Bart Van Kerkhove
Instructor: Andrew McCullough
2 May 2008
Is the cost of post-secondary education in the United States too high? Everybody knows that the cost of higher education in the United States can be substantial. As a result a considerable number of students have to take up a part-time or even full-time job so they can cover not only tuition, but also rent and every day expenses. In some cases parents (or the students themselves) have to take (often big) loans to fulfill the financial needs. This work will research some issues that may arise surrounding this matter. First of all it will examine the general discrepancy in tuition between the United States and some other countries. Therefore I want to compare the general tuition cost at different universities worldwide. The following section will investigate in what way the life of the students and/or the parents may be affected by having to make financial and personal sacrifices to be able to pay for the tuition. In conclusion I will raise the question to what extent a country’s government is responsible to educate its population. Should post-secondary education be made more affordable, and how could this be accomplished? In order to compare tuition between several countries, only averages and overall figures are supplied. In reality the costs can be very divers, even when putting side by side universities located in a single country (like the United States). The idea is to present a general indication rather than compare institutions in particular. The U.S. is more expensive than most countries around the world when it comes to tuition costs for higher education. According to The National Center for Education Statistics, the in-state tuition cost in the U.S. in 2005-06, for undergraduates enrolled at public institutions, averaged around 5,300 dollar. For private institutions this mounts to over 18,000 dollar. This is in high contrast with European universities. Out of 27 countries (the 25 EU-members plus Switzerland and Norway), about half charge no tuition at all, including for international students. The other countries have low fees mostly varying from a couple of hundred up to a thousand dollars. Only the United Kingdom and Ireland seem to be the exceptions and have prices resembling those of the U.S. (Institute for Economic Research, Munich). It is important to understand that the majority of these free or low-cost universities are public; in most countries there are also private institutions located, and their tuition fees often resemble those of their U.S. counterparts. Asian countries such as China, Japan and Thailand have a similar cost compared to Europe, while Australia and New-Zeeland are following the U.S.1 Overall Africa and South America have no real competitive institutions and are not discussed here. When illustrating the discrepancies between some countries with an example, the possible impact of high tuition fees becomes apparent. Using the current information provided by the University of Hawaii website, the total cost to obtain a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is roughly $25,000. That is assuming you enroll in 15 credits per semester and are able to pay residency fees. When paying out-of-state tuition this mounts up to $55,000.2 At the Belgian University of Ghent, a renowned institution internationally accredited, that same bachelor’s degree would cost $2,500; regardless if you are a local or international student.3 It seems there are only advantages to be found when it comes to the low-cost universities. Equity might be the most important one. Since the financial barrier is much lower for potential students, almost all of them are able to enroll in the course they prefer, independently of its length or related institution. Figures show that in the U.S. low socioeconomic status students are less likely to enroll in a more expensive university, and are less likely to earn a degree from a...
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