People take tertiary education for many reasons. They think about what they enjoy, what they are good at, what they are capable of and what will get them started on a career. Good careers are associated with better health, better well-being and more satisfying lives. So many young people are making their tertiary education choices to gain the skills they need for satisfying and rewarding work. They use a range of information sources to help them make these choices. The information in this report is designed to add to the data available to young people facing those decisions.
This information is not just important to students and to their families. The Government makes a very large investment in tertiary education each year – funding tertiary education providers, providing subsidised student loans and granting student allowances. One major purpose of the Government’s investment is to help improve the New Zealand economy and society by raising the level of skill in the population – which helps make our society more productive, contributes to the creation of wealth and leads to better social outcomes.
Studying the earnings of graduates is one way of looking at the contribution that the tertiary education system is making to New Zealand’s society and economy. So the information in this report contributes to an understanding of the value New Zealand receives for the investment we make in tertiary education.
High school students thinking about career options can play around with this excellent tool at Careers New Zealand that shows how different degrees have different earnings profiles. There is also good data about how getting honours or a master’s affects earnings.
Some people don’t like thinking about tertiary education in this way. They should check their socio-economic privilege! Most incoming undergraduates at New Zealand universities need their investment in their education to pay off in the labour market. If they get it wrong, there are significant consequences that can take years to recover from.
Considering the cost of administering the student loan and student allowance scheme, making tertiary education tuition free or forgiving student loan balances would probably be indistinguishable in cost from maintaining the status quo if you discount back future repayments.