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Could the U.S. Follow Germany and Eliminate Tuition for Higher Education?



Incredulous, and perhaps a bit jealous of Germany’s success in offering a free higher education for everyone who qualifies academically (for both local and international students, alike) while public colleges and universities in the U.S. took in more than $62 billion in tuition in recent years and still strapped millions with suffocating student loans, I decided to look into the country’s method and means.

After all, just ridding ourselves of school tuition wouldn’t necessarily eliminate student debt, though it would indeed reduce it. Students also have to pay for dorm rooms, food, transportation, computers, supplies, and ridiculously priced textbooks that cost over 1,041 percent more now than they did in 1977.


It is also interesting to note that when Germany eliminated tuition a few years ago, only about 27% of their population qualified for higher education.  Meanwhile, in the UK, where tuition is much higher, the number of students entering university was substantially different – 48%. Another notable comparison is that Germany spends slightly more of their GDP on tuition and research than the UK. Though there are more ‘prestigious’ universities in the UK, Germany doesn’t always offer a degree or certificate for an institution that focuses on research.

In a report titled, “Keeping Up with the Germans,” written by Nick Hillman, it is said that if the elite German science institute, the Max Planck Society, were included in global rankings it would overtake both Oxford and Cambridge. So, it isn’t as if colleges in Germany are second rate.

Again, to compare notes with Germany, statistics for American students are staggering.  Nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt is owed, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. In fact, the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from just last year.

How is Germany affording to ‘give away the farm’ while the U.S. and other countries are still struggling to educate their youth so that they can stay competitive in a global economy? It certainly looks like an appealing option, and more than 10,000 students from the U.S. alone, agree – saying auf wiedersehen to tuition rates in the U.S. you could asphyxiate on.

The Hillman study offers some interesting points, but then there are additional observations that should be included:

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, not everyone needs to go to a college or university in Germany to make a decent living. Where students who may do better in trade schools, or just by starting their own businesses have been cattle-herded into ‘higher education’ and its inflated costs in the U.S., Germany allows people in certain trades to work very closely as an apprentice for someone who is already doing what they want to do. Compare this also to the habit of university professors to teach something they’ve never actually done in America. In Germany, a plumber, furniture maker, electrician, etc. can make more than many U.S. college graduates do, without ever being strapped with student loans.

Moreover, there are thousands of college-educated individual in the U.S. today who are unemployed or under-employed, that don’t even use the degree that they were brainwashed into thinking that they needed to ‘get a job,’ and live the ‘American dream.’ As one writer quipped, “Getting a law degree means you can call yourself a lawyer. That’s it. Besides the approval of Jewish mothers (who prefer doctors anyway) and a drinking problem, it won’t give you anything else. And it sure as hell won’t help you get a non-legal job.”

There is a selection process. More ‘prestigious’ degrees, say in veterinary medicine, or architecture may require a local admissions test, letters of reference, a portfolio, or an entrance exam to make sure that students can hold their own once they are enrolled in a program of higher education.

Student still have to pay administration fees which can be up to 150 € per semester. These fees include a compulsory contribution to a student union, a support organization that helps to provide student housing and student services, and also provides them a pass for public transportation.

If you are a foreign student, you have to speak a modicum of the German language before you’d be allowed to study ‘for free.’

In the U.S. tuition prices constantly increase because universities and colleges can depend on students taking student loans. Even if students can’t really afford the tuition, they take out a loan. This is just like the mortgage crisis of the 1990s. The cost of homes became outrageous, and people took out loans they couldn’t really afford to purchase them, and in the end the bail-outs were for the institutions causing the problem, not for the people who were encouraged to take out excessive loans. Just like with the mortgage crises the banks took people’s money. In this case, it’s the colleges and universities that take student’s money, while not necessarily providing an equal product or service for what they are charging.

Germans pay about the same in taxes as U.S. citizens do, but their government doesn’t waste tax-payer money on endless wars, and can instead pay for things like ‘free’ college educations.

Germany sends a lower proportion of their population to get a higher education at a university, and spends less on the education of each student, while still providing a high-quality education. As referenced above, not all students need to go to university in order to make a living, but those who do are able to invest in a future career without starting their professional life off with massive debt.

In a nutshell, Germany spends less to offer the same quality of education, only admits people who are qualified to study for the duration of their degree, and doesn’t sell a college education as a guarantee for a lucrative career to people who don’t really need one. There are opportunities for people before they ever get a ‘free’ education, because they can find gainful employment by completing internships, apprenticeships, and participating in other employment. Instead of contributing to the crisis, colleges and universities offer a solid education for a reasonable price.

Could the U.S. offer every student that qualified academically a free college education? The template is already there to borrow.

Image credit: TruthinMedia

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