Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Economics and Finance. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 29 September 2023

Financing Higher Educationlocked

Financing Higher Educationlocked

  • Bruce ChapmanBruce ChapmanResearch School of Economics, Australian National University
  •  and Lorraine DeardenLorraine DeardenSocial Research Institute, University College London


The rapid worldwide growth in higher education undergraduate enrollments since around 1990 has meant that governments have had to rethink provision and funding arrangements to help ensure both cost-effective and equitable outcomes. It is important to understand in detail the fundamental financial conceptual building blocks that are necessary for an efficacious and socially just higher education financing system. In response to the critical question of who should pay for higher education and student income support, the case for the sharing of the costs between students, graduates, and taxpayers is overwhelming from the perspectives of both efficiency and equity. Further, there is a consensus that governments should intervene with respect to the underwriting of student loans, but there are very important and quite different implications for borrowers with respect to loan collection arrangements. The most equitable and effective higher education financing instrument involves loans that are repaid only when and if debtors can afford to do so, known as income-contingent loans. The less desirable form of student loans, defined by time-based collection, is internationally still the most common approach, but recent advances in economic theory and econometric methodology provide both conceptual bases and exciting and innovative ways for governments to understand why traditional student loan approaches are inferior to income-contingent collection. When the effects of student loans on access and welfare become more properly understood, the case for targeted assistance for all disadvantaged prospective students for reasons of social justice remains compelling. The importance of the attainment of the right financing system was highlighted by the economic trauma associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, an ordeal that caused many universities to experience an entirely unexpected financial crisis and led millions of students to struggle with unanticipated loan repayment difficulties.


  • Health, Education, and Welfare Economics

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription