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article imageOp-Ed: Free college to foreign students? Germany challenges, leads world

By Calvin Wolf     Oct 10, 2014 in Politics
Germany made the news recently for doing away with remaining college tuition fees and returning to a true state of free higher education...and now it is offering this tuition-free higher education to international students as well. Will the world follow?
German higher education has already received high praise for being nearly free - charging less than $1,000 in fees per semester - but things have gotten even more impressive lately. According to Inquisitr, Germany has just announced that it is extending its tuition-free higher education to international students as well as citizens. For U.S. college students who pay a pretty penny, will studying abroad in Berlin, Frankfurt, or Hamburg be the next big thing?
Of course, Germany does request that foreign students looking to take advantage of its low-cost college have "conversational fluency" in German. Time to stock up on German-English dictionaries and Rosetta Stone software!
On a more serious note, this significant higher education reform move by Germany could spark more calls for tuition reform here at home, where college tuition costs have increased much faster than average income. If Germany, the most populous nation in the European Union, and arguably one of its most diverse, can implement tuition-free higher education, why couldn't the United States? While some critics claim that Scandinavian nations, whose quality-of-life measurements are off the charts, are too small and homogeneous to be emulated by the U.S., industrialized Germany provides a model far closer to home.
Germany's move toward free college comes at a critical time in American politics. Just shaking off the Great Recession, will we move toward increased socialism, with greater government oversight to prevent another market collapse? Or, will we scale back government spending, hoping to reinvigorate our economy through lower tax burdens? Higher education, with its growing student debt bubble, is a looming economic threat. Either we can increase government control of higher education to "pay down" the bubble through increased government subsidies and tuition controls, or we can deflate the bubble by reducing our insistence on helping every teen get into college...only to leave them on the hook with expensive loans.
We can either "nurture" the bubble down or "tough love" it down. Germany's bold move provides support for the "nurture" path, using increased government subsidies and oversight to increase college access while lowering costs. Will it work in the United States, where local and state politicians may argue against federal oversight of beloved local colleges and universities?
Look for Germany's higher education reform to become a topic of conversation this election cycle, and in the 2016 presidential election. By then, many more young Americans may be studying in Bonn, Cologne, or Nuremberg.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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