Tuition means instruction or teaching. In American English, the term tuition is often used to refer to a fee charged for educational instruction; especially at a formal institution of learning or by a private tutor usually in the form of one-to-one tuition. This article uses the latter meaning of the term.
Tuition is charged by educational institutions in some countries to assist with funding of staff and faculty, course offerings, lab equipment, computer systems, libraries, facility upkeep and to provide a comfortable student learning experience.
Some methods students use to pay tuition include:
Most students who pay for tuition have fees that are greater than their savings. Thus, some students have to take part time jobs and/or take out loans. Those who take part time jobs worry about handling both the course load and working. Those who take out loans have to ensure they are able to repay or else risk bad credit ratings.
Students have private tuition for any one of a number of reasons:
Developed countries have adopted a dual scheme for education: while basic (i.e. high-school) education is supported by taxes rather than tuition, higher education is usually given for a fee or tuition.
After World War II, the enhanced standard of living and free university education present in many countries enabled an enormous amount of working-class youths to receive a degree, resulting in the inflation of education and enlarged middle classes. In countries with tuition, similar progress was effected with state study loans, grants and scholarships, with the G.I. Bill and other financial instruments. It has been proposed that the strong class separations visible in the British society result from the fact that the expansion of education there has been less efficient than in the Continental Europe.
There is also substantial evidence that education levels are primordial in determining salary. This leads to the natural conclusion that higher tuition rates are an important factor of the low permeability between social classes: children of rich parents tend to be rich themselves, and poorer families yield poor children. This in turn can cause class tensions and an increasing gap between rich and poor.
Recently, processes such as the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid), have allowed poorer students to gain a college education through government subsidies designed to eliminate the difference between the rich and poor. The process allocates a portion of tuition as expected family contribution, which is derived from family savings and income, the rest of which is presumptively met by a financial aid package, generally a portfolio of federal, state, and private loans and grants. The program has allowed many poor students to attend colleges and universities that would otherwise be unaffordable. Criticism of the government program, however, has arisen from those who believe that the expected family contributions are too high for most middle-class families to afford. These people often claim that, in order to attend an expensive university, one has to be "either very rich, or very poor."
Even in countries where tuition fees have generally been much lower than average, the general trend has been towards marked increases in tuition. For example, Canada has seen its tuition fees more than double in the last ten years.