience which besides giving students the start to a real world work ethic, also exposes them to new politics, academic expertise and is a transitional period between high school and the real world.  These institutions cost money and believe it or not a huge number of young people miss out because they didn't get the marks, don't feel the need or basically just don't like the institution.  When tertiary education is free it means that everyone is paying for it through their tax dollars and why should they when they're not necessarily going to get the benefit from that piece of paper (or, let's stretch it, doesn't get the benefit of gaining those valuable skills that one might gain from university).
Now, there is far more to gain from uni than increased earning potential but the point is that a lot of people don't go and they shouldn't be burdened with the cost of running these institutions.  I'm not calling for an American styled system where the students pay all but the Australian HECS system is the best system that I've seen.  As Mr Gittins points out the HECS debt is never a burden - you only have to start paying it off once you've gained that relatively high income that is a direct benefit of that piece of paper, and it's always proportional to your earnings.  There is no time limit on paying it off unlike even liberal countries like Canadia and unlike most debts you're never going to have to sell your house or assets to pay it off.  Every time I hear someone with a $50k salary (which is, let's face it, still pretty good) whining about their HECS debt it makes me want to lecture them with the same story I've lectured readers of this rant on.

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