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Tuition fees scare away students

by DoDo Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 07:21:16 AM EST

Opponents of tuition fees warn that the fees will reduce social mobility. Propoents counter that good students will make it, whatever their background.

Now a government-sponsored study in Germany found that a lot more young people are scared away from studying than "previously assumed".

But we only know because of leaks to the media: the education minister kept it under wraps. Even though Merkel called for a summit on education, to be held tomorrow (Wednesday).

The study concerns young people admissible for tertiary education in 2006, and the ministerium (led by Merkel's close confidante Annette Schavan) claims they wanted to publish it with an update for the years 2007/8 in four weeks. But that would still be strange scheduling given the education summit... and the SPD is already using the opportunity for some profiling, demanding immediate publication.

As for the leaked findings, according to German press agency dpa via SPIEGEL.

The study, which was prepared by a university research group in Hannover, is partly based on a(n already public) poll by the same group. That poll found that a quarter of those not going to study on were influenced by tuition fees in their decision.

The most affected groups were: women, and people whose parental house was far away from universities and other institutes of tertiary education.

In Germany, education policy is the responsibility of state governments, thus there are differences: in 2006, still only 2 of the 16 states had tuition fees introduced. Yet, would-be students were found to have been made unsecure by the debate even in states as yet without. As for students studying in other than their home state, instead of a switch from states with fees to ones without, there has just been a reduction.

As for bare statistics: between 2003 and 2007, the number of those admissible for tertiary education grew by 63,000 to 432,500, those actually becoming students sank -18,870 to 358,670.

Reaction of tuition fee proponents, as paraphrased by SPIEGEL:

Auf den Streit über die noch unveröffentlichte HIS-Studie reagierte auch Nordrhein-Westfalens Wissenschaftsminister Andreas Pinkwart. Der FDP-Politiker sieht keine Belege dafür, dass Studiengebühren Abiturienten abschrecken; seit 2006 seien die Studienanfängerzahlen in NRW kontinuierlich gestiegen. "SPD und Grüne versuchen permanent, Studierende und Studieninteressierte zu verunsichern, um anschließend lautstark über eine vermeintliche Verunsicherung zu lamentieren. Das ist weder konstruktiv noch redlich", so Pinkwart weiter.North Rhine-Westphalia Science Minister Andreas Pinkwart reacted to the dispute over the still-unpublished HIS ['Highschool Information System', the research group] study, too. The FDP politician sees no evidence that tuition fees deter students; he said the numbers of freshman students in North Rhine-Westphalia rose steadily since 2006. "SPD and the Greens are trying permanently to make students and prospective students feel insecure then lament loudly about a supposed insecurity. This is neither constructive nor honest," said Pinkwart further.
Eine schöne Volte aus dem Repertoire der Campusmaut-Fans: Wenn Abiturienten sich doch abschrecken lassen, liegt es an den Gebührenkritikern - nicht etwa an den Gebühren selbst.A beautiful Volte from the repertoire of the fans of the campus toll: If students can really be deterred, then that's because of the tuition fee critics - not the fees themselves.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 07:28:58 AM EST
That's right wing SOP - what people talk about is far more important than what they do, and also more important than what's actually happening under the thick layer of protective rhetoric.

It's also the traditional blame-the-victim Rovian defence.

I'd be interested to know how many students in that dramatically expanding Westphalian educational system come from poorer families.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 10:59:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Therefore, only deserving students - as determined by students themselves - will get the highest education.

You get a working class that consents to its inferiority and has internalised it. What' not to like?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 09:35:20 AM EST
Is higher education still free in Sweden? An advantage of higher taxes in a social democracy is its support of education from elementary through college and university. Has the Reagan/Friedman/free market economy now destroyed that asset too?

by shergald on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 11:06:38 AM EST
# 4328976325762

The number of German students enrolling in foreign universities, particularly the Netherlands has meanwhile continued to rise. Tuition fees in the Netherlands are 3 times higher. But there often is no 'numerus clausus' and the quality of education is better, or so many Germans at least seem to think.

Over 14,000 of them now. And, of course, they are the uppper(/-)middle class kids whose parents can afford it.

The issue is of course that the money (1000 EUR/Y) is not being used to invest more in higher education, but rather to plug holes in the budget. It's an aftereffect of the Schröder reforms which burdened state budgets.

I don't know what the current state of the German federalism reform is. But higher education needs to be taken completely out of the hands of the states as soon as possible.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 03:08:20 PM EST
Most states expected recently significant surpluses, while the federal level is still in considerable deficit. The fees are not to plug holes.

But higher education needs to be taken completely out of the hands of the states as soon as possible.
Despite in higher education it is not so important where it is dealt with, can you name reasons why to do this?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 03:29:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Various reasons: the current university fees have thrown up a collective action problem. Other states can respond by starting to collect their own, or by upping the Numerus Clausus. Bremen and Hamburg collect fees for students who live outside of the states, which causes all kinds of misallocation (and seems like a class action lawsuit just waiting to happen, by the way).

State governance of higher education causes excessive dirigism (e.g. direct interventions in the curriculum of single universities for reasons of local industrial policy, or budget savings -- I've seen this happen in Berlin) which could be avoided if the federal government took over. It could be a liberalising measure in that sense.

Students, at least those whose parents have an above modal income (most) are highly and increasingly mobile at any rate. As evidenced by the increasing number enrolled in foreign universities. The state that educates them may not be the state that they work in two or four years afterwards. This will eventually cause a mismatch between spending and revenues.

On study fees - 3 states that have them are in the blue (out of 9) and 5 are in the yellow or red. Plenty of other issues with the map (at the height of the business cycle). But doing an investigation into spending on education would be worth the time and could clear up a 'yes it is' 'no it isn't' discussion. For a rainy day.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 04:27:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
5 are in the yellow or red.

