Monetary Inequity in Higher Education - A Case Study on India

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Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction

At current, the demand for higher education is growing in a steady way with 100 million in 2000 to 207 million in 2014 (UNESCO, 2016). Its development is good at both public and personal level (World Bank, 2009). Personally, people who with a higher education are more likely to be employed and earn more salary in the labor market, as well as to take part in their kids’ early education and influence them in a similar way (OECD, 2018). For the public, an increasing number of people receiving the tertiary education can contribute to the creation and accumulation of the wealth, the growth of a civil society with a higher level of democratization, security and safety (Morley et al., 2009), and a more sustainable development for the long term (USAID, 2014).

Despite all the benefits, the access to tertiary education is still met with many obstacles and difficulties regarding various aspects, especially for poorer countries. For example, according to the study of UNESCO in 2016, 92% of high school graduates worldwide could get directly enrolled in the next level of education while Eritrea presents the lowest ratio, 5% and Belarus the highest, 90%. The study also shows in the same country, the family income plays a significant role in aspects such as if the students are able to complete at least four years of higher education. To take an instance, in Mongolia, the gap is extremely huge with 72% of the richest finishing their colleges successfully while only 3% of the poorest manage to acquire the same resources. In view of this situation, this paper is going to pick India as an example to illustrate its attempt to diminish the inequality in higher education resulted from the wealth gap. The international practices will also be cited to offer insights and provide further recommendations.

2.0 Financial Shortage and Wealth Gap

One of major obstacles to the access to tertiary education is that the tuition fee is not largely lowered to make it more accessible, both individually and governmentally. Countries are still spending several times of expenses on it compared to that on primary schooling, and this inequity is much more pronounced in countries of people with lower earnings. For example, every student in sub-Saharan Africa has to pay twelve times for their tertiary education in comparison to the primary one, and five times in South and West Asia (UNESCO, 2015). Personally, on average, a bachelor degree’s tuition fee per student is about USD$2364 and over 75% of them benefit from loans or grants in spite of an increase in the government spending (OECD, 2018). It is suggested by UNESCO (2017), without the sufficient support from the government, there is no way to realize free access to tertiary education. For poorer nations, it is like a vicious circle where education contributes largely towards the poverty lifting for both individuals and countries, while the requirement to spend more money on higher education inhibit families and the governments to get help from it. The huge gap in education opportunity and quality between the rich and the poor makes the inequity even more severe and produces a negative influence on the social development in various aspects (Samoff & Carrol, 2007; Robertson, 2009).

3.0 Global Practices

Internationally, poorer countries implement different strategies trying to solve this problem.

3.1 Indonesia

In Indonesia, private colleges have a big scale and are famous for their education quality, thus presenting a bigger attraction for a great number of students. The government gives limited financial aid to them under an assessment system due to its constrained economic competence (Bey-Fananie & Fang, 2013). Only those in a higher level are able to be financed, which promotes these colleges to seek for survival and development through competition and quality enhancement. Thus, the government plays an important role in adjusting the resources provided for private colleges.

3.2 Brazil

In Brazil, higher education is experiencing a rapid transformation from the elite to the mass accompanied with the pressure of extreme financing shortage. The government has taken great efforts to widen the resource channels and raise funds in multiple ways. The detailed measures are: including the increasing of education investment into laws and strictly carrying them out, government grants still being the main input source, the implementation of a cost-sharing system, the development of the funding and donation mechanism domestically and internationally, and so on. These measures are believed to improve and complete the investment in Brazilian higher education regarding both quality and quantity, which in turn supports its rapid development and advancement to popularization (Liu & Liu, 2015).

3.3 Ghana

Ghana is also troubled by the cut-down of fiscal expenditure and an increasing demand for tertiary education. To solve this problem, a trust fund, GET Fund, is established to finance colleges and universities, offer helps to poor and talented students, support their loan scheme and R&D programs. It is proved it has contributed to the infrastructure construction and enrollment opportunity creation (Athuahene, 2008). In spite of benefits it has brought, its implementation is faced with many challenges. It is already charged with capital diversion, producing obstacles to its transparency and sustainability. Besides, it is still hard to evaluate the individual family income when providing loans according to their needs.

From the three examples above, we can tell different nations possess various policies and plans when dealing with the imbalance between the fiscal difficulties and the raising need for an enlarged access to higher education, as well as of the education chances and quality received by the poor and the rich. They have their advantages and disadvantages in varied ways, which can offer some insights when recommendations are provided for the solution to India’s inequity in higher education due to financial hardship and the wealth gap.

