Here’s What’s Up With Free Tuition in Germany

Students in the United States are paying unprecedented levels of tuition. The cost of attending a public university has gone up by almost 150% since the ‘80s. Costs for private schools are escalating at a much higher rate. For this reason, many students are looking to study abroad in Germany. There, tuition is free… for everyone. Although German universities charge administrative fees of about €150 for access to facilities and services that the school offers, these costs pale in comparison to what most American students expect to pay.

How Germany Does It

With tuition rising all over the world, it can be hard to see how Germany is able to get away with offering virtually free education to both citizens and foreigners alike. The answer to this question has two main prongs.

The first has to do with German attitudes towards post-secondary education. For young people in the Unites States, a university education is all but expected. According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 43% of Americans in the early stages of their careers have at least a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent. In Germany that number is 28%, and is one of the lowest among major economic powers in Europe and the Americas.

Germany is able to pull this off because Germans place less of a stigma on trade education and other forms schooling equivalent to American community colleges. It’s no wonder, then, that the United States is able to offer free tuition to international students in community colleges. These smaller, more focused paths to education represent less of a burden to the state than the traditional four year university experience does. Trade schools also provide a clear path to work that recipients of a classical liberal arts education don’t often enjoy.

The focus on cheaper forms of education allows Germany to subsidize all post-secondary schooling options, but opportunity alone is not all that drives the German education system. With the lowest birth rate in the world, Germany is in dire need of a young, vibrant workforce and they’re willing to subsidize foreign students to get it.

How You Can Study in Germany

The promise of tuition-free education in Germany is very real, so what do American students need to do to take advantage of this opportunity? The first step is finding a school and program that fits your interests. In order to attract an outside labor force, German universities are beginning to teach more and more courses in English. However, if you already speak a bit of the language and you really want to immerse yourself completely in German culture, you can always try a school that teaches in German.

The second thing to do is to figure out your move in detail. Cut down on stress while moving by finding a place to live before you land in Germany. Don’t be afraid to contact locals or find others who have studied abroad there, in order to get their opinions on the best places to live. Whenever you move across national borders, give yourself plenty of time to settle down before classes or work starts.

Finally, have an idea of your plans after you graduate. Do you plan on staying in Germany or elsewhere in Europe afterwards? If you’d like some time to think about your decision, there are plenty of opportunities to teach English all throughout Europe. Many such programs will pay for your room and board on top of a modest stipend.

Germany is easily one of the best places in the world for anyone looking to study abroad, but it gets only a fraction of the attention that it deserves. With free tuition and an aging labor force, Germany is welcoming foreign students with open arms.