Germany has long shown far greater foresight than the United States in the investment into science, infrastructure, and alternative energy — investments that are now giving the country huge returns as a leading economic system. With a decision of Lower Saxony, the German have now shown precisely how serious they are about keeping the country as one of the most educated in the world: they have eliminated all college and university tuition. The Germans view education as not just a right, but an essential component for continued growth.
There are critics to educational subsidies who raise some good-faith issues of how such payments can eliminate pressure to make efficient choices and actually drive up costs. I actually see value to students paying some tuition. However, with tuition sky rocking in the United States and falling enrollment numbers, the United States is heading to a reckoning in the future for our lack of investment in our workforce. While we have spent trillions of dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and just renewed our commitment to the later to keep forces in the country), we have continued to cut environmental, scientific, educational, and infrastructure investments. The inevitable result is that we will continue to drop in our competitiveness in the world market and the future economy. Every other country is investing heavily in education while the United States continues to be distracted by shiny objects with more immediate political benefits for politicians.
What is striking is that it is not just third world countries that are investing heavily education, but economic leaders like Germany.
Notably, tuition was only introduced in Germany in 2006 after the German Constitutional Court ruled that limited fees do not violate the country’s commitment to universal education. However, the tuition rates proved unpopular and the country is now tuition free. Of course, there is no such thing as free tuition. The taxpayers are footing the bill. Moreover, such government subsidies can have a negative impact on not just the choices of students (who feel less pressure to make efficient choices) but on schools which are dependent on the government.
Nevertheless, the contrast could not be greater with the United States in terms of the commitment to education as not just a right (as it is in Germany) but as a real national security priority.
The article below has an interesting discussion of how England rejected the free tuition approach but has lost more money due to the higher student default rate on tuition. Yet, the English students face a maximum debt load of $14,550 per year where U.S. tuition rates and debt are soaring. Student loan debt in our country now stands at $1.2 trillion.
Of course, that is less than a third of the costs for the wars, but no one is making such comparisons.