Can business students do their sums?

This morning’s Higher Education Supplement in The Australian gave the lead story to various interest groups complaining about the Budget decision to reduce Commonwealth subsidies to commerce students by about $1,000, with universities being allowed to increase student contribution amounts by about $1,200.

“It is hard for us to see how this is going to attract more people into doing those courses. In fact, it might turn them away.”

… said Geoff Rankin, chief executive of CPA Australia, which represents 112,000 finance, accounting and business professionals. …

It is a great worry to us,” University of Western Sydney vice-chancellor Janice Reid said.

“It will be a significant disincentive for students who might have seen a bachelor of business or bachelor of commerce as a viable alternative to a bachelor of arts or a general degree in the humanities.

As usual, these arguments assume that prices have a big impact on which courses students choose. Yet a study (pdf) released a couple of years ago put the average income premium from a business undergraduate degree, compared to a Year 12 qualification, at $542,000. The maximum extra cost that could be imposed on a student would be 0.66% of that. Prospective business students who can’t work out that the course is still a good deal have no aptitude for financial reasoning and – as Janice Reid suggests – should perhaps do Arts instead.
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