What the U.S. should learn from Europe

Jency Clement, Beyond Liberty Editor

Most of us have, or soon will, go through the dreaded process in which we try to pay for our higher education. Many of us will join the 44.2 million Americans who struggle with student loan debt, others will work part-time and attempt to continue their education, while a few others will not go to college.

While we Americans worry about paying for higher education, there is a surplus of students around the world who have it much easier. For example, in Germany, college is tuition-free, and students only have to pay a miscellaneous fee of 150-250 euros. The reasons for this are mainly because their taxes are much higher (47.5 percent personal income tax) and there are fewer people in Germany who attend college.

The U.S. could follow Germany’s example and raise taxes to pay for college education; however, some opponents of increased government funding towards higher education may argue that taxes are already high, and increasing them for college education will only cause more problems for U.S. taxpayers.

While increased taxes may be an annoyance, it is necessary to keep in mind that more affordable tuition will greatly help our society in the long-term. For instance, college graduates pay 91 percent more tax and take home 61 percent more after-tax income than high school graduates. If college was a logical option for more people, they would find higher-paying jobs, which would pull families out of debt and poverty, thereby creating a larger and stronger economy. Plus, those with higher educations rely less on government social support programs (such as Medicaid), which means that much of the government funding that goes towards these programs could be placed into different areas of need such as cancer research or other health-related fields.

Moreover, it is important to realize that raising taxes is not the sole way to give more students the opportunity to attend college. The U.K. has placed 11 percent towards education, from which 6 percent goes towards higher education; on the other hand, the U.S. budget puts 6 percent towards education and 2.8 percent into higher education.

The average tuition cost in the U.S. is $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for in-state public college students, and $24,930 for out-of-state public university students. Meanwhile, for students residing in the U.K., universities charge an average of $6,725.

If the U.S. was able to put more funding into education, and thus increase the amount of money put into college education, it would be able to give more financial aid and scholarships to students in need, which would result in more students being able to pursue college. To do this, the U.S. would need to do some serious budget readjustment, for instance by cutting down on military spending (which takes up 54 percent of the federal budget).

While many claim that cheaper college tuition is unrealistic, we should keep in mind that there are many other countries that have succeeded in making higher education a reasonable option for their citizens. An affordable college education doesn’t have to a far-off dream for Americans—it can be attained.