Sorry to burst your bubble, future generations – it looks like you guys have a lot on your plate.
Last Monday, The Straits Times revealed the ballooning cost of a university degree in Singapore and it left everyone in a sweat. As claimed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), “a four-year degree will cost 70.2 per cent of our average yearly income in 2030, up from 53.1 per cent on 2015.”
Let’s stop right here for a moment and look at this:
Rising Operating Costs
Blame it on the soaring operating expenditure.
In the article, not much is mentioned about the categories of the operating expenses – but odds are, it comprises of the following: campus facilities, research, staff and faculty, scholarships, and student recruitment campaigns.
The dilemma of over-priced university degrees has been around the block since 2010 – and it is only the beginning. What makes this even more nerve-racking is the youth unemployment rate. It’s set to hover at 10.8 per cent in 2030, a 0.1% improvement that’s barely visible from last year’s 10.9 per cent.
Student Debt = STD
There is another way of looking at this issue: Singapore has one of the lowest youth unemployment rate in the world. The cost of our university degree is also considerably lower than the ones offered at Britain and The United States.
A look at these countries’ astronomical cost brings to mind John Oliver’s talk on student debt back in 2014. Liken it to HPV (a common STD), he quips, “If you go to college, you’re almost certainly going to get it. And if you do, it will follow you for the rest of your life.”
A crass statement, certainly, but one with a point.
Where’s The Way Out?
In America, 7 out of 10 students left college in debt last year; their student loans exceeded US$1 trillion. The situation has gotten so uncontrollable that it has prompted startups like Tuition.io to work with global companies by offering student loan contribution as employee benefits.
In other news, could Singapore take a leaf out of Germany’s book?
I doubt it. The country, along with Austria and Norway, are known for offering tuition-free degrees to its local and international students. Of course, the word “tuition-free” is a relative term – because according to Business Insider, taxpayers absorb the cost.
Endless Debate: Traditional vs. Online
Perhaps, it’s time we turn to another medium. Namely, massive open online courses (MOOCs). By now, you’ve heard how these MOOCs are disrupting traditional education.
Take edX, for instance. It launched several credit programmes for learners to earn credit in a “low risk and convenient way”. Coursera, another popular MOOC, launched an iMBA programme that costs under US$20,000. A programme like this in a brick and mortar university would cost well above US$100,000.
As much as we enjoy the flexibility and savings of MOOCs, we can’t ignore the fact that campus experience will always be heads and shoulders above studying online – especially for those in fields that require facilities for studies (e.g. Nursing, Chemistry).
However, now that the cost of a university degree is set to become costlier, the alternative of studying online seems much more viable and attractive.
I come from a lower middle-class family; the odds of my attending university is as low as the prices at a ValuDollar store clearance sale. Like many Singaporeans, if we miss a couple months of pay cheques, we are in big trouble.
So what now? Is our future generation ready for our university degree’s heavy price tag? I don’t know. Right now, I can think of only one solution – ace your exams and hope for a full-ride scholarship.
Featured Image Credit: Baim Hanif