Low SES students and the non-university higher education sector

Last week I had a go at the Greens and Labor for supporting low SES students having to pay full fees, if they choose to attend a non-university higher education provider (NUHEP). The Department of Education has recently provided me with data on low SES undergraduate enrolments by NUHEP.

There is wide variation in their low SES enrolment shares, from a low of 4% to a high of 33% (only looking at providers with more than 100 domestic undergraduates). As in the university sector, much of the variation seems regional, reflecting the fact that the low SES measure is based on residential postcodes. Providers with low SES areas in their geographic catchment areas tend to have higher low SES enrolments, such as regional areas and the poorer cities or parts of cities.

Overall, in 2013 15.6% of undergraduate students in NUHEPs had low SES backgrounds, defined as living in postcodes in the lowest 25% of the ABS index of education and occupation. This compares to 17.6% of students in the public universities. The chart below compares some of the sub-groups within the NUHEPs and public universities.

There is a very loose relationship between fees charged and low SES enrolments. The pathway colleges are generally more expensive than the TAFEs, but they have a slightly higher low SES enrolment share. Religious colleges, including theological colleges as well as more general education providers with a religious dimension, have more a higher low SES enrolment share than either of the other two groups. They also tend to have quite low fees.


(Data copyright Commonwealth of Australia, reproduced by permission)