The Costs of Free Tuition in Germany

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german students at graduation in Hamburg

College education in Germany is now tuition-free, but what does that mean? According to Natasha Bertrand of Business Insider, it has increased student access to school — but at a cost.

With free tuition, demand for college education in Germany has risen dramatically, not only for domestic students but for foreign students, who enrolled in German schools in record numbers in the 2013-2014 school year. But without tuition fees, schools are struggling to meet the increased demand. Says Bertrand:

– Schools have had difficulty building additional classrooms and training new teachers.
– There is a housing shortage among German universities, which receive 400,000 new students annually but have only 230,000 places for them.

Why did Germany turn to the tuition-free model? Its lawmakers believed the fees were “socially unjust,” explains Christopher Denhart, administrative director for The Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Denhart says that the “free” German education will not be free for taxpayers, who will likely face higher tax rates as a result of the new policy. He notes that Germany already has a problem with students who remain in college longer than they should, a problem that could increase with the free college model. In the United States, 50 percent of college students graduating from public schools do so within four years, compared to an 80 percent four-year graduation rate in private schools.

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