Although the Indian economy has been growing steadily over the past two decades, statistics released by the World Bank reveals a strange fact – expenditure on tertiary education (post-secondary education), as a percentage of total general government expenditure on education, exhibits a annual declining trend from 2009 until 2013.

The main source of the data, provided by the World Bank, is the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (Unesco) Institute for Statistics. In the year 2009, expenditure on tertiary education in India was 36.45 per cent of the total general government expenditure on education.

In 2010, it declined marginally to 36.08 per cent and by 2013 it became 28.53 per cent.

In the United States, on the other hand, despite slower economic growth compared to India, annual expenditure on tertiary education in terms of percentage increased between the years 2010 and 2014. It was 27.50 per cent for the year 2014. For a country that has, historically, subsidised higher education, the declining trend is perplexing.

As college enrolments continue to increase in India, with high cut offs, unless appropriate policy measures are implemented by the concerned ministries and government departments, including action from the center,the declining trend in tertiary education expenditure, in proportion to the total government expenditure on education, will most likely have a negative impact on the nation’s economic growth and development in the long run. This is an area of concern that must be addressed immediately.

- The reader has a PhD and is an associate professor of economics.