Lowering the Education Costs in America

The cost of education in America is skyrocketing. It is for this reason that more American policymakers are looking at various options to reduce the costs. They are looking at different models which are being followed in other countries in the world. It is important to note that America is not the first country in the world where students are demanding free education. In fact, free education has been part of many European countries. In countries like the United Kingdom and Germany, education was free for the past few decades. However, most of these countries have decided to start charging for education. Very few countries like Sweden still offer free education with zero tuition fees.

In this article, we will discuss the experience of different countries. Finally, some conclusions will be drawn about the applicability of this model to the American education system.

Limiting Enrollment

Basic laws of economics state that when the price of a good or service is reduced, its demand increases. Hence, if the price of a good or service is reduced to zero, then the demand for it increases infinitely. This is what happens when education is made free. Students start flocking in large numbers to universities in order to gain a free education. The reality is that education can never really be free. This is because young adults have to spend their time in order to obtain an education. Hence, they also lose the wages that they could have earned had they spent that time working. This is the reason why many students donít come to universities even when education is free. However, the student influx increases greatly. The problem is that there are only a limited number of seats. Hence, some sort of mechanism has to be created in order to ensure that only a few students are enrolled in college every year.

This is where the systems in America and Germany are different. In America, fees act as the deterrent and decide who will get the admission. On the other hand, in Germany, the decision is made based on the student’s credentials. The students have to obtain higher grades and also have to do a wide variety of extra-curricular activities in order to be admitted to a college. The German system seems better since it is a meritocracy wherein only the deserving students get a state-subsidized education. Over the long term, the state earns this money back through the tax revenues on the increased income of these students.

Increasing the Teacher to Student Ratio

The teacher to student ratio is very less in most universities in America. This may be good from the standpoint of the quality of education. However, this is not good from an economic standpoint. Most universities in America have a student to faculty ratio which is ten times less than universities in France. In many universities in France, a class size of 1000 students is also not uncommon. France gives admission to all students. However, it sets the bar for exams so high that a lot of them fail and have to drop out of college. Most classrooms in French universities are huge in size when compared to American universities. Hence, low tuition is only possible in France because of the high student to faculty ratio. American universities could replicate this model too. However, most Americans would consider this to be a deterioration of the college experience.

Living at Home

Several pieces of research have been concluded about the cost of education. Many of these researches have concluded that cost of living is a major contributor in many student loans. This means that on an average student loan size increases by 40% when a student decides to opt for a course at a university other than their city.

The case of Germany and Sweden can be used to show the difference. Germany does charge a tuition fee. However, most of the students study in their home cities. Hence, they do not have to incur the additional expenditure that is required to stay in dormitories or in rented accommodations. Also, they do not have to pay extra for food since they get it at home.

On the other hand, there is no tuition fee in Sweden. However, all the colleges are located in Stockholm. Hence, most Swedes have to move out of their homes and stay in rented accommodations in order to complete their education.

The end result is that more Swedes end up in debt as compared to Germans. The student loan debt to income ratio in Sweden is the highest in the entire world. Hence, if Americans want to reduce the cost of going to college, they should encourage students to attend a college which allows them to stay at home and avoid the unnecessary expenditure

Reducing Non-Core Activities

The crux of making education affordable for Americans is to ensure that only a limited number of deserving students get into college. Also, it needs to be ensured that the money is being spent on learning and not on housing and canteen expenses. Non-core activities like sports must also be funded. However, their budget must be less as compared to academics. This may dramatically alter the college experience that most graduates in America have today. However, this will also produce a lot fewer students who are deeply indebted when they graduate.


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