By Emma Cummings
Higher education in the US is at its worst a thinly veiled for-profit business. It’s not enough to simply eliminate debt after it is accrued – our educational system should not be organized in a way that allows for (or in some cases even requires students) to accrue an ever-growing level of debt in exchange for an education. It begs the question, what are students getting into debt for?
According to Business Insider, a staggering growth of 260% increase in tuition since 1980 is a significant factor to consider. What’s worse, other costs associated with attending college, such as textbooks and required supplies (for example, a laptop), have bumped that increase above a 300%.
Some sources, such as the AECF, say that capping or eliminating tuition would be a great place to start addressing the core debt issue . This is the approach of choice for many EU countries, which also attracts international students who usually pay a slightly higher but still very affordable cost to attend, compared with what is often available in the US.
However, a tuition decrease doesn’t address the issue of students also having the costs of necessities such as a living space and food to consider. Options include subsidizing student housing and food – both exist in Germany, but other EU countries such as Finland, Hungary, and Switzerland have discounted student housing.
Food subsidies can be student specific, such as having markets or cafeterias available on campus that the public can access, but where students get a discount on goods and meals when they pay with their student card. The latter option is a great opportunity for a university to make a little profit that is not exclusively aimed at students.
Other subsidies simply include automatically granting students living expenses for a certain number of terms, such as in Denmark, which has been frequently featured in articles with titles such as “This Country is Literally Paying Students to go to College.”
Essentially, you get paid about $900 a month to attend university. When a student wants to double major, or change careers, then the expenses become out of pocket. Up to a master’s degree is paid for by the federal government, and the payout amounts vary to take living costs of different areas into consideration.
To work effectively, a variety of solutions need to be implemented within an integrated system; targeted at preventing debt and supporting students in a way that assures education is a right, not a privilege.