In America, a nation with a total of 1.2 trillion dollars of student debt, free tuition seems like a fool’s dream. Germany just made that dream a reality. On Oct. 1, Germany became an entirely tuition-free nation. Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a German politician, deemed tuition fees for higher education “socially unjust.” Though the term “socially unjust” may not be the most appropriate term for describing the downsides of tuition, tuition certainly is restricting. In places where higher education is largely unaffordable without financial aid, many choose not to pursue higher education. Some choose to go, but then get financially incapacitated by the staggering costs. Germany is eliminating this problem by allowing people to advance themselves through higher education without worry.
Some universities are not on board with this nation-wide change, however. The vice president of Hamburg University spoke out about the consequences for the lack of tuition. “The level of our teaching will have to decrease dramatically,” he said, in order to compensate. Other German universities may not agree with this, however, as a good portion of Germany has been set on eliminating tuition for over a decade.
The establishment of a completely tuition-free nation did not happen all at once. The free tuition movement has been working toward this goal since 1999. Before the abolishment of tuition fees, costs for university education was already quite inexpensive. This action to do away with tuition fees was the last stab in a decided battle. But, it may be the first strike in a new battle, as Germany’s tuition-less status could lead other nations, like America, to follow.
Can college in America be free, though? The amount of tuition collected from public colleges during 2012 amounted to a total of 62.6 billion dollars. That amount doesn’t seem as large as it should be, especially when compared to the trillion dollars of student debt accrued thus far in America. It may seem out of the question to some that our government should pay upwards of 60 billion dollars annually to make tuition free, but that amount of money is already being spent on a closely related matter: financial aid. In 2013 the amount spent on financial aid programs totaled 69 billion dollars. This means that financially the ability is there; just by reorganizing our government’s educational spending, the tuition for public higher education could be paid for and then some. The only thing stopping America may be our mentality. It seems unfeasible, but in reality it looks to be much more possible than most of us think.
Imagine how revolutionary free higher education would be. Education and knowledge would be at the forefront of society, the transition would be tough though. Eliminating these mountainous college expenses without jeopardizing the merit of the actual education would be the key to the movement’s success. Time will tell if Germany’s free tuition holds up, but either way Germany has the right idea: that education should be accessible to all.
Collegian Columnist Troy Wilkinson can be reached at email@example.com.