Beyond the economics, benefit and cost of higher education: First in family student perspectives
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Internationally, higher education is considered key to individual and societal economic success. Using a narrative inquiry approach, this paper broadens our understanding of the benefit and cost of participating in higher education (HE) beyond employment opportunities and tuition fees. The qualitative study on which this paper is based explores the lived experience of eighteen First in Family (FiF) students to create a collection of narrative accounts. On the basis of this evidence, we argue that the benefit of HE extends to encompass the strengthening of FiF students’ sense of competencies and confidence, contributes towards broadening of social experiences, and transforms perspectives. Furthermore, associated non-monetary costs of HE includes the requirement to balance competing life demands and the adoption of poor health behaviours. The study highlights the importance of both monetary and non-monetary factors when assessing overall return on investment of HE.