OnPoint by Keith Ng

Read Post

OnPoint: 3 News Exclusive Investigation Newsflash: Government Not Profitable

181 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 Newer→ Last

  • merc,

    I was that mature student, meeting science had a profound affect on me. Everyone should try a university at least once in their lives I reckon.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to NBH,

    Thanks for that NBH. I'll have to pore over them to satisfy myself about a couple of key points.
    1. Are they taking into account that by the end of 3 years study, the school leaver has 3 years of experience, and also 3 years of earnings, and no debt?
    2. Are they taking into account that apart from degrees that you must have to do certain work, that there is a steady decline in the value of the degree relative to experience? I don't know the figures, but technical subjects have a very rapid skill turnover. If your skills are no advantage in 5 years, and your 51% higher earnings must offset 3 years of no earnings and accruing debt, does that actually amount to an advantage at all?
    3. Are those with educations actually just working harder for their money? Do they end up taking their work home with them, as they have been trained for years of schooling to do?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I'd prefer to use talent as the selection criteria

    What's wrong with using the ability to do the course? That seems to be the fairest system - you need to know and have done X,Y and Z in order to enter a course with an expectation of completing it - which is what NCEA is designed to measure.

    Otherwise, it's just a sifting system - and every such system, although they may purport to be meritocratic in fact discriminates in favour of those whose parents have been able to buy expensive, exam-focused tuition.

    Also, and this may not have occurred to the academics who advocate for UK-style competitive entrance, it creates an artificial league table of universities based on the undergraduates they can attract. For NZ, this would mean that although Lincoln or Massey (for instance) might be objectively the best places for particular research, they'd be seen as intrinsically inferior to e.g. Auckland, just because one demands AAA and the other CDD (or whatever equivalent was cooked up).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to DCBCauchi,

    All the polytechnics wanted to be universities, but instead all the universities became polytechnics.

    Yes, and polytechnics dropped their standards to keep their position of soaking up non academic kids. My mother, who has taught at Manukau Polytech for over 20 years, talks of continual pressure to pass substandard students, just to satisfy standards requirements of her own teaching. Something's really fucked up with that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to DCBCauchi,

    Um, I thought universities weren’t really about the students but rather the research they produce. Supposedly pure research.

    It's both. Their first role is to teach students. One of the things they teach is how to do research really well. You can't do that without actually doing really good research with the students. Hence both.

    Note it is also not true that CRIs are only for applied research, because you can't do good applied research in an environment that doesn't also do good pure research. Hence both.

    Also it is good for CRIs to have students working because they reinforce good practice (you never work more correctly than when you are trying to teach someone). So CRIs also teach.

    The artificial lines between institutes have only ever been believable if you work in Govt.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    OK, there are answers in there, but I'd have to devote some time to them to be able to work out if the financials of tertiary stack up. It's still incomplete, the earnings growth is only tracked for 3 years post study, and all classes of people of that age have earnings growth that is well above the median, whether they got degrees, or left school after failing to complete level 1. I guess you tend to have the fastest growth when you start at the bottom.

    Also, there is of course a big danger in the comparisons, that people choosing study are possibly self selected as the most likely to have high wage growth no matter what they did. Not sure how to eliminate that from the equation.

    Interesting point in there, that people who didn't complete their doctorates seem to have done better for it. Most curious. I wonder if they didn't complete because they were grabbed, skewing the figures.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    I wonder if they didn't complete because they were grabbed

    bloody travellers

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Sacha,

    It's already happened. So discriminatory because it will affect women whose caring responsibilities have finally ceased, or those who have lost their jobs and can't afford to pay the fees upfront. Women/poor/older people - so what?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3218 posts Report Reply

  • NBH, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yeah, Ben, determining the 'real' benefit from tertiary education is really very difficult - especially when you translate from the broad-brush quant level down to factors that influence outcomes at the level of the individual. The EOTE work is the best analysis we have to date that attempts to approximate that benefit in terms of wages (David Earle and David Scott from the Ministry of Education's TSPAR unit have also done some really interesting work trying to capture the wider social benefits of education).

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to NBH,

    I was actually not even going there. The question of actual financial payoff is at least a subquestion that could potentially be answered with numbers alone. But it's still a hard question, lots of data to consider. I guess if you can show that people are generally better off after, say, 6 years from commencing tertiary study, then you've got an answer of sorts. And that 3 years of financial backpedalling when the straight-to-work-er is going forward do actually make me seriously question that, even with the EOTE you gave. One has to earn more than twice as much to catch up on 3 years losses in only 3 years. Make it the 7-8 years of a doctorate and we're talking having to do the same for 7-8 years. The only people I know who make that much bank out of such long education are doctors.

