Using data from the 2001 Australian Census of Population and Housing, this article estimates private rates of return to university education at the bachelor degree level for males and females, and determines the age threshold when studying for university qualifications becomes no longer worthwhile. Employing a methodology analogous to Borland (2002), the results indicate that the rates of return for individuals undertaking three year university degrees at the median commencement age of 19 years are 24.8 per cent for males and 20.6 per cent for females; and that returns continue to outperform share market investments right up until males begin their studies in their late thirties and females, much later, in their mid fifties. This article has important policy implications for the problems associated with skilled-labour shortages and the ageing population. Greater subsidizing of tuition fees and extension of the retirement age are suggested to make the education investment of mature age individuals even more profitable.
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