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Education Indicators in Focus

Education Indicators in Focus is a recurring series of briefs that highlight specific indicators in OECD’s Education at a Glance that are of particular interest to policy makers and practitioners. They provide a detailed look into current issues in pre-primary, primary and secondary education, higher education, and adult outcomes from a global perspective, and contain an engaging mix of text, tables and charts that describe the international context of the most pressing questions in education policy and practice.

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What Are the Returns on Higher Education for Individuals and Countries?

Investing in higher (tertiary) education is one of the more significant decisions a person can take. In some countries, the direct costs of higher education can be large, often requiring a significant investment of an individual’s personal funds, either in up-front payments or loan repayments later on. Even in countries where the direct costs of higher education to an individual are much lower, such as Finland, Norway, and Turkey, the time invested in pursuing a degree – and the opportunity cost of foregone earnings while an individual is in school – can be a major factor. In light of the personal costs associated with pursuing a tertiary degree, how do the benefits compare? OECD analyses based on the most recent year of available data (2007 for most countries), suggest that as far as the long-term economic benefits of higher education are concerned, the return on investment is very good.

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