The Rising Challenge of Increasing Education Costs for Families in India (2023)


Education is considered a fundamental right and a key determinant of socio-economic development. However, in recent years, the cost of education in India has been steadily increasing, creating financial barriers for many families, which is more accurate for higher education, where the expenses have skyrocketed, posing challenges for aspiring students and their families.

The present article discusses the factors contributing to the rising education costs in India. It provides an overview of the national and state-level situation, supported by relevant facts and figures.

Rising Costs of Higher Education

Higher education, including undergraduate and postgraduate courses, has witnessed a significant cost surge. Several factors contribute to this upward trajectory:

  1. Infrastructure Development: Educational institutions are continually striving to enhance their infrastructure, which includes the construction of state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and other facilities. Such developments require substantial investments, ultimately leading to increased tuition fees.
  2. Faculty Salaries: Attracting and retaining highly qualified faculty members is crucial for maintaining educational standards. However, competitive salaries and benefits packages contribute to the overall cost burden of educational institutions, which is passed on to students through increased fees.
  3. Technological Advancements: Embracing technological advancements in education, such as e-learning platforms, virtual classrooms, and digital resources, necessitates investments in equipment, software, and training. These expenses add to the overall cost of education.
  4. Regulatory Compliance: Compliance with accreditation standards, licensing requirements, and quality assurance measures imposed by statutory bodies adds administrative and financial burdens to educational institutions, indirectly impacting the cost borne by students.

National Level Statistics

  1. Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER): According to the All India Survey on Higher Education, the GER in higher education for the age group of 18-23 years in 2020-21 was 27.1 percent. Although this number signifies an improvement, it also implies that many eligible students still cannot pursue/afford higher education.
  2. The Tuition Fee in higher education institutions have steadily increased in India. As per AISHE 2020-21, the average annual tuition fee for undergraduate courses was approximately INR 36,000; for postgraduate courses, it was around INR 46,600. These figures highlight the financial burden borne by students and their families.
  3. c. Government Funding: The proportion of government funding for higher education has been decreasing. AISHE 2020-21 indicates that government funding accounted for only 33.2 percent of India’s total higher education expenditure, while students and private sources bore the rest.

State-Level Disparities

 The cost of education varies across states in India due to regional disparities and varying levels of development. Here are a few examples:

  1. Maharashtra: In Maharashtra, one of the most populous states, the average annual tuition fee for undergraduate courses ranges from INR 10,000/- to INR 60,000/-, depending on the discipline and institution.
  2. b. Kerala: Known for its high literacy rates, Kerala has relatively affordable education. The annual tuition fee for undergraduate courses in government and aided institutions ranges from INR 1,000/- to INR 10,000/-.
  3. Delhi: The capital city of Delhi is home to several prestigious educational institutions. However, the cost of education is significantly higher here compared to other states. The average annual tuition fee for undergraduate courses at Delhi University ranges from INR 10,000/- to INR 60,000/-, depending on the program.

Impact of Rising Cost of Education

The rising cost of education has many negative impacts on Indian society. These include:

Increased Inequality: The high cost of education is widening the gap between rich and poor. Children from wealthy families are more likely to be able to afford a good education, while children from low-income families are more likely to be left behind.

Reduced Access to Education: The high education cost makes it difficult for some children to attend school, especially for children from rural areas and disadvantaged groups.

Increased Stress on Families: The high cost of education strains family budgets, leading to stress and anxiety for parents, making it difficult for families to save for other essential expenses.

Ways to Address the Rising Cost of Education

There are several ways to address the rising cost of education in India. These include:

Increasing Government Funding for Education: The government could increase its funding for education, which would help to make it more affordable for all students.

Introducing More Scholarships & Financial Aid: The government could introduce more scholarships and financial aid programs, which would help to make education more accessible to low-income students.

Reforming the Education System: The government could reform it to make it more efficient and cost-effective, including increasing the number of government-run schools and introducing more online education options.

Spending on Education: Trends

The amount of money invested in education in India has increased in recent years. The government of India allocated Rs. 1.04 lakh crore to the education sector, which was an increase of 11 percent from the previous year, representing 2.9 percent of India’s GDP. The trend of increasing spending on education is expected to continue in the coming years. The NEP 2020 envisages increasing investment on education to 6 percent of GDP by 2030.

It has been observed that the share of education spending by the central government has been declining in recent years, while the share of spending by state governments has been increasing. On the other hand, the share of education spending on primary and secondary education has been declining, while the share of spending on higher education has been increasing. Further, the recent trends reveal that the share of education spending on private schools has been increasing, while the share of spending on government schools has been declining. These trends will likely continue in the coming years as the government of India resolves to improve the quality of higher education and ensure access to all.

Several factors have contributed to the increase in spending on education in India in the recent past, which include: (i) The growing awareness of the importance of education for economic development, (ii) The increasing demand for quality education from parents and students; and  (iii) The government’s commitment to providing universal education.

The increase in spending on education has had many positive impacts, such as (i) Increased access to education for children from all backgrounds, (ii)  Improved quality of education in schools and colleges; (iii)Increased opportunities for students to pursue higher education. However, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed. These include:

  • The need to improve the efficiency of the education system.
  • The need to reduce the disparities in educational outcomes between different social groups; and
  • The need to ensure that all children have got access to quality education, regardless of their background.

Overall, the trend of increasing spending on education in India is a positive development. However, some challenges must be addressed to ensure that all children have access to quality education.

Concluding Observations

The rising cost of education in India, particularly in higher education, poses significant challenges for families and students. Infrastructure development, faculty salaries, technological advancements, and regulatory compliance contribute to the increasing expenses. National statistics indicate that despite improvements in gross enrollment ratios, many eligible students still face barriers to pursuing higher education. Additionally, the decreasing proportion of government funding adds to the burden borne by students and private sources.

State-level disparities further compound the issue, with varying tuition fees across regions. The impact of the rising cost of education includes increased inequality, reduced access to education for disadvantaged groups, and financial stress on families.

To address these challenges, the government must increase funding for education and introduce more scholarships and financial aid programs. Additionally, implementing reforms in the education system, such as expanding government-run schools and promoting online education, can help improve affordability and accessibility.

In conclusion, addressing the rising cost of education requires a multi-faceted approach involving government intervention, financial assistance, and systemic reforms. By prioritizing affordable and inclusive education, India can strive towards providing equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their economic background, and pave the way for a brighter and more equitable future.

Education for All in India