Think Progress has the story: This Country Just Abolished College Tuition Fees
Compared to American students, Germans barely had to pay for undergraduate study even before tuition fees were abolished. Semester fees averaged around €500 ($630) and students were entitled to many perks, such as cheap (often free) transportation within and between cities.
Free education is a concept that is embraced in most of Europe with notable exceptions like the U.K., where the government voted to lift the cap on university fees in 2010. The measure has reportedly cost more money than it brought in. The Guardian reported in March that students are failing to pay back student loans at such a rate that “the government will lose more money than it would have saved from keeping the old £3,000 ($4,865) tuition fee system.”
Although it's patently ridiculous, students in the U.K. often compare their own education plight to their American counterparts. The Brits pay a maximum of $14,500USD per year for tuition. It's much higher in the U.S. In fact, exorbitant tuition and fees here have caused student debt to explode overall to a mind-numbing $1.2 trillion, and is continuing to spiral out of control. It is now the second-highest form of consumer debt in the country. And, (according to the Institute for College Access and Success
) a full 2/3rds of college students in the U.S. will leave college in significant debt, with an average of $26,600 per student.
However, the news is not all bad. There has been, in fact, some movement at the state level: Tennessee, for one, recently voted to make two-year colleges free for all high school graduates. But overall change in this country is at a snail's pace at best. And this simply must change. And that change is not as difficult as it would seem. We just need a new (liberal) perspective.
The U.S. as whole could take a note from Germany and make public universities free with relative ease. The government spends around $69 billion subsidizing college education and another $107.4 billion on student loans. Tuition at all public universities comes to much less than that, around $62.6 billion in 2012. By restructuring the education budget, the cost of attending public universities could easily be brought down to zero. This would also put pressure on private universities to lower their cost in order to be more competitive.
So, for what it's worth, I know it can be cost-prohibitive for a lot of young folks. But until us older folks manage to enact necessary education reforms, if it's at all possible, my advice to young people in this country would be... (to paraphrase an American classic)
"Go east, young people... Go East! (across the pond)
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