By evaluating the impact of policies to financially support university students in Georgia, this article demonstrates the systematic spatial disparities that exist in a context of formally equal competition. The author uses a mixed-methods design, combining quantitative evidence on the entire population of Georgian university applicants in 2005–2009 with data obtained through in-depth interviews with rural families and with policy-makers, to understand the costs associated with attending universities, based on their prestige and location, as well as inequalities stemming from existing policies on the allocation of public funding. She suggests that the distribution of public funding is apparently fair, as urban and rural students incur the same average out-of-pocket tuition costs. Behind the façade of the fair outcome, however, lie serious spatial inequalities based on the complex interplay between the residential origin of higher education applicants, tuition costs, public funding allocations, university locations, and prestige. The analysis shows that urban applicants apply, and gain admission, to more prestigious universities which charge higher tuition than the universities where rural applicants enrol; urban students also manage to obtain higher proportions of the public tuition grant than their rural peers. Thus, rural and urban students purchase higher education of different quality for the same out-of-pocket costs, with urban students being more privileged and rural students relatively less so. Exacerbating this injustice is the fact that rural residents in Georgia earn half of the average urban income.
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Chankseliani, M. The financial burden of attending university in Georgia: Implications for rural students. Prospects 43, 311–328 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-013-9274-x