Higher Fees, Higher Expectations?
Individual economic gains are regarded as a major rationale for higher private contributions to the costs of higher education (HE). The perceptions potential applicants have about expected outcomes can be assumed to play a significant role in their decisionmaking. This Issues Paper explores these perceptions by outlining some of the findings of research conducted in six secondary schools/ colleges (five in Oxfordshire, one in Buckinghamshire) among Year 13 pupils taking courses that would make them eligible to apply for HE. A questionnaire (completed by 723 respondents) was followed by focus groups with applicants in five of the participating institutions. The findings indicate that there are high levels of uncertainty amongst potential applicants to HE regarding expected earnings after graduation and the amount of debt studying for a degree would generate. However, attitudes towards the notion of a graduate premium have a strong influence on the propensity to apply to HE. The differences in the expected cost of studying at different institutions was not a predominant factor in participants’ choices about where to apply.