4.0 India’s Case 4.1 Background Information

Indian government has been witnessing the financial shortage for its higher educations since long time ago, which has a negative effect on its scale enlargement and more importantly, the quality improvement. There are mainly five sources for its financing: the government input, which is the major one, school fees from students, personal donations, self-raised fund, and international assistance. Their proportion is as follows:

Table 1. The Proportion of different Resources for Higher Education Financing in India (%) (Tilak, 1999)

Government investment

Tuition fee






















In India, private tertiary schools are the foundation of education with its explosive expansion in the latest few decades (Altbach, 2009) while there are not corresponding laws or policies to regulate their growth and operation (Lei & Yang, 2010). In the meanwhile, majority of India students are actually studying at these schools which mainly rely on donations and tuition fees instead of the government input. Combined with the table above, we can tell it implies such a problem: higher education is still more accessible to the rich families instead of poor ones. Many of public universities and colleges, like IIT, are famous for its high quality and outstanding graduates, and with the governmental subsidy, even poor students can successfully complete their education. However, it also means extremely fierce competition against the population and general economic condition at the same time, which infers only a very small part of impoverished families are able to send their kids to universities and colleges and hope to improve the current condition by means of education’s power.

4.2 Reservation Policy

To solve this problems, many scholars have proposed different suggestions, among which the Reservation Policy for the untouchables is one of the most important strategies. These people, basically presenting the group possessing the least political and economic power in the society, are numbered almost 200 million, taking up one fifth of the whole population (Dhillon, 2018). Majority of them live in the countryside and their access to higher education has long been one of the most prominent problems for India (Karade, 2008). The government has formulated and implemented this preferential policy for them back in the early 20thcentury to guarantee their entry rights into higher education. It has long been under discussion and attention since its emergence.

This policy is thought to bring some benefits to both the untouchables and Indian higher education. Firstly, it helps part of these people accomplish social mobility by receiving tertiary education. They are the direct beneficiary of this policy and can promote education equity in two ways: on one hand, they think even more highly of the power of education and are more motivated to fight for related chances for their children; on the other hand, their enhanced competence will, consciously or unconsciously, combine with the government’s effort and inject more vigor into improving and maintaining higher education equity. It is found since the carry-out of the policy, states in South and West India have seen an enhanced situation in politics and economy (Liu, 2015). Secondly, the Reservation Policy helps break the previous situation where only the rich enjoy higher education resources, provide access to the lower classes and disadvantaged groups, raise the overall scale and quality of Indian tertiary education. In the meanwhile, it increases the gross enrollment ratio and promotes the national cultivation of the public, especially the untouchables.

However, this policy also has its own problems. For one thing, the education the untouchables have received and their social position have still not seen real changes. Even though many of them have achieved great accomplishments in education and career, they do not get recognition and equal treatment from high castes, since the latter’s mentality and complexity is still lingering and haunting the society. The number of the untouchables may increase to a big extent in schools but majority of them have no access to good majors which present better chances for promising jobs with higher incomes (Zhang, 2007). For another, the policy itself implies much political purposes. With a raising number of beneficiaries, all the parties are taking advantage of this policy to combat with each other. Many times, the detailed content in different states is formulated out of the aim of political struggle instead of the actual need of the disadvantageous groups. Some of the states are even seeing the reserved number surpassing two thirds of the total enrollment, which does not tally with the growth discipline of tertiary education (Chitnis & Altbach, 1993).

4.3 Recommendations

To further improve the equity in higher education and make the Reservation Policy work in a better way, it is believed Brazilian government’s practice can be taken into account. Planning the related laws and making sure a strict implementation should be the key to guaranteeing, on one hand, the appropriate expansion and quality improvement of private tertiary education institutions, and on the other hand, the Reservation Policy is not abused as a political tool while disadvantageous students’ real needs are not met. The funding from the government to private schools is better to be enhanced so that they will not only be accessible for students from rich families. It can take different forms such as fund, scholarship and so on so that the increasing demand for higher education can be satisfied and inequity between the public and private schooling system is hoped to be lessened. The government can also consider establishing supervisory bodies to strengthen law enforcement efforts. Besides, schooling fees paid by students can be considered to relate with the solution to the inequity problem. It needs to take into account different factors such as the family income, subjects and majors, the probable benefits students can get and so on. A proper plan needs to be made to allow schools to use this money to realize scale enlargement and quality improvement as well as produce a positive influence on more students accessing higher education.

5.0 Conclusions

No one can doubt education presents a big power for a brighter and more sustainable future for individuals and the society. Many countries are trying to improve both of the scale and quality of higher education, while for poorer nations, the constant fiscal shortage makes it hard to meet an enhancing demand for tertiary education opportunities. The gap between the rich and the poor leads to an even worse situation which produces a negative influence on many aspects. In India’s case, the government tries to solve this problem by introducing Reservation Policy: to make higher education more accessible to disadvantageous students like the untouchables. It has produced such positive effects as promoting social mobility as well as education equity, while at the same time, these students are still limited in major and career choices and this policy is becoming a political tool manipulated by different parties. To improve this condition, the strategies implemented by the Brazilian government are believed to be good references. The related laws should be formulated and carried out with supervision departments established at the same time. The funding for private schools and the plan of different fees for different students according to their contexts can also be considered to help promote higher education scale and quality.



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