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Education: How Much is it Worth, Really?

TORONTO, ON, July 7, 2005 - A report released today by the Educational Policy Institute (EPI) finds that children from lower-income families may not be attending university because of serious misperceptions about the cost and value of post-secondary education.


"Survey data shows that people from low-income backgrounds, on average, think that the costs of university outweigh the benefits," said the report's author and EPI Vice-President Alex Usher. "Based on this, it is no surprise that we see such low participation rates among poorer youth - they are simply making rational decisions on the basis of bad information."


The report, entitled A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing: How Perceptions of Costs and Benefits Affect Access to Education is the most recent publication in a series focusing on Canadian higher education. Based on Canadian public opinion data, the study finds that substantial differences in perception exist between low-income and high-income individuals with respect to the costs and benefits of post-secondary education.


Using data from a survey commissioned by the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation in 2003, this report finds that a year's average university tuition cost ($3,749) is overestimated by Canadians in general ($4,989) and in particular by those from low-income backgrounds ($6,834). Similarly, the average disparity in annual income between high school and university graduates ($27,191) is underestimated by Canadians ($5,337) and especially those from low-income families ($4,885). Effectively, the average Canadian underestimates the benefit of university education by a factor of five.


"Poor information is not actually financial in nature - since no money changes hands - but is clearly an income-based, non-financial barrier that deserves serious attention," said the author. "The policy implications of such mis-estimation of costs and benefits of education are relevant to all stakeholders concerned with equitable access to education."

The full report is available in pdf format, click here.


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The Educational Policy Institute (EPI), a non-partisan research organization with offices in Toronto, Washington, and Melbourne, is dedicated to policy-based research on educational opportunity for all students. The mission of EPI is to expand educational opportunity for low-income and other historically-underrepresented students through high-level research and analysis.


Mr. Alex Usher, (416) 848-0237.