Anyone that knows me well knows that I have a slight obsession with Germany (maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m a German minor). Anyone that knows me well will also know that, over the past year, I’ve spent quite a bit of time over there traveling, working and studying in Germany. For now, I’d like to take a moment and focus on the latter. I will note that most of what I’m going to discuss is simply a generalization of most of my friends at Uni Paderborn.
When I attended Uni Paderborn in 2010-2011, I made several observations that struck me as odd when compared to my experience in America at ISU. The first was that students pay nothing for tuition to attend the university.
For many years, students in Germany paid no tuition to attend a public university. In 1997 universities began to implement fees from zero to 500 Euro per semester, much to the anger of the students. Due to the massive uproar from students, many states, such as Hesse, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia, have already stopped charging tuition fees for the coming semesters.
Now, to me, this concept appears absolutely bizarre, given that I come from a public university in Illinois that charges over $300 per credit hour, and often times a semester of tuition can cost well over $5,000. In fact, looking back over the last 25 years, the cost of tuition at Illinois State University has increased 356% faster than the cost of gasoline.
I could go on and on about university funding, lack of state support, and the ridiculous costs of tuition at public universities in the USA, however, I’d like to focus on the economic advantages of university life in Germany.
Another thing I noticed when studying abroad was that, not only to people not have to pay for tuition, but often times students live at home with their parents, rarely paying for rent and food. In addition, most students take public transportation and, if they do have a car, it usually belongs to their parents. I also noticed that, for most classes, students simply borrow the course books from the library for free and very seldom do professors require that the students purchase a new book each year.
Add on to this the fact that most Germans tend to rent apartments as opposed to buying houses and you have a completely different economic outlook upon graduation.
The average student in the USA graduates with over $24,000 in student debt. Between student loans, car payments, car insurance, food, and potential house payments, students in the USA bear a heavy load upon graduation. Many of my German friends, by contrast, pay nothing for tuition, books, rent, car payments, insurance, gas, etc. and graduate with minimal if any debt. It’s no wonder so many of my friends are going on for their masters or PhD, it’s ridiculously cheap by US standards.
Having the ability to graduate with zero debt, with no financial obligations like car or house payments can be incredibly valuable in a struggling economy. Perhaps if we’d like to fix our economic crisis long-term, we should take a look into how to reduce the debt of those students upon entering the work force.