Grad schools: Expensive education

Published: May 26, 2011

I don’t think I will be able to afford the good ones, at least not in the near future.

‘Profit-making machines! That’s what these educational institutions have become’, I keep shouting out, sometimes to my friends, at times in my head.

I just can’t stop cursing our top grad schools; they are so unaffordable, especially for the average income families. My frustration arises from the fact that our educational institutions have transformed into these lucrative profit-seeking businesses that leave ‘consumers’ (as they would call the ‘students’ in their business jargon) drained of their earnings and savings.

I finished my undergrad programme almost a year back and now I’m hunting for grad schools in Pakistan. After having made my parents go through the trauma of paying for my four-year bachelor’s programme at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums) – which cost my family more than Rs1.1 million – I cannot subject them to more misery by making them pay for a master’s degree from their meagre savings.

Hence, the onus of my education is on me. After having done some research on the masters’ programmes offered by local universities, I don’t think I will be able to afford the good ones, at least not in the near future. Lums costs around Rs1.2 million just for two years; if I don’t have lands in Sindh, or if my father is not some big shot corporate sell-out, there is no way I can afford it right now.

Yes, I am told that both Lums and the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) dedicate a major chunk of fee increases to aid programmes like the Sindh Talent Hunt Programme (IBA) and the National Outreach Programme (LUMS). I’m also given the argument that the exorbitant cost of education is necessary to attract quality professors, to invest in the infrastructure of the university, to add sports and other extracurricular activities etcetera to it. However, I will not buy this argument that supports the commercialisation of education, since I am also fully aware that these prestigious universities get millions in donations from corporations.

And although I don’t want the government to completely take over (since the standard of education in the university is sure to fall if that happens), I still propose the government should subsidise higher education costs more often to facilitate students.


Sarah Khan

A sub-editor on the sport pages of The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • zuhaib

    apply for any ivy league scholarship and im pretty sure u’l get one, come bak after completing your thesis..make a research proposal and present to the govt to open up such an institution which u were deprived off…give it a try atleast, writing blogs wont help it,,,here we have other hot issues of drone attacks, taliban, usama, etc to spend our lives with… we dont have time to read and discuss such boring issues about education.periodRecommend

  • hammad

    Yeah thats the reason why I have decided to opt accountancy(probably acca) after my final exam on 10 of june of A levels. My parents are over burdened with my elder brother’s semester fees in IOBM and its his 4th semester, and 4 more to go….!!Recommend

  • Mirza

    Well, that’s being a bit unfair. There aren’t that many good universities for graduate studies in the country on the whole anyways. LUMS is extremely expensive, but still much cheaper than abroad in the US or UK. And they do give a lot of financial aid. I’m currently a student there, and in the SSE I can assure you that the majority have a significant amount of aid. Not to mention all the National Outreach Programme scholars who are being completely funded…And unless I’m much mistaken, the government happens to be one of LUMS’s greatest donors:

    I’m paying the full fee, though it’s a strain on my family too. But that’s just the way it works. I’ll just have to try and win a Fullbright or something like that to fund my grad degree, because I can’t bare to burden my parents again too. This is Pakistan…and given that, I’m very grateful for what opportunities I have had, and naturally there is huge room for improvement, but I think it’s important to remember that. For whatever its faults, LUMS has done a lot for us. Good luck!Recommend

  • Dawn

    Very true! There are still some sane posts on ET :DRecommend

  • seeker.

    you are absolutly right , give solutions

    how can our corrupt and poor govt can afford to make quality education affordable.

    when fair governments of rich countries are unable to do it.

    Do you know what it costs to afford a college in America/Britain? Recommend

  • Sadia Rashid

    Yeah well we’re very sorry if after LUMS you can’t find any other university worthy of yourself!! If you would both getting off your high horse and looking around you can find common people doing jobs and paying for their own MBA’s from semi-good universities if not great ones!! Why don’t you use the education you earned from LUMS get a good paying job and pay for your own education or did you just get a degree and spend soo much of your parents hard earned money to sit at home?Recommend

  • Henna Khan

    Well the positive side is if you have a LUMS or IBA degree, then you have a chance of getting a job at PTC…Recommend

  • Junaid Chughtai

    It is completely irrational to expect the government of an under-developed country to subsidize Post Grad education. If government has to spend more on education, which i guess they do, it should be to ensure everybody in this country gets higher secondary or intermediate education. For further studies there are a bunch of public sector universities where subsidized education is offered.Recommend

  • Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    I think that is a bit unfair. Higher education, in most countries, is expensive as far as top universities are concerned. On average, an American in US universities is under huge burden of $30k-$80k depending upon which IVY league institute they secured admission in and graduated from.
    Same is the case in Turkey and UK though countries like Canada provide a lot of subsidies and grants, to their students as well as international students. Sweden, Norway and Germany are options for decent education with very little expenditure compared with other nations.
    Most institutes in Karachi are money-making enterprises and are totally disconnected with the requirements of the professional fields. Once you graduate, only then you realize that the real education starts from first day of job while what you studies, all those insufferable courses, were just meant to drain you off your money and hand a piece of paper claiming you are a MASTER while adding VERY little knowledge of any worth from you Bachelors degree.
    Options are still there though and you need to get through hell like everyone else. Good luckRecommend

  • wowem

    Make your parents an offer they can’t refuse. Just ask them to fork out what they’ve saved for your trousseau and opt for a simple marriage or one as lavish as your earnings will allow at that time. I think perhaps your mother may have some ‘items’ saved for your ‘big’ day as she may see it; its up to you to help her change the concept of where such money may be more fruitfully spent.Recommend

  • Haider Ali Khan

    If you have such disdain for “big shot corporate sell-out”, why do an MBA ?? Surely you are aiming to be the same after an MBA from any prestigious college !!!Recommend

  • Shoaib

    Sarah, you can also try for Lahore School of Economics (LSE). Its a very good univerity and its Masters programmes are highly reputed. And, let me tell you, LSE offers the most in terms of scholarships and financial-aid. I would strongly recommend you to apply over there and apply for Financial Aid. Plus if you’re a good student and have a good CPGA, it will be easier for you to maintain the aid/scholarship.
    Best of luck. =)

    And yes i agree, that these universities are far too expensive and are looting peoples money for profit.Recommend

  • Tribune Reader

    I was going to suggest join the Tribune, which is where apparetly the lUMS mafia goes, but I see you are already there. Here is a quick suggestion for making a quick honest buck. Come August start giving private tutions to a level kids, depending on what u can teach, u can charge upto 5k per kid esp frOm these burger schools and have groups of upto 20 people each. In a year you will be able to afford grad school and what not. Some
    Privatr tution teachers are earning upto half a mill per month.Recommend

  • k

    You are right to a fair extent. I just have a question for all, why do we always see, evaluate and conclude things on either of the extremes. People here gave suggestions for going for scholarships here and abroad. But these scholarship which in my observation are either for the brilliant/extraordinary students or for the ones who really can’t afford to spend a single penny on education due to financial reasons. BUT what about those who are normal/average/ordinary students, what is for them? And by the stated definition of the student I meant tht students who had taken exams without any unfair practices of cheating and gaining marks after teacher’s practice of favouritism? These kind of students always end up in a loss which no one ever care about.Recommend

  • Imran

    Have you ever think about millions of Pakistani children who can’t even afford to go to
    a primary school.

    only then you will realize that how lucky you are…………………………………………….Recommend

  • Amir

    As in anything in life, you have to pay for quality. Yes fees at our top universities are high, but the education imparted is of high standards as well. Discipline is maintained, students pay attention more to education then getting involvoed in student politics. Even if you look abroad, all ivy league schools are expensive to attend. But at the end, you are using the name of an established institute, the degree you earn from it, to land yourself a job with a well know MNC. Recommend

  • Oh Please

    I do understand the fact that graduate studies are expensive, whether in Pakistan or abroad. But there are a large number of scholarships available and you should look into the Fulbright program, which even gives preference to females applying from Pakistan. There are also a number of options in Pakistan, though the universities might not be as prestigious. As for LUMS, a large number of students are able to avail considerable financial aid. You also have to consider the NOP program which is an excellent initiative. A LUMS degree also opens many doors as far as employment is concerned and you should appreciate the fact that LUMS gives us the opportunity to get an excellent education right here in Pakistan. Maybe you should work for a couple of years and then apply for masters programs abroad, many of which encourage work experience and offer scholarships?

    I’m surprised this article has been published. Rather than being informative or even a credible opinion piece, it’s the author’s venting and whining. So maybe instead of taking shots at ‘corporate sell-outs’ (you may not want to be one but to each his own), you should do some proper research? Whining from atop one’s high horse never helped anyone. Recommend

  • Sane

    They are other MBA programs as well. There is the NUST business school which is affordable. IBA is again affordable to my knowledge. Lums is expensive, OK, but i believe its overrated as well. If you are a lumanite then maybe you just want to go there anyway without considering anything else. I know people from lums who remained jobless like students of many other universities so I believe there is more hype .

