Low SES not a disadvantage at uni

Commenter Fitzroyalty asks whether there is recent data on low SES completions and drop-outs. In general, recent research gives cause for optimism that once low SES students reach university their SES status is not of itself (on average) a negative factor affecting outcomes.

This report based on Longitudinal Study of Australian Youth did find some slightly lower projected completion rates for the children of low education or occupation parents, but that these differences were not statistically significant after controlling for ENTER. In other words, low SES had done all the damage it was going to do at school, and did not do more damage at university.

The 2008 report of the Australian Survey of Student Engagement, released a week or two ago, found that low SES students had very similar rates of considering dropping out (34.6%) to all Australian students (33.1%). The grade point average of low SES students (71.6%) was virtually the same as all Australian students (71.9%).
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Do Group of Eight graduates earn more?, part 2

In March, I reported academic research showing that employers appeared unwilling to pay premium salaries for graduates who had been to Group of Eight universities.

Another report
released this week, 2008 Graduate Pathways Survey: Graduates’ education and employment outcomes five years after completion of a bachelor degree at an Australian university, gives some grounds for thinking that as graduates acquire work experience those from Group of Eight universities receive larger salary increases. The report is the first from the Graduate Pathways Survey, which in this case retrospectively asked people who completed their courses in 2002 about their progress since then.

It found that:

Go8 graduates tended to see the largest steady increase in salary over five years from $35,000 (2003 dollars) to $63,000 – an 80 per cent increase. ATN graduates salaries increased from $42,000 (2003 dollars) to $64,000 (60%). IRU [Innovative Research Universities, eg Murdoch, La Trobe, James Cook], regional and metropolitan university graduates’ salaries increased at slightly lower rates to reach $56,000 (up 56%), $61,000 (up 51%) and $60,000 (up 54%) respectively.

Australian Technology Network (ATN) universities are, however, still slightly ahead in absolute terms.

Unfortunately, there is no statistical analysis in this report to see whether there is a distinct Group of Eight effect, or whether (as is possible) this is a function of other labour market characteristics of the graduates. Presumably the age and discipline mix of graduates will affect the scope for rapid salary increases. And of course even a finding that controlling for these things there is a Group of Eight effect, it does not show that attending a Group of Eight university was a causal factor, given the higher prior average academic ability of these students.