Big Changes in Germany: Free Tuition for All

In the past few weeks, big changes have occurred in the German educational system. To give you some history, many German universities were already tuition free, but the last seven states in Germany will now join the rest of the country and abolish tuition.

For some context, Germany’s university system was much more affordable to begin with, compared to its U.S. counterparts, with tuition costing roughly $630 per term. What has prompted this move? A general consensus in Germany, that tuition costs are crippling students’ futures.

Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a senator in Hamburg described tuition as “unjust” and went on further to say:

“[Tuition fees] discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study.”

In a progressive, even bold move, Germany has not only abolished tuition for Germans, but for international students as well. However, don’t go jumping for joy and planning your move to Germany quite yet. Germany is asking for at least conversational fluency in German for all prospective international students.

As someone mired in student loan debt, it’s easy to be jealous of Germans right now. You might curse the fact that you weren’t born there, or you might sign up for your first German class in hopes of pursuing higher education there in the future. And why wouldn’t you? Many Americans, including myself, are shackled by the burden of student loans, with 71% of students graduating with an average student loan balance of $29,400 upon graduation.

And the tuition costs keep rising, with seemingly no end in sight.

But one writer at Forbes, says not so fast and is debunking this utopian concept of free tuition in Germany. Based on the concept of “there is so no such thing as a free lunch” he states that, there is also no such thing as a free higher education, and projects that German citizens will pay higher taxes for this luxury. His point is that while students might not be paying for their education now, they will be paying for it over time, in the form of taxes. The writer is concerned for the future of Germany, stating:

“Sooner or later this “free” higher education will feel less and less free as increasing taxes will likely drive the most educated, highest earning, most able Germans away from Germany and into societies where they can take home a greater percentage of their pay.”

As someone dealing with the aftermath of student loans, it’s easy to see the German system as the viable option compared to our current system. But if the writer’s projections are correct, German citizens might end up paying more than what their own education would be worth – but they would also be paying for future generations’ education, thus alleviating troublesome debt burdens that can have real impacts on the future of many young people.