Germany Abolishes Tuition For University Students

Coat_of_arms_of_Germany.svg220px-LinusPaulingGraduation1922Germany 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.

500 thoughts on “Germany Abolishes Tuition For University Students”

  1. Paul:

    “Karen โ€“ I do not know about where you are, but here the gold courses and parks use recycled water.” I believe they do so here, too, but it’s permitted. No gray water systems for homeowners unless they have a permit, which is just too expensive to make it worthwhile.

    1. Karen – homes don’t use grey water, but there is so little lawn that grey water is not really an issue. ๐Ÿ™‚ We do need it for parks and golf courses, of which we have thousands. Maricopa County is pretty flat so we don’t have the terracing opportunities you might have in CA.

  2. Thanks for the link, Po. I love the idea of permaculture, and working with the land instead of fighting the landscape. I’m also waiting on a few books on water harvesting, using techniques that help the rain soak into the ground to require wells and underground aquifers, rather than run off and carve out gorges.

    I recall reading about how there is very little water runoff in native chaparral. I walked outside in the rain and looked at the hill next to my horses’ corral. Chaparral. No runoff. No carved out gorges after every rainfall. The water just soaked in, even though it’s a steep slope. However, wherever that brush had been cleared, such as the dirt road and weed abatement, water just poured off, gouging out channels and running down the street, lost.

  3. DBQ – Los Angeles County just changed its policies a couple of years ago so that you no longer need an expensive permit to have a rain barrel. You can let rainwater flow down your roof, down your driveway, and flood the street, but you cannot collect it to reduce your need for water. It’s unbelievable to me that collecting rainwater is illegal in a drought state, but there it is. Grey Water systems are still illegal without a permit.

    1. po- you have to replace it more often, but if you get the higher quality product it is supposed to last longer.

  4. It’s true, DBQ that one of the keys to grey water recycling for gardening is for it to be non-chemical based. Here at my house for example, I have hooked the kitchen drain to a barrel buried into the front yard, and a sump pump pushes the water automatically through a hose to the garden. This has caused us to switch to only using plant based cleaners, which was in the plans anyway.

    There are indeed issues with building a public grey water system, and regarding:

    1- Difficult to retrofit, true, but I think rebates can be offered just as they are offered for the switching to energy efficient appliances and solar systems. I also think that as water rates soar with increased demand and reduced supply, the same calculations about solar may come into play.

    2/3-True again, but since the other option is desalination, as it is being discussed heavily in my area, which costs a huge amount of money for a little return and with no doubt major environmental issues… Desal is said to help maintain the current rates but the general understanding is that no matter what, rates will go up.
    I do believe though that grey water rates can be cheaper than potable water rates, even if it has to be subsidized for a while in order for it to be so. AS long as it is the case, the amount of potable water used will go down greatly, while the usage of grey water will go up and people will see an effect on their bill.

    1. po – I have desert landscaping in the front and if I can every kill the grass in the back (it has to stop raining for awhile) I am planning to put in artificial turf.

  5. I like po’s idea of a dual system.

    Most people in this rural area are NOT on a public water systems and many do have such a program on their own properties. Septic tank for the sewage. A recycling underground cistern or above ground tank for grey water mostly for agricultural and gardening purposes. However, you do need to be especially careful in the cleaning products you use so that they aren’t going to create grey water that is toxic or harmful. You need to also be careful for your septic system too. Harsh chemicals can kill the bacterial action necessary for the septic tank to work properly. Collecting water from roof run off is also a good idea and there are many systems that people can use and then reuse that water later for vegetable gardening.

    I think that rainwater collecting is illegal in some Western States. Colorado (I believe)

    There are a few problems with the recycling of grey water in a public water system.

    1.) it is going to very very difficult to retrofit existing plumbing inside residences and public buildings to accommodate the two systems. New construction would be not that difficult.

    2.)Re doing the infrastructure of the entire system which now just treats sewage and greywater in the same piping into two separate systems. Is also going to be expensive and logistically difficult.

    2.) the facility required to do the recycling is also going to be VERY expensive to build and to maintain. These costs will have to be passed onto the users….and as I know from experience from my stint on a water district board, people will scream bloody murder when asked to increase their bills, or to increase the assessment on their properties.

  6. Good point, Ari.
    The amount of rainfall that rolls off a roof during the typical storm is staggering. Another issue related to storm water is that urban landscape are mostly hardscape, that is the ground is not permeable and the water that is supposed to percolate into the ground doesn’t. Instead we have thousandths of gallons of water running down gutters and roads, asphalt, concrete and pavers down into the sewers below, which were never designed to take that amount of water.
    I know some localities recycle the storm water, which is a great resource, but must make sure to protect them from construction runoff and chemical dumping, along with car repair.
    This is where good planning comes into place. Neighborhoods should be designed with the ground rather than independently, artificially raising some areas and lowering others, a system of canals and swales does a great deal of good.

  7. Po … where I live we have two sewer systems, one for unsanitary waste water and the other for storm run off. I’ve seen relative small cisterns locally that are maybe 300 gallon affairs that people can run the roof drain downspouts directly in to the cistern, under a cover that essentially eliminates the mosquito issue. The cisterns then feed lawn and garden hoses out of the bottom. Even larger cisterns could be utilized. Recently, in my normally high and dry neighborhood when one of those 5 to 6 inches of rainfall episodes occurred and now the tri-county area has FEMA stepping in to assist with water damage from flooded basements. I was lucky with only about 2 inches of clear water (no sewage back up) in our basement that we sucked up with a wet vac and released in to the by then clear sewer system.

    What occurs to me is that your idea of cisterns would work well, even here, in the land of the Great Lakes no less, because of the sheer volume of water, from the sky, I saw on the rather wet day. Storm sewers were overwhelmed in many places.

    I should note that our city planners decided, a few year ago, to order everyone to disconnect their roof drains from the storm sewer pipes we all have on our property. The argument was that this would reduce the storm sewer surges. Nonsense, this is an urban landscape where most yards are graded with a 2 foot drop from alleyways to the streets…e.g., all the water still runs in to the dang storm sewers.

    Therefore…the cistern idea is one that might really work here and actually relieve the storm runoff in the storm sewers.

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