Is Higher Education Becoming A Privilege For The Elite?
By Swati Srivastava
Education for all is the right of every student. However, is it actually any more accessible to all the students across the globe? Is paying off high tuition fee and education loan putting a dent in your pocket? The following post highlights the concern on the rising cost of education and the possible reasons behind it. Read on…
Balancing the dream of higher education with financial reality is the biggest challenge that students and their parents face nowadays. According to the Nielsen Global Survey, 2013 , of Education Attainment, the gateway to a better life, better employment opportunities and improved lifestyle is education.
The online survey that polled more than 29,000 people across 58 countries in the Middle East, North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America concluded that more than 78% respondents agreed to the fact that higher education is vital. However, education cost is becoming a barrier for low-income families and a turning out to be a privilege for the high-income families only.
The survey showed that the education cost comprises, on an average, 8% of the global budget allocation for a month. The monthly expense on education was more than the global average in several developing countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, and Chile.
Understanding the reasons behind skyrocketing education cost
The college graduates definitely earn more than the high school graduates do. However, as the value of a college degree is rising, the tuition cost of universities and institutions is increasing even faster, thus making it far beyond the reach of many deserving students coming from low-income families.
Some parents easily manage their financial resources to offer their children the best and expensive education. While for other parents, the overall cost of books and college fees makes them adjust their lifestyle. However, this is not the end of their troubles. Education loan makes them feel burdened for many more years.
The skyrocketing education cost keeps students and parents wondering if investment in higher education such as management studies, engineering, and medicine still a lucrative option. This becomes even more thought provoking issue when the return on investment is minimal, which means the annual cost of pursuing a course from a private college is more than the annual salary earned by a graduate in the first few years of a job.
Let’s analyse the possible reasons of the increasing cost of higher education:
Inflation is an increase in the cost of living over a period. Although no one likes to hear this word, yet it is an accepted fact. Inflation has not been very gentle with the cost of higher education, averaging to an annual average hike of 4% to 6%. In simple words, education costing today at $10,000 will surely increase by about $400 to 600 the next year!
The graph indicates an increase of approximately 80% in the price index for college tuition during August 2003 and 2013. This hike is almost double of the growth figure in medical care cost.
· Demand for certain majors
One of the common principles of economics is that demand is directly proportional to price. In simple words, the more the demand for an educational program by students and employers, the more is the increase in its price.
Hence, the popularity of some specializations or majors can cause an overall high cost for some students. Therefore, the limited size of classes and more demand for professional courses increases its cost. Moreover, the duration of college degree usually ranges from four to five years, thus increasing the cost of education every year as per inflation.
· Less number of scholarships
The lack of financial aid and less number of scholarship programs is another suggested reason. If you are not lucky to get a scholarship, then you fall in the category of students who have to take up the huge cost of education. Moreover, several universities and private colleges receive less or no funds from the government, thus leaving the students there with no option of financial aid.
With the rising education expenses, there is a need for more scholarship programs, grants, and financial aid.
Does higher education need to be so expensive that it becomes out of the reach of many students? Absolutely not! It is not only raising a problem of student loan debt, but also crippling the possibilities of economic growth. So how can we deal with this problem?
The Wall Street Journal presented the opinion of the three economists to discuss on these questions. The economists included Rudy Fichtenbaum (teaches at Wright State University, Ohio), Richard Vedder (Director of the Center for College Affordability & Productivity, Washington DC), and Katharine Lyall (Former president of the University of Wisconsin System).
The possible solutions suggested by them included:
· More regulation from the accrediting agencies and the federal government is what higher education needs.
· Cost-cutting ideas must be implemented in educational programs by reducing their duration from say 3-year degree programs to fewer years but greater emphasis on developing workplace competency and practical exposure to students.
· Promoting e learning is another cost-effective option of imparting education. The effort should be made to come up with more educational institutions that offer quality online programs.
· There is a need to create an honest business model for public colleges and universities to promote them as market-driven entities.
The cost of education is increasing faster than the income of parents to afford the tuition fees of their children. While you wait for any signs of cost reduction, it is the time to concentrate on your saving plans. Look for institutions that offer quality education at a comparatively low cost.
About the author: Swati Srivastava is an avid writer and blogger who is an expert in counselling students on different professional courses and career decisions. Currently, she is a dedicated writer for Shiksha.com