Nigerian universities should charge rich kids more

Oct 29, 2021|Carl T. Macaulay

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world". – Nelson Mandela.

People who change the world have not always had the most privileged backgrounds. Sometimes, they are born into low-income or disadvantaged families before acquiring the tools they use to change the world. How? High-quality education.

Some takeaways:

  • Quality education is an established and powerful vehicle of social mobility. 

  • But quality education is not cheap, leaving people who need to climb up the social ladder the most, stuck.

  • Developed countries like the US try to solve this by creating pricing models that ensure even the poor can get a quality education. Such models can work if adopted in Nigeria too.

Michelle Obama is a first-generation college graduate. Although she was born into a low-income family in Chicago, she used her education to achieve what many could only dream of. Education is a crucial equaliser. Michelle's father was a city-pump operator, while her mother was a stay-at-home parent. 

Michelle Obama has climbed up the social ladder throughout her life, assisted by the merit-based United States (US) education system that made it possible for her to earn degrees from two of the world's best universities: Princeton and Harvard. She could do this because she had access to finance—the system permitted her to take out a loan to cover the cost of an education that would otherwise have been too expensive for her.

Is the same opportunity available to Nigerian students? Doubtful. 

You see, Michelle Obama's social mobility story is not just a story about loans. It is a story about a higher education system that wants and enables students from low-income groups to attend high-quality schools. It is a story about how, when used correctly, price discrimination can solve the paradox at the heart of funding higher education.

To understand this, we must first explore the trade-offs we face when trying to fund higher education.

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