    I personally emerged from tertiary education after 5 years, about $30,000 in the hole, and was only able to walk into an average wage job. It took a further 4 years to double that. Another 4 and it doubled again, but by then I'm no longer inclined to think that university had anything to do with it, and it was more a function of my ambition, drive, and more importantly, contacts. I wasn't doing anything I learned at university. I had work constantly on my mind, was effectively doing nearly constant work and had only two actual holidays in 10 years, because holidays cost me a huge amount of lost earnings as a contractor. When personal reasons caused me to lose the motivation to do this level of work, I also lost that contract. Now I'm just another contractor whose skills have dated, any motivated 22 year old kid is as productive with new technologies.

    In the same time a fairly lazy friend of mine dropped out about a month into first year, did some pretty basic minimum wage work until he found a niche, learned a trade (pest control) and has steadily built up a tidy pile of money, and is in well-paid secure work. There's always pests to kill, and you do it pretty much the same way forever, the techniques change only gradually. It's certainly not like he's had to learn 8 new programming languages on 10 different operating systems, with 4 major paradigm changes like I have. He does his work, goes home and relaxes, takes good holidays, and does what he likes with his weekends.

    Does make me wonder about the economics of tertiary education, I must say. In hindsight it strikes me as doing things the hard way.

    Not that I'm grudging my choices. I do value things other than the financial aspects. I was interested in the things I studied, and didn't really bother much with the rest (hence the extra year my degree + diploma took). But if kids are a bit iffy about it, I'm not really inclined without hard facts to tell them they should study, because the way things currently are, with student loans, no allowances calculated off parental income, and the fact that degrees are heading towards being commonplace, and my own personal experiences, if they want to just do low wage work and probably find a niche, who am I to say that's not thinking ahead?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to BenWilson,

    In the same time a fairly lazy friend of mine dropped out about a month into first year, did some pretty basic minimum wage work until he found a niche, learned a trade (pest control) and has steadily built up a tidy pile of money, and is in well-paid secure work.

    My question would be: for all the people like your friend (or the perennial Dropout Made Good, Bill Gates) how many are there that end up stuck in crappy minimum or close-to-minimum wage jobs all their life? I know women of my parents' generation whose families wouldn't support them to go to university (women have babies, what's the point?) and ended up in jobs that have taken twenty or thirty years to get to even 50% above *minimum* wage. They're not stupid or unmotivated, quite the opposite - they've perfected what they do, but what they do just doesn't pay that well. Tertiary education would probably have given them opportunities they didn't get. For everyone who drops out and does well there are a lot more who don't, because succeeding under those circumstances takes innate skills that not everyone has or develops on their own.

    For people going into computer science today, for instance - sure, if you just want to be a programmer, your best bet is a polytech industry-based course. CPIT in Christchurch has (or did have) a very, very good one. But if you want to do something specialised or the really well-paying jobs, a degree can pan out. My partner is being courted in the US for jobs that theoretically require five to ten years' experience in industry. He handed in his thesis just under a year ago. His Master's apparently lets them overlook the experience gap (obviously there's also other factors at play, he's good at what he does, but it helps a lot.) It's a fringe case but it's real. But there's also people who come out totally unemployable because their degrees were mostly theory-based, or have good degrees but can't break that magical "two years' experience" barrier.

    I think this all gets back to the way a bachelor degree has become seen as a base requirement for any sort of non-trade skilled work: it isn't, and shouldn't be, but that's the perception. Right now, there are lots of jobs that a degree does give you an advantage for and is useful for, but we need to give young people more certainty about what path they're taking and what the results are likely (not guaranteed, but likely) to be. Because right now it's a bit of a crapshoot, except in specific areas. It's not as bad as "there's no point", but it is "if you're going into this to make yourself more employable, then think about what you're doing."

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    how many are there that end up stuck in crappy minimum or close-to-minimum wage jobs all their life?

    I don't know. They exist, for sure, although "stuck" is a loaded term to describe people who don't even try to get better work, not even within their workplace. "Secure" might be what they were actually after.

    But if you want to do something specialised or the really well-paying jobs, a degree can pan out.

    It can. Or, like my previous business partner, you can make millions without any qualifications beyond school cert (whatever that is now. Level 1 NCEA?). Get a job doing something, learn to program in your spare time, sell the software...away you go.

    For everyone who drops out and does well there are a lot more who don't, because succeeding under those circumstances takes innate skills that not everyone has or develops on their own.

    The stats NBH gave don't really back that up. There's a difference, but it's not a many-fold. Completing a bachelor's degree starts you at 32% more than not completing it (table 1). It also sets you back up to three years, and costs money. That's the biggest difference, the other kinds of qualifications all counted for less.