I can't count (see below)...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 04:37:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it is an advantage for states to attract students from other states. Often many of them stay where they study instead of going back to their home states. Bremen is too small to profit adequatly from that, but already Hamburg shouldn't suffer too much. Bremen is in general too small and shouldn't be a state on its own.
The extremely bad Bachelor/Master reform came from the federal (or even European) level. The curriculum will be checked by private for-profit organisations without people, who have any clue about the fields of research at the university.

Excessive dirigism is easier to bear, when every state focuses on its own fields. You then can go to the university that suits your wishes in a different state.

Budget issues are a priority issue. Why would the federal level spend sufficient amounts, when state authorities don't? Recently I read about the railway planning on the federal level. There is one bn or so spend every year and ideas for many dozen bn. But investment into railways, which is already a pet project of many politicians, has no chance to get sufficient spending, when the alternative is e.g. an out of order retirement increase (For next year a break in the "Riesterfaktor" is planned). On the state level there are less high profile social spending issues than on the federal level, where retirement spending or welfare spending has to be balanced with investment into the future.

The state that educates them may not be the state that they work in two or four years afterwards. This will eventually cause a mismatch between spending and revenues.
It is rather often. BW and Bavaria profit massively from students from the north (not unlike me and my two brothers), that stay there. After all these states don't have to pay for the school education any more.

The map was ment to show that there is overall no state vs. federal level issue, where the states are in more trouble.
But there are of course ways the federal level could contribute, I just don't see the big advantages. In recent years most changes didn't bring the improvement they promised. More students fail to get the bachelor, it has become more difficult to switch university inside Germany, the student fees are used to do things, that anyhow should have been done and students refuse to take the newly invented student loans but refrain from higher education instead. Pay reform for professors is mostly a cutting measure and the limitation of chaining time limited positions indefinitly has created unemployed scientists, that have no chance ever to get any public position unless they work in the meantime for free. The current federal minister for research is a theologian, before there was an English teacher, while the proud of many German universities is engineering. Just doing nothing seems to be very attractive to me.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 06:05:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
However, four of the seven states with tuition fees are among those still not balancing the budget in 2008, and most pursued tuition fees before the improvement of finances.

Could you give an article link? I'm curious how the data reflects the Länderfinanzausgleich.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 04:33:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is from this article.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 05:29:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, sadly, nothing said about Länderfinanzausgleich in the article.

But, for your argument: I find it is a projection for 2008 at the end of 2007. And indeed they mention that such good finances are a recent development -- Baden-Württenberg, which was first to introduce tuition fees, is quoted explicitely as still having a giant deficit in 2006. Furthermore, they say:

Die Kombination aus früheren Sparanstrengungen, guter Konjunktur und steigenden Steuereinnahmen hat in den öffentlichen Haushalten die Wende zum Besseren möglich gemacht.The combination of previous savings efforts, good economic situation and rising tax revenues has enabled a change for the better in public budgets.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 22nd, 2008 at 03:18:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but have you seen the federal deficit numbers? Even the good economic situation, the VAT tax increase and several other measures did not bring that budget into balance.

And if the 2006 "Kredite in Milliardenhöhe" is really high by sustainability standards is not clear to me either. The total debt of BW is 44 bn Euro. Alone current inflation would reduce the level of debt by more than one billion per year in real terms. The state would have been able to go without tuition fees and simply borrow the money.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Oct 22nd, 2008 at 07:42:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The new semester started last week and right now, my university is literally overrun with new students fleeing from states with fees. I haven't even managed to get a seat in the bus yet.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 05:25:09 PM EST
I campaigned heavily against the introduction of fees in the UK.

The govt published something to say that it hasn't discouraged students from lower socio-economic backgrounds from applying to higher education but I am not sure what stats they fiddled to show that.

I think NUS have done work that shows that tuition fees do discourage but I have to bow out and go to bed now!

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 05:53:13 PM EST
Why is extremely low tuition automatically a good thing? Subsidies to higher education are largely subsidies to people who will become relatively priviledged latter in life.

That's fine if it is needed to prevent American-style class education, but I would say the subsidy should be as low as possible. Some amount of tuition seems OK to me, as long it is coupled to a decent loan system where you do not pay if your income is low.

If you are not willing too loan 1000 or 2000 euros a year to pay your tuition, why should the government pay a far multiple of that amount to cover the rest?

by GreatZamfir on Thu Oct 23rd, 2008 at 08:25:45 AM EST
I'd rather have the privilege gained from education taxed at the time it is actually received than at the time of studies. It seems like a fairer approach, as we should recognize that not all education leads to the same level of monetary privilege. I.e. compare salaries for nurses, teachers, engineers, doctors, MBAs, etc.

Most people have to take out loans anyway to cover living expenses. I don't think there has to be any further disincentive for those from non-wealthy family backgrounds.

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Oct 23rd, 2008 at 08:36:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not all students go on to become particularly privileged. Many fields require educated employees yet can't pay for those.

Also, in many places the state himself requires some level of university education for some positions. Essentially instituting a cost of access for government employees is a scary proposal.

Finally, price discrimination means shutting up the universities to the poor ; making the university education premium yet higher, and going yet more disproportionately to those already well off. Since the state is anyway going to subsidize university, that would mean an even more regressive subsidy.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Oct 23rd, 2008 at 08:39:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many people are not willing to take debt, because it is associated with a social stigma to be in debt. So it does scare away students, even when you have a special system, that would prevent unemployed from having to pay back. It is not rational. But you have to run your country and your economy with the people that are there, not with fantasy people, who behave perfectly rational.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Oct 23rd, 2008 at 11:45:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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