Friday, February 10, 2012

Escalating college costs killing the dream

My friend Ruben enrolled his son at an elite college in Quezon City. His dream seeing his son graduating in that university is their family’s ultimate goal. Since he is working in Saudi Arabia he has no problem in terms of paying the tuition fee. Until now. His company was coded red meaning that Saudi citizen will be prioritized in terms of employment. His income, which is not increasing for the past three years, is in jeopardy. This year he paid around P53,000 for one semester tuition fee of his son but his incomes barely budge..

In the Philippines, the parents are now experiencing the escalating college costs in an era of very slow increase of income. There are families now who opted to enroll their children in city or state colleges because college is becoming so expensive.

The crux of the problem: Tuition and fees which surged to more than 400% over the last 20 years -- while middle class incomes have stagnated.

During my college time tuition in 1988 rang in at about P2000, adjusted for inflation. By 2012, that number had climbed about roughly P36,500 a semester -- and that doesn't include books or room and board.
Income: If incomes had kept up with surging college costs, the typical Filipino would be earning around P600,000 a year. But in reality, it's nowhere near that.

In 2009 -- the latest data available -- the average family income of Filipinos was P129,000  or roughly P10,750 a month. This only validates that there is growing disparity between income and the cost of higher education.

Being a college professor I am now seeing families are taking on unprecedented levels of debt or downgrading their child's education from private to public to cut costs.

It is a reality that a college degree is not an assurance to be employed but it will give you a fighting chance. Economic statistics validate that there is more opportunity for college degree holders than a high school diploma.

To solve this problem it requires the direct intervention of the government.It is true that the government allocated 3.1% of the GDP for education but it is far below compared to Malaysia whose spending forms at least 8.1% of their GDP for education or to Thailand whose budget for education amounts to 5.2% of their GDP.

We can not speak of comparative advantage when the costs of college education is now the foremost barrier to enter hence the government should intervene before dreams will be put in a wayside.

Arnel L. Cadeliña


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