    The post-study earnings table (table 2) is also interesting, in that it says after 3 years someone with a bachelors degree is about 27% ahead on income over someone with only level 1-3 certificates. At that rate, it's going to take somewhere on the order of 9 years to break even to cover the lost 3 years. Possibly more, if you include the cost of the study, and progressive income taxes. Certainly more, if you then act like you're as wealthy as your income suggests, which most people do.

    As a purely economic choice, study seems rather risky, and also likely to involve a lot harder work. It also comes with 3 years that are still a financially dependent on your parents, if they are of average wealth. 3 more years of living at their home under their rules, etc. That's not an insignificant cost to a young person wanting to become independent, and it's a very high cost for people who don't like their parents.

    I'm not trying to talk study down. Just trying to get to the bottom of the current economics of it. It might help people from older generations grasp why getting into university doesn't mean a life of peaches the way it used to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Hey guys, 200 words! Didn't they teach you that at university :-)

    if you just want to be a programmer, your best bet is a polytech industry-based course

    Except that won't give you the status to be seen as one of the cool kids and work on interesting stuff. You'll be on the "industry" side of the geek/industry divide, and you'll be very much lined up to be replaced by a $20 an hour outsource resource from Hyderabad, Almaty or wherever they're finding cheap brains this year.

    Best plan is to get Daddy to finance you while you build up a track record contributing on open-source. Daddy hasn't the dollars? - hard luck, welcome to the world...

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    The core problem here is that the “private benefit” of tertiary education, on which the scheme is predicated, isn’t all its cracked up to be.

    The core problem is well before that, and something that we didn't push enough in the 90s when a solid push back might have made a difference.

    The core problem is that we don't use private benefit elsewhere in society to determine what you should pay for and what you should incur a loan for. Primary schooling has a massive private benefit, but you don't build up a student loan from age 5. Medical care, welfare. Only in tertiary education has this idea of a private/public benefit caught hold. By engaging in the debate about the public/private split in the 1990s, we let the new right transform the debate and we're poorer for it.

    And they got funding based on how many students they could push through to a degree (that has changed now).

    Not even that. They got funding based on how many students enrolled. Completion of courses or degrees was irrelevant for funding - they're trying to put in place such a system now.

    And in some ways you could say the student loan system *is* a tax on graduates, albeit one that applies equally regardless of your success or failure.

    Again, not a tax on graduates, a tax on people that have enrolled. Lots of people don't complete their qualification for various reasons, but have the debt without the benefit.

    I think this is the one that people choke on, because it’s meritocratic rather than egalitarian.

    After many years I'm possibly now in favour of us having less research universities, and focusing the research more. A country our size could probably have five good research institutions, the rest are just teaching institutions.

    I find it strange that if you want to study history after high school in a formal sense, you have to do it at a institution where the teachers have PhDs and do active research (at least in theory). This might be desirable, but I think it's a luxury that isn't necessary in the modern world. Your students that want to progress to postgraduate either go to a research institution, or transfer and maybe have a bridging course, your ordinary teaching qualification or commerce degree - can effectively become taught by lecturers who aren't research active.

    1. Are they taking into account that by the end of 3 years study, the school leaver has 3 years of experience, and also 3 years of earnings, and no debt?

    The best stats use lifetime earnings, but obviously there is a bit of guesswork going on for the changes over the past 20 years so it's unclear.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    By engaging in the debate about the public/private split in the 1990s, we let the new right transform the debate and we're poorer for it.

    By not engaging *well enough* against neoliberalism, more broadly, the left let down its constituents.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Sacha,

    I agree, but to be fair the dice were loaded, still are because when you use the God And My Right style as a motivator, anything you do can be justified in the name of Me And My Own.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    There are those, through no fault of their own, that get stuck cleaning toilets or whatever because they either do not have the mental faculties or do not consider life to be all about working for the mighty dollar. There are those without a university degree who "know how to make a buck" and don't have the capacity of empathy and think it's ok to fleece the under-educated and needy because they can.
    Education may not be the golden ticket to riches but it helps you understand the needs of others, unless, of course, that education consists of a commerce degree.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Education may not be the golden ticket to riches but it helps you understand the needs of others

    Not sure about that. It helps you perhaps find out what those needs are in a more systematic way if you care to, but I don't think it engenders empathy - that's found in all walks of life, and also absent in them. Education can train you to be a wanker, if you let it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to BenWilson,

    I don’t know. They exist, for sure, although “stuck” is a loaded term to describe people who don’t even try to get better work, not even within their workplace. “Secure” might be what they were actually after.

    I don't know how much time you've spent in minimum-wage workplaces but "secure" isn't the word I'd use to describe it. "Just scraping by" is usually a better phrase.

