Prospective students in the United States who can’t afford to pay for college or don’t want to rack up tens of thousands in student debt should try their luck in Germany. Higher education is now free throughout the country, even for international students. Yesterday, Lower Saxony became the last of seven German states to abolish tuition fees, which were already extremely low compared to those paid in the United States.

German universities only began charging for tuition in 2006, when the German Constitutional Court ruled that limited fees, combined with loans, were not in conflict the country’s commitment to universal education. The measure proved unpopular, however, and German states that had instituted fees began dropping them one by one…

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 $4,865 tuition fee system.”

UK students often compare their plight to their American counterparts, but most Americans would be fortunate to pay as little as the British do: a maximum of $14,550 per year. High tuition fees in the U.S. have caused student loan debt, which stands at $1.2 trillion, to spiral out of control. It is now the second-highest form of consumer debt in the country. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, two thirds of American college students will leave their alma mater in significant debt (averaging at $26,600).

While there are many government measures that could ease the massive burden of student debt, some straightforward steps could make higher education accessible to all. Tennessee, for example, recently voted to make two-year colleges free for all high school graduates. 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.

We might even consider [gasp!] doing without a few shiny new tanks, F35 fighter aircraft or Littoral Attack Seacraft. Maybe cancel the next couple of countries Congress and our two political parties plan to invade.

Tip o’ the hat to Mike — Great minds and etc…

  1. MikeN says:

    It is the subsidizing of student loans and college education that has made the prices rise. Bill Clinton passed a $10,000 tax credit to pay for college, and the college raised their prices to capture as much of that as they could.

    • Cephus says:

      That’s really the reason that college is so out of control in the U.S. today, now that almost anyone can get a government loan to pay for their education, the schools jacked up their rates because now there isn’t a financial barrier to entry. If the government limited how much they’d give to students, those rates would come right back down again.

  2. JudgeHooker says:

    No he’s right. Too many people are choosing to shun college for the relative lack of ROI, so doing this would at least bring some value back into it for the average citizen. Of course the other side of the coin is, why is it so damned expensive to begin with? Then again, we can ask this question of medicine, the military and many other things. Take the risk out of the game for the people now, and worry about the cost question by studying it intelligently. Democracy is expensive; I think I can live with that.

  3. What? The moth is always drawn to the flame? says:

    Educapitalism. They make money whether, or not, you learn a damn thing.

    Pay for exams (*certifications, licenses, letters), not for education.

    The whole system is fracked.

  4. Gunner says:

    Interesting psycho-sociology. People who suck up to elitism so thoroughly they reject the concept of public education. Especially in a time when declining education so obviously produces declining wealth for most of the population.

    Wonder if it’s a beancounter mentality like closing down R&D to make a balance sheet look profitable – or just feelings of inadequacy ranging from envy to sexual insecurity? Not that ignorasuses spend any time examining problems they’d rather run away from.

  5. BillBC says:

    Or we could imagine a society where people don’t feel they have to spend four years doing stuff they aren’t interested in and getting heavily into debt in order to get a decent job above the level of working in a call centre.

    • Tim says:

      There is a reason that it’s a required credit to attend ‘college orientation’. It’s required. Derp.

      • IM72 says:

        That sounds a bit like circular logic, Tim. Would you please explain that, or alternately say it another way?

        • Tim says:

          Maybe later. OK. It’s a worthless, required (or used to be) credit to ‘graduate’ that must be paid for.

          I forget how little we sarc around here. Sorry.

        • Tim says:

          Maybe later. OK. It’s a worthless, required (or used to be) credit to ‘graduate’ that must be paid for.

          I forget how little we /sars around here. Sorry.

  6. Greg Allen says:

    Spending on education is a subsidy of business. And a requirement for modern capitalism.

    Liberal countries understand this — you need to spend big bucks on education if you want to be a top-tierd undustralized nation.

    Conservatives and libertarian paradises like Somalia and Niger spend almost nothing on education but have very low taxes. And their countries suck — but a few people get very rich.


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