University education is very important and almost impossible to do without. It is required for modern day living. The knowledge gained from higher education is used to achieve growth and development, competitiveness as well as to enhance worldwide communication. University education also facilitates cohesion by improving governance and economic growth. However, university education is faced with several hindrances such as its high cost as well as the long periods of time required to achieve it. These barriers are enhanced by such factors as few numbers of universities, few number of lecturers and professors, and lack of subsidies to finance university education, which leads to sky rocketing costs and long periods of learning. This paper seeks to evaluate each of the factors that make university education expensive and lengthy and to discuss possible solutions (Arthur & Bohlin, 2004).
Increasing the Numbers of Universities
The few numbers of universities make the education expensive as the demand for higher education is very high. These universities end up admitting few students at very high costs. According to a recent study, more students are making it through elementary and middle schools. With the increasing numbers, there is bound to be increased demand for higher education. On the contrary, the number of university institutions has continued to remain constant despite the increasing number of students seeking to be enrolled into these universities. This makes the large numbers of students scramble for the few admission vacancies available. According to the theory of demand and supply, the outcome is an increased cost of accessing university. Higher education stakeholders should strive to increase the number of universities in order to increase supply and access of university education. This will reduce the scramble on the few universities available. Also, the cost will be reduced because of the increased numbers of students based on the principle of production cost. The more students are to be admitted in universities, the less expensive it will be to access university education because some of the costs will be shared among the large number of students. This will also help to meet the anticipated increasing number of college and secondary school students who will be seeking university education. In this century, the importance of university education is becoming more vital and the demand is scaling higher. Therefore, the number of universities needs to be increased (Teixeira, 2006).
Increasing the Number of Lecturers and Professors Helps to Reduce the Cost of University Education
Like the number of universities, the number of lecturers has continued to remain constant despite the increasing numbers of students seeking university education. This makes the cost of hiring lectures, professors, and support staff very expensive. This cost is then carried on to the students who are the main buyers of university education. This is because the lecturers are highly demanded and thus they must be paid expensively to provide their services. This cost can be reduced by training more lecturers and professors to teach the increasing numbers of university students. These lecturers should also be remunerated properly and should be given attractive allowances for them to take up those teaching jobs. This will increase the supply of lecturers and professors and therefore reduce the long run cost of hiring the lecturers. This is eventually reducing the cost of university education as cost of lecturers is a main input factor. These benefits will then be passed on to the students and ensure that the cost of university education is lowered. The universities can also outsource lecturers and professors by employing professionals working in the corporate sectors to teach on a part-time basis. This will also help to reduce the cost of university education by increasing the number of lecturers.
This is a strategy that will ensure that the facilities of the universities are never idle. Double intake system can be attained by admitting students twice every academic year. This will ensure that when some students are on vacation, others rare are on session and hence are continuing with their studies. This will help to reduce pressure on the university facilities, especially during the main sessions, and hence decrease cost as well as ensure that more students can access university education. The cost will also come down based on the concept of production cost. The more the students are enrolled into universities every year, the less is the unit cost of fixed items such as motor vehicle, power, and teaching staff expenses. Members of the staff continue to get paid even during holidays and such cost will be compensated by making sure that they are engaged throughout (Vedder, 2004).
Diversifying the Modes of Learning University Education
The cost of university education can be reduced by diversifying the modes of learning from regular and physical class learning to modes such as video conferencing. This is a mode that would allow the students to learn in the same class, but from different physical locations. The online thing required is a computer and the students can interact with their lecturer just like in a normal class. They can be able to ask questions and also to respond to their lecturers’ queries. This would reduce learning cost and cost of materials. It will also reduce time significantly as movements are not very necessary. Other modes of learning include part time and distance learning modes. In distance learning, the students carry the learning materials home. They study on their own and only attend a few tutorial lessons to boost their revision. Later, they go and sit for their exams. Other learning modes include online and open modes of learning university education.
