Yes, you’ve read the title correctly: higher education is a full-blown business in the best spirit of capitalism. Whether you were acquainted with this fact or not, let’s elaborate on this topic, as many people treat education as something absolutely holy, something that shouldn’t be defined by money.
People simply conjure up the notion of education’s purity: all of those who appeal to this idea when discussing the education system refers to a time that never existed! Basically, such people are unfaithful and deceitful whether they are aware of this or not. The notion becomes comical when you consider the fact that throughout history, humanity always had to pay (or get sponsored/paid for) in order to receive an education.
This article addresses this common misconception of education being “better” than to be thought of as a business. Of course, the higher education system has its own peculiarities and features, but in many ways, all of the individual instances of educational entities are structured and behave exactly like any other business. Let’s dive deeper into the arguments.
The Structural Similarities
Firstly, let’s call the educational sector for what is actually is – an industry. The word industry has a connotation of production, and it reveals its true very well. In what way? All of the higher education institutions offer a specific service: acquiring sets of knowledge and skills with the resulting products such as degrees and the ability to take on previously limited jobs. In traditional capitalist economics, services require resources, which are simply money in our world.
When you come to this conclusion, you realize that this “money for services rendered” relationship has a well-established history and is intrinsic to the educational industry. You see that today’s ways of establishing credit arrangements and getting into debt do not differ from the whole history of higher education. You pay for high-quality education now just like you would’ve paid for it if you lived in Jerusalem 100 BCE.
Additionally, many smaller supporting industries have appeared around this main industry. One of the examples would be the academic and custom writing industry. The leading service is providing students with an academic paper, thusly alleviating their stress and increasing student’s time to do other things. No matter how immoral you may think this service is, but the free market dictated that such a service has to exist.
The second example would be those companies that provide help with getting enrolled and studying abroad. That is another thing that was established by the market. Considering how much money circulates in the education-supporting industries and comparing it with the incredible sums of money in the higher education itself, you simply cannot avoid calling the education sector an industry.
Also, let’s review the service-receiving side. Students basically purchase degrees with all of their perks. Students go to the university/college to get the degree, to gain what is required to know in the technical field and to raise their chances of getting a job. And, of course, just like any other business, if you break Terms of Service of any educational institution (i.e., cheating, misbehavior, etc.), you’ll be rejected service. These arguments serve as the characteristics of a service provider.
Think Like a Business, Act Like a Business
Apart from the business-like structural characteristics of educational institutions, they also act and react to the market changes exactly like business entities. Everybody knows about the existence of all of the education-supporting taxes, donations to institutions, grants, charities, and the like.
With such an amount of money invested in the education industry, you’d think that universities and colleges would be completely self-sufficient. However, this is not so, and the fixed costs faced by educational institutions go far beyond subsidized money.
So, what do the education providers do? They focus on keeping spending reasonably while increasing their budget by putting a huge price tag on the products they provide. Just like any other business, educational institutions are employing new technologies to minimize resource wasting and improve cost-effectiveness.
They’re continually exploring any new and additional streams of revenue and trying to create a stronger public image. Lastly, they’re putting all their efforts into outcompeting their competitors continually. Do we need to name any additional sides of the resemblance between business and higher education?
Yes, universities and colleges are partially built like a business and act like a business. However, it’s not a bad thing. The competitiveness of the market makes educational institutions try to outperform each other in delivering excellent services, in this way exceeding all of the customer’s expectations. So, stop treating higher education like it’s something sacred, as it only creates a false image of reality.