    Sure, there's probably some people who are okay with it (as long as they don't want kids, or other dependents, or to own any property, or have real financial security.) But I respectfully suggest that "oh, I'd have been so much happier not doing a degree and earning lots of money and living the simple life of the working poor" is a mindset that's a lot easier to have when you don't have to be one of the working poor.

    And I'll say again: people like your friend earning millions are, by and large, massive statistical anomalies. Very few people get no post-school qualifications and make millions of dollars. It's just not a useful anecdote for planning your life, unless you are particularly intelligent and/or driven.

    The real problem in the modern world is that we have jobs, not careers; people used to be able to go into even low-paying jobs and know they'd hold them and be promoted if they worked well. Now...not even close. (And, yes, yes, rose-tinted glasses, but the fact remains that promotion within companies has largely been replaced by chucking in people with degrees in management. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it really, really doesn't.)

    A country our size could probably have five good research institutions, the rest are just teaching institutions.

    I can hold out at length on the way research opportunities are linked to teaching duties without training or supervision for academic scientists, but in lieu of that: there is a strong body of thought, and I believe it, that certainly in the second and third years and sometimes in the first university courses are greatly enhanced by having people doing research teaching. It's not a set of skills everyone has, but it really does work. Sometimes you get monomaniacal focus on the teacher's particular field of interest, but more often you get a thorough introduction to a field from someone who understands it and understand current problems in it.

    Even teaching-only, bachelor's degree-only institutions in the US have active researchers doing a lot of the teaching, and postdocs doing research under them. That's kind of the point of having a university, that link between extending the field of knowledge and teaching in it. I'd want to think very long and carefully before drawing any sort of separation there.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Talking about special investigative newflashes ......

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    special investigative newsflashes ...

    nice one...
    shame the 'Brolleywood' graphic one
    got culled from the options...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7947 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    (the 'news' ticker crawling across the bottom is, um, interesting)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I don't know how much time you've spent in minimum-wage workplaces but "secure" isn't the word I'd use to describe it. "Just scraping by" is usually a better phrase.

    Not a lot. Probably less than a couple of thousand hours, all up. I'd go along with describing it as "just scraping by" if I hadn't personally experienced going from being a student to that and back again, every year. I know which one was "scraping by", and it sure wasn't the one with the regular paycheck. The holidays actually felt like holidays, despite the fact I was working full time.

    But I respectfully suggest that "oh, I'd have been so much happier not doing a degree and earning lots of money and living the simple life of the working poor" is a mindset that's a lot easier to have when you don't have to be one of the working poor.

    True. The flipside is that the same goes for the working rich. "Oh I'd have been so much happier just having a fun time at varsity and then drifting into a high paying job" is a lot easier to imagine than actually do.

    And I'll say again: people like your friend earning millions are, by and large, massive statistical anomalies. Very few people get no post-school qualifications and make millions of dollars. It's just not a useful anecdote for planning your life, unless you are particularly intelligent and/or driven.

    Very few make millions, period. So the same statement goes for any anecdotes about undergoing tertiary training to make your fortune. Hence my going through the exercise of working through the actual numbers in NBH's EOTE. I'd be a whole lot more convinced by longer term studies. It's pretty complicated stuff, really, when you also consider how hard students actually have to work. As they are careful to say in the summary (my emphasis):

    Care is needed in interpreting the following differences in earnings, and in particular, the extent to which these differences can be attributed to education....Even when limited to young leavers, there are likely to be differences in the innate ability of some groups being compared. While some education characteristics are likely to capture this, it may be that these differences in ability (or other unmeasured characteristics) are contributing to the resulting earnings differences, rather than the educational differences being compared.

    It's better than nothing, of course, a damned sight so. But I'm not finding the economics compelling if the report is to be trusted.

    Repeat: I'm not all about the economics. But I do want to know about them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    The holidays actually felt like holidays, despite the fact I was working full time

    +1

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • NBH, in reply to BenWilson,

    Hence my going through the exercise of working through the actual numbers in NBH's EOTE. I'd be a whole lot more convinced by longer term studies

    Well we do have some raw data about earnings by qualification level (though the EOTE work is better quality, because it both tracks a cohort and has involved actually analysing the data) - see here

    In 2008, the median weekly income for everyone aged over 15 who had a degree or higher was $844, compared to $360 for those who just had a school qualification and $614 for those who had a sub-degree level tertiary qualification. Confining those rates just to the 25-39 group, the figures are $882/ $709/ $651. There are obvious problems with using that data, you can definitely dispute the specific numbers involved in any of this, and of course they don't necessarily bear any relationship to the experience of a given individual. But I do think that from the data we do have it's fair to say that there is broadly a pretty clear income benefit (as one measure) for degree-level study.

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 97 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.