On the Costs of Education


Last Thursday, I finally enrolled into the last thesis writing class required for the completion of my Masters degree. The class is a mere formality—something I need to sign up for if I’m to defend my thesis this coming semester. As a formality, it’s stunningly expensive: among the line items is Px,xxx in fees for the use of a library I have no intention of visiting since it almost never has the titles I’m looking for anyway. (I survived much of my Masters degree coursework using books I acquired during the years I spent in Singapore.)

Why the fee came as a shock is I’m accustomed to being educated for free. I was a scholar from high school all the way up to graduate school, so it came as a bit of a nasty surprise when I found that I had to pay Pxx,xxx close to the end of my extended education for something that, ironically enough, required the least amount of resources from the school (to wit: the use of the room where I intend to defend my thesis in January).

While I’m sure all the fees are justifiable from an accounting perspective (a perspective I learned from my first college degree), they’re rather opaque from a philosophical perspective (a perspective that sprang from a civilization that relied heavily on slave labor so that “free” men could think). In other words, philosophers—a venerably parasitic lot—tend to be appalled by the mere notion of having to pay in order to learn. (All of which simply goes to show that if philosopher kings are rarities, philosopher managers are downright absurdities.)

My inner parasite’s righteous indignation aside, at least the unwelcome expense has this unexpected benefit: given how much I’ll have to pay if I have to do it again, there’s a steely determination on my end to finally finish things this semester.

At the very least, I hope that the room for my thesis defense is air-conditioned, wood-paneled, red-carpeted and lift-accessible. That way, I’ll be sure to get my money’s worth. Kind of.

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