Does living closer to a university increase educational attainment? A longitudinal study of aspirations, university entry, and elite university enrolment of Australian youth
Geography remains a critical factor that shapes the development of aspirations, attainment, and choice in young people. We focus on the role of geography on university entry and aspirations due to the increasing requirement in society for a higher education qualification for access to prestigious positions in society. Using a large representative longitudinal database (N = 11,999; 50 % male; 27 % provincial or rural; 2 % Indigenous) of Australia youth we explore the association between distance to a university campus and the critical attainment outcomes of university entry and enrolment in an elite university as well as critical predictors of these outcomes in access to information resources (i.e., university outreach programs) and university aspirations. In doing so, we provide new insight into distance effects, and the extent that these are due to selection, cost, and community influence. Our findings suggest that distance is significantly associated with both university expectations and entrance, with an especially large impact upon young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. However, we also find little evidence that distance is related to attending a university led information session. Our conclusion is that distance effects cannot be fully explained by selection in terms of academic achievement and socioeconomic status, and that anticipatory decisions and costs are the most likely drivers of the distance effect.