Last week I was having a conversation with my younger brother who is an aspiring engineer. He is preparing for graduation from community college, where he studied electrical engineering, which for his aspirations was the only offering that fit. As we discussed possibilities for his future, the reality of the difficulty in planning and preparing for the future he wants began to set in.
No, the issue was not about Covid, it was, however, a matter of affordability. The truth is higher education in most instances is a privilege that not many able to attain, especially those of us from smaller countries. While larger countries have the economic capacity to create avenues for students to peruse tertiary education at low or no cost, smaller countries are less capable of providing such opportunities. And I should point out that even in countries like the United States with student aid programs, there are still many who are unable to afford tertiary education for various factors which include an inability to qualify for financial aid.
With this said, I believe that one thing that should change in higher education is the cost of pursuing a degree. Education is a universal connecter and an essential tool for personal and professional development. I believe it to be quite unfair to restrict access to education by the barriers of finance.
The question then becomes how global universal education can be administered in a world where capitalism is spreading like a virus. Is it even possible to create such a system?
David Thomas, president of Morehouse College believes that institutional partnerships may be integral in addressing the need to make education more affordable. “We have to address the issues of affordability and accessibility to higher education. For small liberal arts colleges like mine, we will have reckoning that we cannot do everything that our students need and therefore begin to develop partnerships with other institutions, rather than seeing them simply as the competition. Figuring out how to leverage our various distinctive competencies.”
I reflect on his statement and wonder if this can be implemented on a global scale. Can institutions and educators across borders connect and create opportunities for educational development? With today’s heavy reliance on remote learning, my hope is that it opens a door for universities to create innovative ways for students to access education at an affordable rate. My hope is that there is an understanding that affordability itself is diverse and the current barriers to education and be removed.
Education should be a right, not a privilege.