I've written before about the reintroduction of third level fees in Ireland, which I favour. One of the most convincing arguments in my view is that third level graduates gain a significant private benefit from their third level education. While there are public benefits from third level education, these public benefits are much greater in early years. That means society benefits more if we support children in the first years of their formal education and individuals benefit more from education in the letter years.
There is new evidence that the private returns to third level education are significantly higher in Ireland than they are in other OECD countries. Here is a visual representation of the private and public returns and the private and public costs of different levels of education across the OECD. It's possible to look at different country data by clicking on the country names on the horizontal axis. (I came across this is a tweet by the impressive Diane Coyle).
The data behind that site is contained n the OECD's latest Education at a Glance 2012 publication. It's a treasure trove of data I've just started to explore. The figures below are taken from the highlights report.
The figures above show the earnings differential for those in employment with a third level degree, those with upper secondary school education and those with lower than secondary education.
It's striking that Ireland is in third place for men and second place for women for the earnings differential between those with university-level education and those with upper secondary level education. When you drill into the data it can be seen that this differential is most pronounced for both genders in the 25-34 age cohort.
Irrespective of the state of the economy, but especially at a time of severe fiscal pressures, government must spend money wisely and invest where the return to society is greatest. Where it is clear that the majority of the benefit from a third level education accrues to the individual it must be questionable whether the state should continue to heavily subsidise third level education.
A reintroduction of fees would at least allow government to redirect investment in education to where it matters most to society - early supports at pre-school and primary level.
I'm an economist so many of these posts will be about economic issues. But since everyone is allowed a view on economics I am inclined to go beyond my profession to throw my tuppence ha'penny into other issues.