In the UK we have tuition fees of upto £9000 per year. However in Scotland anybody from any EU country (except England) can study for free.
Just wondering. Nobody actually seems to have answered the OPs question as to why American tuition fees are so highgh. There has been a couple of nudge nudge "We Allll know why they are so high". But for those of us from outside the US can you elaborate.
Honestly a big part of the problem is that so many people want to and do go to expensive schools. There are a lot of good affordable schools, but nobody wants to go to the University of Northern Iowa or the University of South Dakota or go to a community college for a year before transferring to a better university.
I think a big part of it is that high school students generally have no concept of whether the amount of debt they're taking on will be worth it, so they end up going to schools they just cannot afford before they realize they cannot and will not be able to afford it. It doesn't help that our loan system doesn't take into account your expected graduating major, so you get a lot of students going into majors that won't make any significant income going to hugely expensive schools and none of the bankers are telling them they can't afford the loan. I think if we allowed students to discharge their loan debt through bankruptcy somehow it would have a big impact on how readily the US distributes loans. It would need some tweaking so that every student in the world doesn't declare bankruptcy the day they graduate, but something needs to slow down the amount of credit being granted that will never be paid back.
Another reason some regions have high cost is lack of regional competition.
Some regions have a major college system with many campuses, and they face relatively little competition. The Penn State system in this discussion thread is a great example. Penn State offers 20+ campuses. They do not face any significant competition, and they have a State-granted financial subsidy. Because there is little competition they have no incentive to control costs, leading to higher prices for students.
They are absolutely not alone in this pattern, many regions suffer from it.
Another issue is the "me too" mentality of teens entering college.
They want to go to the same local school with all their friends. This one is also easy to identify. There is that one "cool" university nearby that all the cool kids go to. The school is popular not necessarily because of academic rigor, but because other people go there. That school automatically gains high demand, allowing it to raise costs. Because the cool people pay that much, other schools can follow suit.
Combine all of these (the ones from the previous post and these two) and you see an interesting effect.
Where there is no competition between schools on academic grounds, it becomes a competition for other factors; important faculty, important alumni, important administrators and trustees, and political incentives. The competition is for a low teaching load, for high salaries, for extremely expensive athletic programs, and so on.
I think back on a news article a few years back where a school (in Florida?) was eliminating the CS program to save $2M, and also increasing the budget of their athletics program from $99M to $101M. The same day the plans were announced the school faced a backlash and reversed the decision.
The highest paid public employee in 41 of the 50 states is a University athletics coach. The other 9 states, 5 are college presidents, 3 are med school leaders, and one is the law school dean. In other words, IN EVERY STATE of the country the highest paid public job is a university leader.
PART TWO of the post --- WITH ACTUAL NUMBERS IT REALLY ISN'T THAT BAD.
There are a huge number of affordable schools. Wikipedia lists the 2010 stats as 2774 4-year schools in the United States. For comparison with other nations in the thread: Australia has 43, Germany has "about seventy", the UK has 163. The United States has by far the highest per-capita enrollment in tertiary education, 5.7% of the population, against Australia's 0.8%, Germany's 2.1%, and UK's 4.0% per-capita enrollment. So there are more 4-year schools, and a higher percentage of people are attending them.
From the cost statistics in the US, the average tuition is $4081 at a 4-year school; the median tuition is $2916 at a 4-year school. The high cost schools are low in number but expensive, which skews the numbers.
So SOME schools are expensive, like the $40K or even $80K per year posts have shown. But the median value, 50% of the schools are $8748 or less per year. Many are much less, since that is the median value.
This means you can choose any of nearly fourteen hundred 4-year universities and pay less (or much less) than $2916 per semester. I don't recall where I saw the number and Google is not finding it, but I recall reading that there were over 1000 universities with tuition under $2000 per semester. Contrast with a near-free Germany schools that have difficult entry requirements, or Australia's university system that is struggling to maintain relevance as the country's population grows. In the US you have a selection of schools that is unique to the world.
Then factor in "free money". If you are not rich you almost certainly qualify for federal grant money. Google shows federal Pell grants are typically $3678 per year. So with 50% of the schools costing under $8748, and "free money" gives you $3678 of that, you need to come up with less than $5070 per year. If you are willing to study and keep your grades up, you can likely qualify for scholarships. In my experience I was required to keep a B+ grade average to get $500/semester scholarships, and an A- average to get $1200/semester scholarships. Then there is the "Lifetime Learning" tax credit, where the government gives you up to $2000 over your lifetime for college and university credit. And finally there are the tax deductions; a portion of school costs and student loan interest is tax deductible.
Combine federal aid and scholarships, and you can have an out-of-pocket expense of less than $2670 per year at 50% of the schools. If you shop around and are willing to go to unpopular (yet still academically valid) schools you can have an out-of-pocket expense of under $1000 per year.
As a whole, most of the schools are quite affordable.
Just because the local popular school costs $8000 or more per semester does not mean that all university education in the country is expensive. Most schools are quite affordable.
Keep your grades up so you qualify for scholarships and your annual out-of-pocket education expenses can cost less than your annual smart phone bill.
Edited by frob, 02 August 2013 - 06:26 PM.