EDITORIAL: Degree of cost in education

 PERHAPS it isn’t surprising that the Australian Scholarship Group, which offers families education savings-fund products, is tipping more sharp increases in the cost of university degrees.

After all, warning people of the high cost of education is an important part of ‘‘selling’’ the services of the non-profit organisation.

That aside, it’s a fact that university education has become a costly item for many Australian families.

Hunter people who choose to move to Sydney are faced with especially high costs, since Sydney is recognised as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. As the NSW capital becomes more and more popular with the rising new rich of Asia as a safe haven for surplus capital, its costliness can be expected to keep rising.

Regional universities may be cheaper than those in the capital cities, but their degree courses are hardly inexpensive. Acquiring a degree costs serious money, no matter where it comes from.

As the urban jobs market continues to evolve and service industries grow in importance relative to traditional blue-collar employers, the harder it becomes for those without tertiary education to find rewarding work.

Universities are responding to this trend, and to government cost-cutting, by shifting their focus towards career-orientated courses. Resources are being withdrawn from many ‘‘humanities’’ courses and re-allocated to areas where potential graduates see some prospect of a good return on their education investment.

Governments are encouraging the idea of the indispensability of tertiary education. In 2009 the federal government declared that it wanted 40 per cent of Australians to have degrees by 2025.

That means more people investing more in university education, more owing large sums in education loans and more funds flowing through the university system.

The Australian Scholarship Group has issued a new report predicting the cost of higher education will rise by 50 per cent over the next decade.

At the same time universities are striving to cut their costs, with the academic workforce becoming increasingly casualised and with growing emphasis on internet and remote teaching.

Unavoidably, a quality-control issue is arising alongside these trends of rising prices, rising demand and downward pressure on tuition costs within institutions.

As degrees become more essential, universities must ensure the educational content of the products they sell is not compromised. 

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