What the U.S. Could Learn from Germany’s Higher Education System, by Kenny Martinez

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What the U.S. Could Learn from Germany’s Higher Education System

Original article by Kenny Martinez

Germany is known for its excellent pro soccer, but it has something that isn’t talked about too much: an excellent higher education system. Its universities are producing students that are performing much better and paying less for their educations than students in the United States. In other words, German college grads aren’t as weighed down by student debt, which is now at a crippling $1.4 trillion in the U.S. Students and parents in Germany aren’t worrying so much about how they are going to pay back their student debt. There’s a lot the U.S. could learn from Germany.

(Image Credit: Universität Salzburg (PR) [https://www.flickr.com/photos/uni-salzburg/] Subject to CC 2.0 License.)

Publicly Funded Universities

Germany has publicly funded universities, which a majority of students attends. There are some private institutions, but only a small fraction of students attends them. Perhaps, this is due to higher tuition costs that many students find not necessary when they can attend a quality public institution.

In the United States, the average cost of tuition at a private institution is $29,056 per year. If the school is well known, the cost can double. Even when the financial aid packages are generous, it is almost impossible to make the education affordable for many American students.

Tuition at German public universities almost doesn’t exist. The student may pay small fees, but a U.S. student will have to pay a four-year college an average of $8,893 per year. If a student is out of state, the tuition can more than double.

Germany doesn’t tolerate the high costs, whereas a high school graduate in the United States approaches college education with the knowledge that it isn’t going to be cheap. An attempt was made in Germany to institute tuition fees at state universities, but the public wasn’t going to tolerate it. The states have retracted the fees, and others that have charged have stopped charging.

(Image Credit: Universität Salzburg (PR) [https://www.flickr.com/photos/uni-salzburg/] Subject to CC 2.0 License.)

Price vs. Quality

Some argue that lack of price could compromise quality. This isn’t true. German students tested better than American students, especially in mathematics. It must be taken into account that the German population is smaller. However, Germany takes accessible education to a completely new level. It’s a costly reality for American students in a higher education system that makes it difficult for them to compete against their German counterparts.

Free tuition in the United States would be a longshot. It’s something we may not see in our lifetimes, but that means the current debt will continue to grow. It is $1 trillion now. Unfortunately, people can’t graduate from high school and move straight into a job like they used to. Today, even blue-collar jobs are requiring certain skillsets that can only be derived from a college education. Even if a person is skilled, he or she may not get the job because of the lack of a pricey degree. As time progresses, a degree is becoming more necessary to earn a living wage.

There is also the fact that colleges encourage students to fill out a FAFSA first to determine if they are eligible for grants or federal student loans. Many students can’t pay back their loans for a long time after graduation. They may claim a hardship, and the loan will be deferred or placed in forbearance. This reflects on the nation’s total student loan debt. Germany doesn’t have this problem. German students can go to college with the peace of mind that they will graduate with no debt, thus achieve life’s milestones much faster than their American counterparts will. They can buy the house, buy the car, and start their family. This is good for the German economy.

Germany-Forschungs-Campus Garching - Fakultät für Mathematik und Informatik
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The German System Is a Dream System

All in all, the German higher education system is the dream system for the U.S. student. While free tuition is not in the foreseeable future, something will have to be done to mitigate the rising debt that is being placed on the shoulders of taxpayers. Whatever the action may be, students will be affected in some way. In the meantime, German students can continue paying just small, affordable fees as they move through their degree programs and graduate with the degrees that will change their lives.

Original article by Kenny Martinez