Increasing Subsidies for University Education
Despite the changing economic patterns such as inflation and recession, there have been declining subsidies towards university and higher education. Despite the growth in enrollments, the state has continued to reduce the government subsidies towards higher education. Recent research shows that government dollars per student were 12 percent lower in the year 2004 than they were in the year 1989. This has deeply affected the cost of university education by making it costly to the students. Also, the few subsidies are even lower than they appear, especially during recession. The government should therefore increase subsidies towards university education in order to reduce the cost of university education. Other education stakeholders such as scholarships and education foundations donors can also chip in to reduce the cost of university education. Other forms of subsidizing university education include creation of other streams of revenue such as enhancing the marketing strategies and also enhancing corporate partnerships. Subsidies also encourage students and hence improve the quality of university education. The government should also subsidize construction and maintenance of university buildings. This will reduce the operation expenses of university and allow them to use their limited resources in staff recruitment and carrying out research activities. This will also help to reduce the cost of university education.
As pressure on public funds continues to increase, another method of reducing the cost of university education is privatization of the universities. Reports show that most of the state universities are increasingly becoming privatized in an attempt to reduce the cost of university education. State appropriations have continued to decline over the years with as much as 10 percent decline from 1990 to 2002. This shows that more private funding is becoming necessary to smoothly run the universities and also to reduce the overall cost of accessing university education. Public universities are now embracing privatization as a better option of financing their operations.
Corporate Partnerships and Revenue Generation
Corporate partnerships are agreements made between parties for purposes such as sharing of some costs. This is another viable strategy of decreasing the cost of university education. Universities can arrange for the transfer of technologies, services, and skills from the private sector and also from other institutions in order to cut down operational costs. Such skills would be human resource consultancies, advertisement agencies, tutorial teachings, and residential hostels providers. The universities can also offer services to the citizens at a reduced cost. Such services include offering medical services by university hospitals or catering services by university hospitality departments. These and other sources of revenue can also assist in subsidizing the cost and therefore reduce the cost charged for accessing the university education. Other important partnerships are partnerships with construction companies. The universities can cut out construction costs by entering into agreements with constructing companies. For example, the university can allow a construction company to build and operate a residential dorm for some years until they recover their cost of construction. After that, the dorm can be turned over to the university. This shows that it would cost the university hardly anything for it to expand its facilities.
Encouraging Practical Work Rather Than Theory
Most of the time spent acquiring university education is spent in lecture halls doing theoretical sessions. More time is even spent doing theoretical assignments and further readings. A lot of resources are consequently pumped in terms of books, course papers and consequently the overall cost of university education goes up. This time and money can be reduced by encouraging practical work. Most of the time students spend cramming and reciting concepts just to go and ‘empty’ them on examination papers. Practical learning, on the other hand, is easily understood and takes up less time and money. The universities should organize with the industrial sectors for their students to be absorbed in their companies to undergo hands-on learning. This move will also enhance the quality of the graduates and in turn the employers will have access to quality work force. A lot of money will be saved too because the learning materials will be drastically reduced. This reduced cost will as well reduce the overall cost of university education. Practical lessons will also reduce the period of learning and allow the students to graduate faster (Priest & St. John, 2006).
Cost sharing is another strategy that can help to reduce cost of university education. As observed earlier, learning materials make a big bulk of the cost of university education. Some of these materials such as text books and course books can be shared or recycled in order to reduce the cost of acquiring university education. Students can agree to use old books from their seniors and then pass them on to the junior students. Also, texts books can also be made more accessible online for students to purchase them and download them at a lower price than that of buying a hard copy book. Some of the books such as books on Law and Medicine are not easily available and it costs a lot of money to purchase them.
Use of Student Exchange Programs
The demand for university education has motivated many people to seek for admissions even in the universities abroad. However, doing this on their own becomes very expensive as the cost of accommodation and access of university education becomes very expensive, especially to foreign students. This barrier could be overcome through exchange programs. These are agreements between universities that allow the students from the universities to learn in the foreign university while under sponsorship from their home university. This agreement also includes arrangements for accommodation. This makes it cheaper for the students and can help to reduce the cost of higher education. This opportunity also facilitates faster learning as the student does not have to fall out or put his/her studies on hold due to financial constraints.
Review of Module and Curriculum
Review of modules and curriculum outline is necessary if the time taken to complete the university programs is to be reduced. Some of the course outlines are outdated and review is necessary for them to be up-to-date and to meet the latest education needs. Also, some of the common course units need to be scraped out as they do not add value to the student, and since there is no value gained from them, they are not necessary anymore. These changes together with updating of other units will reduce drastically the time taken in lecture hall learning and doing research on outdated programs. This will also therefore reduce the cost of university education as the associated and material costs will have been drastically reduced (Vedder, 2004).
