Unequal Opportunities in an Open-Access and Tuition-Free Education System. the Case of Retention and Graduation from Higher Education in Argentina

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Cecilia ADROGUE, CONICET - Universidad de San Andres, Argentina
In the past three decades, the massification of Argentine higher education intensified due to the growing number of high-school graduates in the context of open-access and tuition free public university policies. Although Argentina stands out in relation to enrollment in higher education, it faces serious problems in terms of retention and graduation. In 2015, the graduation rate within the theoretical duration of undergraduate programs was approximately 30 percent and it registered a 62 percent freshman (first-year) retention rate. In Argentina and in most Latin American countries, longitudinal surveys are unavailable. Therefore, an option to study the factors associated with dropout at a systemic level is to approach the measurement of these phenomena through National Household Surveys -the Permanent Household Survey or EPH for the case of Argentina-. The EPH is a quarterly national survey that represents Argentina’s urban population. It systematically and permanently collects data referring to the population’s demographic, educational, labor and socioeconomic characteristics. Based on EPH, we have calculated the global dropout and graduation rates by socioeconomic status and estimated the major demographic and socioeconomic factors affecting dropout probability using logistic regression models. Among the main findings we observed that the socioeconomic status and being a first-generation student matter. In particular, we detected that being a first-generation student, even after controlling for the socioeconomic status of the student´s household, the gender, the type of studies (tertiary non-university or university programs) and having a scholarship, imply a higher probability of dropout from higher education. We concluded by pointing out the utility of these results in designing public policies and the possibility of replicating this methodology in other Latin American countries that apply similar national household surveys.