University offers favour wealthy and realistic students

Quelle surprise?

The Age    |    18 January 2016

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With tens of thousands of students around Australia receiving university offers this week, new research shows it is wealthier students with realistic expectations who achieve ATARS above 70 who mostly benefit.

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Markets4The research by La Trobe and Swinburne universities reveals that poor students are twice as likely to receive no university offers than wealthier students. They are also 60% more likely to reject university offers.

Students who are overly ambitious and fail to match their university application to the reality of their ATAR are less likely to receive an offer.

The report says school leavers with low ATARs are likely to come from low socio-economic backgrounds and struggle to match their aspirations to feasible courses.

“There’s a cost to society because there are potentially talented people who are not accessing higher education,” co-author Buly Cardak, a La Trobe economist, said.

A student’s success is also linked to how many times they change their university preferences.  Students who change their preferences in response to their ATAR are more likely to receive an offer and then accept it than those who make no changes.

Dr Cardak, who co-authored the report with Swinburne’s Mark Bowden, said students with lower ATARs could benefit from better careers counselling.  This could include being given information which outlines non-university pathways and other alternative career paths.

The report, which was funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, used Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre data for 40,000 students.

Dr Cardak said schools were often closed when ATARs were released, which made it difficult for students to access important advice about changing their preferences.

Students from disadvantaged backgrounds were hit the hardest because their parents might not have attended university, making it harder for them to provide helpful advice on the process.

Phoenix P-12 Community College career practitioner Sheryl Kennedy says it is important that students have a plan B.

If it’s a double degree they want to do, then perhaps put down a single degree as well. Or if they want to go to Melbourne University then perhaps put La Trobe, Swinburne and Monash down, too. We constantly remind them that this is a lifelong journey and university is only the first few steps.

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