If Germany Can be Tuition Free, Why Not Us?

There was some very exciting news coming out of Germany this week, when the country announced that it is scrapping tuition and fees for its universities. Organizing is widely credited with building the public will and political momentum for free college. In fact, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, of the Hamburg Parliament, told reporters this week, “Tuition fees are socially unjust.”

Free or low-cost higher education is typical in most of Europe.

In Germany, tuition is a mere fraction of what American students pay. But with Germany, which has been taking heat for pushing austerity measures that have unnecessarily constrained the economy, leading on this important issue it, brings hope that we can keep building the momentum in the U.S.

And it’s beginning. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy has unveiled a plan that will help folks who are already burdened with student debt. His plan calls for state tax breaks for interest on student loans, but more importantly, it would create an authority in the state that would allow students to refinance their debt at market interest rates. Additionally, he’s working to create the Connecticut Financial Aid Pledge, which would offer assistance to help qualifying Connecticut students graduate without debt.

This is a step in the right direction, but the U.S. is still miles away from the free college tuition. Students, teachers unions, and communities have been working for nearly ten years in Germany to win free schooling. Here in the states it’s just recently risen to be part of the national conversation.

Nascent coalitions like the Higher Ed Not Debt that the Alliance works alongside, will continue to push for fully funded education, and to ensure that our young people don’t enter the workforce carrying student debt. We need other states to step up to the table to match and beat this proposal.

Because, as the Minister for Science and Culture in Lower Saxony said this week, “We got rid of tuition because we don’t want higher education which depends on the wealth of the parents.”