Is University Far Too Expensive for Students?

Warmer questions

  1. How much did you pay to go to university? If you haven’t been yet, how much would it cost you?
  2. Do you think it is value for money?
  3. Are there ways for the system to be improved?
  4. Have universities (or perhaps education) become a business?

Reading section

Does knowledge have a price?

All universities in the United States are now legally required to include a financial aid calculator on their websites, allowing undergraduate and graduate students to get a solid idea of how much their course of study will cost. In the US some funding opportunities are only open to American citizens; however, there are also aid opportunities available to international students. The College Board estimates the following annual budgets for undergraduate students in 2017/18 considering other living expenses:

• $17,580 (community college)
• $25,290 (in-state students at a four-year public college)
• $40,940 (out-of-state students at a four-year public college)
• $50,900 (private non-profit four-year college)

Given the elevated costs of US universities, it is only comprehensible, then, that American students choose to study overseas. Studying a degree in Germany, for example, is absolutely free even for international students, regardless of nationality. Even though the language of instruction is German (for many undergraduate courses), international students flock to Germany to get their degrees. This European country hosts over 190,000 international students each year, offering quality education and strong employment prospects after graduation. This makes Germany the fifth most popular destination to study abroad.

Questions to consider:

  1. According to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, approximately 32 million adults in the United States cannot read. Given this upsetting illiteracy figure, why doesn’t the US Government drop private/public college tuition prices?
  2. Health insurance for students in Germany is approximately €80 ($87) a month. Why is it so challenging to find affordable health insurance plans for foreigners (and even US citizens) in the United States?
  3. How much do local taxpayers have to pay for foreign students’ free university tuition and German language classes?

Vocabulary matching

Vocabulary Definitions
1. Bachelor a. to cause to make a mistake: mislead.
2. Masters b. a person who holds a second or further degree from a university or other academic institution (only in titles and set expressions): “a master’s degree”; a postgraduate degree.
3. Throw off c. the price of or payment for instruction.
4. Tuition d. officially register as a member of an institution or a student on a course.
5. There is a catch e. in or to a foreign country, especially one across the sea.
6. Enrol f. a first-year student at a university, college, or high school.
7. Overseas g. a newly established business.
8. Outstanding h.a person who has received a degree from a college, university, or professional school usually after four years of study bachelor of arts; also: the degree itself received a bachelor of laws.
9. Freshman i. exceptionally good.
10. Start-up j. a hidden problem or disadvantage in an apparently ideal situation: “there’s a catch in it somewhere”.

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  1. h
  2. b
  3. a
  4. c
  5. j
  6. d
  7. e
  8. i
  9. f
  10. g



Video: Going to Germany for free education

The video below was produced by the BBC and highlights the lengths to which people in the US go to in order to attend university. Many believe that education is running as a for-profit business and that students’ education is being neglected as a result. So, an increasing number of American students are traveling the world to find the perfect price to learn.


Watch the video and then answer the questions below.
1. Are universities expensive in Germany?
2. Are universities free of charge for German citizens only?
3. Who is Hunter?
4. What was Hunter’s main motivation to study in Germany?
5. How much does Hunter spend a month studying in Germany?
6. What can Hunter afford with said amount of money?
7. What do politicians think of education in Germany?
8. What’s in it for Germany?
9. What is it the ideal way of German immigration?

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1. No, universities are free of charge in Germany.
2. No, universities are free of charge for German citizens and for everyone else as well.
3. Hunter is an American 19-year-old freshman from South Carolina who is studying in Germany.
4. His main motivation was saving money.
5. He spends 600 euros a month.
6. Room, train tickets, school, gym, food, phone and health care.
7. German politicians in Berlin think that education should be a right and not a privilege.
8. Experts say that there is an economic benefit for Germany, too. If 40% of graduate students stay in the country for 5 years, Germany recovers its costs.
9. Keeping international students who have studied in the country is the ideal way of immigration because they have certificates which are needed, they don’t have a language problem at the end of their study and they know the culture.[/bg_collapse]


Advantages of studying abroad

  1. By studying abroad, students have the opportunity to study in a foreign nation and take in a new language and culture.
  2. The cost of living is very low and you are able to save money on living expenses.
  3. Many universities in other countries offer an increasing number of English-taught programs, particularly at the postgraduate level.
  4. It encourages people to be broad-minded not only about their education but about life.
  5. It further encourages people to become global citizens and appreciate the culture of other people as equal to theirs.
  6. It forces more expensive universities to lower their prices as there is now a moving market of consumers who are willing to find the best deals in the world.

Disadvantages of studying abroad

  1. Many may become homesick during most of their stay.
  2. Most foreign students find learning a new language very difficult.
  3. In some overseas universities spend little time in class and much more time doing independent study. This means that the foreign student will have to be independent and disciplined in structuring his or her time efficiently to do outside reading, studying, and research.
  4. The grading/exam system can be rather confusing. Students need to register in a course, and then enrol for the exam half-way through the semester, for example.
  5. The host country may have too many studnents from one part of the world and it might be difficult to balance the population in classes.

Potential debating topics

  1. Unlike in the US, there are no recommendations or extensive resumes required to get into a German university.
  2. The children of parents with low literacy skills are five times more likely to drop out of school.
  3. Health care is provided by private hospitals and clinics in the United States. This requires citizens to have private medical insurance.
  4. Germany is one of the most productive countries in the world despite having one of the globe’s shortest work week (34.5 hours). Having shorter work weeks is beneficial for society.


While the cost of college education in the US is exceptionally high, Germany has discarded tuition fees for both German and international students alike. Studying abroad is an experience unlike any other. For most students, this time may be the only opportunity they will ever get to travel abroad for a long period of time. Students should take the opportunity to study abroad to learn languages, traveling and getting to know foreign cultures and ways of thinking.