    On the other hand, If you do an MBA from NUS (National University of Singapore) , its way more prestigious and affordable if you have good grades in your undergrad that is.Recommend

  • Haseeb

    As, our country is in extremity and we should keep in mind that our country major part of population is under age of 20 and if they are not Channelized properly, then here will be a crisis that will be too difficult to control.
    Grad schools are expensive no doubt, and millions of students are deprived of quality education and those who are getting are in tension that how to pay up coming semester fee, if they belong to average-income family.
    Universities like LUMS, LSE, IBA & BNU are the uni’s that are too expensive and only top-chunk of society can afford their fees.
    And after graduation, there should be strong PR of your father, then you will get a suitable job.Recommend

  • K

    Biggest prob with grad schools in Pk – is that they offer courses to graduates straight from the first degree. In the UK for example, you cannot do an MBA unless you have at least 3 years of work experience so that you can actually use your MBA to study in a chosen field and use your work experience to understand the course.

    This way, a post grad also has earnt some monies to fund their study and not have to rely on the Bank of Mum and Dad.Recommend

  • Well wisher

    Apply for Fulbright. Who knows you might end up with a full scholarship to attend one of the best colleges in US! All the best :)Recommend

  • Raj

    How about checking some Indian institute ? But before that you need to select your institute carefully. Just like Pakistan, here in India there are many colleges who charge a lot but don’t provide value for money education. Are their significant number of students from Pakistan studying in Indian institutes currently? How easy or tough is it to get a student visa in India for a Pakistani student and how is the experience of those who have come to India for higher education?Recommend

  • qasim

    Think outside the box. Use KhanAcademy as a resource rather than a label of an expensive institute.

    Be the rebellion. Go against the world and that is where all the fun and learning is ;-).Recommend

  • Sane Mind

    i think you should not be the complainant here. you should be thankful to Almighty and your parents that you have been able to get graduated from one of the best institutions of Pak about which many just dream about. you should utilize this education n degree (which you would have learnt surely), get some work which I see you are doing n pay on your own for post graduation.

    This is an important issue of today’s student in Pakistan but I am not able to see how its been related to u. u are in better position as compared to a major lot here. if u are talking on behalf of that lot then its relevant but atleast you are not an aggrieved party here and STOP this trend of complaining about each n every matter. Recommend

  • http://none.moc BP

    I’m not sure it is her parents that would be spending on her marriage when it’s the grooms’ job to cough up the money.

    Taking from your suggestion, I’d advise her to get married to someone who is able and willing to afford her post-grad education.Recommend

  • Nooruddin Muzzaffar

    I understand what you are saying there in your article, but I see there have already been some very remarkable solutions proposed in the comments above. You might like to consider these:

    Applying for Fulbright/other scholarships
    Applying for scholarship at IBA/LUMS once you get admitted there
    Even better than the above two, getting some good work experience for 2-3 years and saving up for grad school

    Sarah, much more than grad school fee, my concern is the high undergrad fee that is for parents to bear. Coming from a middle-class background, I know that is very difficult to afford. Having studied at IBA, I received my scholarship right in my first semester. Moreover, throughout my four years, alongside studying full-time I was always working some part-time gig to make some extra cash to cover things that the scholarship didn’t cover (transportation, books & materials, misc. expenses). I know it is much easier said than done, but at the end of the day, what else is education for if it isn’t to teach you to keep struggling against all odds, keeping your head high and moving on!

    After graduation, I started work and completed my MBA in evening from IBA again, paid every bit of it from my hard-earned money and that way I feel I got to learn more out of the total experience.

    Anyways, best of luck with your endeavors.Recommend

  • Aleem Bayar

    Sara Khan seems completely ignorant of economic and political dynamics of Pakistan that is why she made a silly or rather bizarre suggestion of subsidizing higher education in the country. Recommend

  • :)

    totally agreed
    nicely put
    accounts ofiicers should just dieRecommend

  • Madiha

    Though you paid a heavy amount at LUMS but I believe that the educational standard there must be worth it. Imagine some like me, studying at an average university, paying a heavy amount but getting nothing in return. Teachers have a long list of degrees but they don’t know how to teach. Most of the projects given are for formality and have no learning in them. After the bachelor experience I don’t feel like enrolling in the Masters program as I am better off studying myself. Recommend

  • Ayub Ahmed

    @ author

    I think you must go for IBA it costs half for MBA as compared to LUMS in terms of finance and market value is equivalent to LUMS.Recommend

  • B

    Considering the government spends less than 2% of its GDP on education in total- higher education is REALLY stretching it! how is the govt supposed to fund this? the RGST was shot down – no one is willing to pay more taxes but everyone wants free stuff! how’s this supposed to work?

    Grad school is a luxury – esp in Pakistan – do you really believe funding it should be a priority?Recommend

  • Shahid H Butt MD

    How about taking loan from the bank under your own name.That is the way it is done in USA. You can pay back loan once you start making money .Recommend

  • J

    Sarah, I feel your plight but don’t really think you can blame the government. Even in countries where governments allocate large budgetary sums to subsidise higher education, you will rarely see such funding for business/ commerce programmes such as MBAs. The purpose of government subsidies at the tertiary level is mainly to promote research.

