The Cost of Education

24 year old Ramesh dropped out of college this year. He had good grades and a head for studying but his priorities changed to earning a living for his costly life in Kathmandu. He recently joined a job in a local department store as a store manager. His parents living in Kaski are very happy that their son got a job and started earning for himself. We might not see the irony here but inflation and higher cost of living has driven a lot of people out of education.

Are you enrolled in a college degree and earning your living yourself? Do you often find yourself perplexed due to the difficulty in managing funds for your professional, personal and student life? Don’t worry you are not alone. The rising cost of education is a growing global concern today more than ever. 

Today higher education in not a choice but a necessity because unlike the earlier times , higher education was a luxury and education inequality was large, and the inequality gap has become close to negligible now. However, the effects of the increase in consumer price inflation can be dominantly felt on the growing cost of education if we look at it from a historical point of view. 

Today the provisioning of equitable access to education has become an integral part of public financing. However, growing consumer prices and cost of living worldwide has had a crippling effect on the education sector especially in lower income and lower middle income countries. 

Let us take an example here, Due to the rise in consumer goods and services, as an effect of rising rate of inflation, the purchasing power of the same amount of income becomes less thus affecting the consumer behavior or choices in education related expenses. This results in systemic disruptions such as dropouts and limited choices for higher education. 

In the FY 2018, in Nepal, the total government expenditure on education was 4.43% which is a healthy figure compared to the size of our national GDP. However this rate is relatively low, actually almost half, if we compare to middle income and high income countries. The financing of basic education today is one of the primary sectors of public finance. However, the incremental effect that inflation has over the prices of education sector and also due to the growing demand for privately funded educational institutions, proper public financing has been an uphill task for development planners even in the high income countries today.

On a positive side, this inflation in the education sector has brought new models of education delivery such as open and distance learning into the limelight. International Center for Academics (ICA), the pioneer of ODL mode of Education envisioned the demand of such learning more than 2 decades ago and introduced IGNOU programs in various streams like Management, Hospitality, Information Technology(IT) and Humanities in Nepal. These models again prove the case of cost effectiveness, timeliness, greater access to educational choices, lower educational inequality, affordability, flexibility and efficacy through open and distance learning.