Reducing Management Complexities
According to a research carried out in 2008 by management consultancies on local universities, there were a lot of inefficiencies brought about by the huge organizational structures. These deep levels of organization systems make it hard for these organizations to be optimistic and to achieve their goals effectively. These complex management and administrative structures take up a lot of money. The trend of reduced government subsidies, increased recession, and sky rocketing inflation do not help the situation either. These huge numbers of administrators and management officials continue to demand higher salaries and allowances. This increases the overall operational cost of running the universities. These costs are definitely passed onto the student and therefore increase the cost of accessing higher education. The management consultancies through their report recommended that universities should reduce redundancies and hence eliminate some of the unnecessary positions. The universities should only create central support staff such as human resources, which can also be outsourced in order to reduce bureaucracy and administrative cost. This will enhance efficiency in the working of these universities as well as reduce the operational costs associated with running layers and layers of management protocols.
A lot of money goes into tendering and procurement activities. Some of this money could be saved through bulk buying, which would allow the university to enjoy huge amounts of discounts and bargaining power and in the process save a lot of resources. Also, bulk buying will help the university to achieve the best deals with suppliers. This is as opposed to single buying where each department does its own individual purchases separate from the others. The cost of raw materials, for example, can save millions of dollars for the university if the university’s departments could make their small purchases into one big purchase together. Also, subcontracting and tender awarding should be done across departments, schools, and colleges, so that the university can gain a lot from bargains made between the university and the contractors.
Centralizing Sharing of Services across Departments
This is a major strategic method of cutting down costs of operation and consequently reducing the cost of university education. Such services as printing services can be shared between departments. This can reduce the human resources required to operate such units. It would also reduce machinery and power that is used by all the printing units in each department. Others services include motor vehicle and transport services. Some of the vehicles are kept unused for long without being used while they could be used in other departments. Procurements can also be done online for such services in order to obtain the best deals for products such as print paper, motor vehicles, and spare parts. This way the university can save millions of dollars and these benefits can be passed on to the students in order to reduce the cost of university education. Research has also proposed the use of ‘campus alliance network’ that would allow universities to share administrative and human resource costs. They have even suggested that the universities can be led by shared counsels, for example, one counsel leading two universities each. These benefits can be passed on to education by reducing the cost of accessing it (Teixeira, 2006).
University education is a basic need and everyone should access it. It is very vital, especially in today’s world where globalization has made the dissemination of information and communication a major aspect of everyone’s life. University education brings about individual and societal growth and development. It also assists in enhancing cohesion and reducing conflict. University education also helps to improve governance as legal aspects are well communicated and understood. It also helps governments to provide better services for its citizens and also to improve social amenities. Economic development is also enhanced by education that is obtained from higher and university education. The cost of university education has been on the rise and the question on everyone’s mind is why we should pay more and how we can reduce this cost. How can we also reduce the time taken to acquire such services? Some of the factors that lead to an increase in the cost of university education include reduced subsidies towards education, little number of universities, few numbers of staff, management bureaucracies, and poor procurement processes that make the operational costs of universities go up. These costs are eventually turned over to the main buyers of university education who are the students.
The cost of university education can be decreased by increasing the number of universities. This will reduce the scramble for the few chances in the university and therefore reduce the cost of accessing the university education. According to the law of demand and supply, by increasing the number of universities, the supply will increase and hence reduce cost of university education. The concept of production cost also applies since by increasing the number of students being admitted, some costs such as the fixed costs like cost of power can be drastically reduced. Training more teaching staff will also help to ease the demand for lecturers and professors and this will help to reduce the long-term cost of hiring and retaining such staff.
Other strategies would be to outsource the human capital from private practitioners on a part-time basis, which can also help to reduce the cost of teaching staff. The universities can also decentralize some of the services and departments such as transport services. Other techniques are decentralization of the management layers and elimination of excess supervisors. This will eliminate bureaucracy and in the process cut down the number of unwanted human and capital resources. The cost of university education can also be reduced by cost sharing, bulk buying, and competitive procurement processes that will enable the institution to make large bargains. The time taken to acquire a degree can be reduced by reviewing the modules as well as cancelling all the outdated programs (Arthur & Bohlin, 2004).