In recent weeks, the debate about reintroducing tuition fees in German third level education has flared up again. In Baden-Württemberg, science minister Theresia Bauer envisions a 3.000 Euro annual fee for foreign students. The Liberals introduced a proposal whereby students should pay their tuition fees after graduation. Superficially, the second proposal seems fair.
Looking at countries such as the UK and the US (which have longstanding experience with that system) shows that paying fees after graduation does not solve the problem of an underfinanced education system.
In the United Kingdom, students receive state loans to cover the cost of the university fees and cost of living while they study and are not required to repay their debts until they are earning more than £21,000 a year. In the United States, the system is not as clear-cut as in the UK, as students can receive either federal loans or private loans. In both cases, though, the loan has to be repaid after they have graduated. In the current economic climate, this becomes increasingly difficult.
The problem of graduates finding work
According to a “Telegraph” article of 2015, a third of graduates in the UK took jobs as cleaners, office juniors and road sweepers six months after leaving university. This concurs with an analysis of “Newsweek Magazine”, which states that “Millennials face higher university tuitions and student loan debt than ever before, as well as stiffer competition when they enter the workforce”. As a consequence, young people become increasingly desperate as the “New York Time” chronicles: “You graduate and then suddenly the entry level jobs have disappeared and are replaced with unpaid internships.”
Consequently, graduates either do not pay back their loans – which leaves that burden to the taxpayer. As a conclusion: Paying fees after graduation does not represent a proper and well-working solution to the problem of German third level education. It only transfers the problem.
Guest author :Jan Freytag