    I suggest working for a few years to save up. Start investing wisely and watch your money grow. If you earn 35 – 45k monthly and live with your parents then this should not be too difficult.

    Many prestigious local institutions offer executive/ evening MBAs that you can do while working simultaneously. Perhaps you can consider saving while doing this and at a later status transition to full time status when your budget permits?

    If LUMS is the only place for you then keep an eye out for an affluent husband (preferably Lahore based) who values an educated woman.Recommend

  • Usman

    My suggestion to all the upcoming to-be-grads:
    “Study hard during your Inter / A levels & try to get admission in public sector universities like NED, Dow, SMC, KMDC, KU etc.”
    These professional institutes have good acceptance in our local market & are also recognized in foreign markets. I am an Ex-NEDian & I know many NEDians working in countries like UAE, KSA, Singapore, Australia, USA, UK & Canada. Many good MNCs & local companies in Pakistan have NEDians. Why spend the hard earned money of your parents when you can have good 04 years professional education for as low as PKR 40,000.00 net? Similarly Medicine graduates from Dow, SMC & KMDC are doing great in their careers. Graduates from KU Business School (KUBS) & Computer Science have also got a decent standing in the local & foreign markets (e.g: UAE).
    Moreover, after graduation you can always plan & manage for higher studies abroad after a couple of years of work experience within Pakistan.Recommend

  • http://Izlo xoxo

    We pay almost 5 to 10 Lack for master degree and after spending that much big amount 80% of student get a job around 15 to 25 thousand per month which mean after getting the degree we usually spend 4 to 5 years just to recover our degree cost !! how freaking is this yar 8 10 lack laga b esi jobs milay to kia faida esi taleeem ka. God knows kia hoga es Country ka. Recommend

  • http://none BP

    Then let’s not call it ta3leem at all. Training or formation maybe. ta3leem’s for ta3leem’s sake!Recommend

  • Amazed

    This is brilliant. So often I’ve been discouraged from reading the blogs on ET when because there is often some fad-bitten ridiculous bit of holier-than-thou “writing” thrown out by anyone who can boast a degree from a known institution and write a grammatically sound sentence which is met with complete approval in the comments section, or criticized for not going far enough in their high-mindedness, but not this time! Hats off everyone for calling a spade a spade! Recommend

  • kabir

    I am getting jealous as I had to leave my education incomplete because my parents were unable to finance me. I have strong belief that only sons and daughters of corrupt elite class (military and civil) have access to quality education in Pakistan. ISI’s sponsored Madrases and Jihadi camps are the only destiny for the children of poor class. What a country!Recommend

  • kabir

    I am getting jealous as I had to leave my education incomplete because my parents were unable to finance me. I have strong belief that only sons and daughters of corrupt elite class (military and civil) have access to quality education in Pakistan.Madrases and Jihadi camps are the only destiny for the children of poor class. What a country!Recommend

  • Amazed

    An unfortunate use of webspace. This appears to be a diary entry from the diary of a teeny bopper, maybe tomorrow we’ll see the next entry, how Justin Bieber glorifies Eurocentrism in his spending time with Selena GomezRecommend

  • http:/ Qasim Ahmad Ilyas

    Yeah we need to improve higher education infrastructure at all levels from primary to doctoral levels. Government can not subsidize very time , private institutions ought to reduce tuition fees that every person can afford because “Taleem kisi ki miraas nahi ” Education isn’t one’s heritage.Recommend

  • Khan

    Honestly, writing blogs on this won’t help at all. The government doesn’t and shouldn’t make economic policies after reading a couple of blogs, no matter how good the argument. Recommend

  • Kay

    Okay, I see many people recommending Fullbright here. But fullbright is only valid for US universities. What if one, out of personal choice, does not want to leave the country? Further, for supporters of the LUMS NOP or IBA NTHP initiatives, I agree with the author that making 90-95% students pay twice as much as what they are being provided for only to make sure that 5-10% of the students in an institute get to study absolutley free of cost is simply not fair. What if there is a deserving student who does not qualify for NOP/NTHP standards, but cannot afford to pay in full either? Partial aid is EXTREMELY difficult (and I speak from experience) from places like LUMS and IBA. During the time I studied from IBA, they did offer a 50% merit scholarship to half their undergraduate students. Now, even that policy does not exist any more. To add to it, their full fee has also increased plentifold. Yes, we see them investing heavily in their infrastructure, faculty, etc…but shouldn’t all of that be funded by government and foreign aid? IBA remains, to date, a semi-private institution, the governor of Sindh being its patron. Where are the Ministry of Education’s funds? As for LUMS, all I can say is that I could not study there despite being offered the admission, simply because my family could not afford to pay their full fee, and my financial aid application requesting only partial aid/loan was rejected without any justified explanation from the financial aid committee.Recommend