Tuition Hikes a Threat to International Students
The University of Leipzig, one of the oldest universities in the world, has long been tuition free, but the school has now announced a sudden change. Non-European Union students in The Music and Theater Conservatory will have to pay starting in September.
When the government in Saxony decided to give universities in Saxony a choice to charge students from outside the European Union more for tuition, the University of Leipzig’s Music and Theater Conservatory was the first to hike up fees. They will charge non-EU students €3,600 per semester instead of the prior €220 administrative fee.
In an interview with The Local, Dean of the Music and Theater Conservatory Robert Ehrlich said that he wants the school to be as good as possible rather than just cheap. Ehrlich said that in light of the financial crisis they are in, teachers are being paid so little that they cannot afford to work for the school anymore. For Ehrlich, the tuition increase is necessary to preserve the school’s quality of education.
For now, the music and theater conservatory is the only school at the University of Leipzig with the official tuition increase set in stone for the fall. 120 of the 900 students in the department are international students, but European and non-EU students alike have taken part in protests. Free concerts and artistic demonstrations have been taking place outside the main music building as a sign of the students fighting for something they do not want to lose.
According to this article, the protests have brought talk of other German universities following suit. The Association of Sponsors of German Science says that British, Dutch, and Swedish universities charge international students a minimum of €10,000. If schools in Germany do the same, over 1 billion euros a year could be added to the German education system.
Those who are against the tuition increase worry that the new cost will drive away valuable international students.
Fanny, a student at the University of Leipzig, said, “I’m pretty proud of our system…the basic thing is that we have a system that can allow [you to go to school] if you really want to.”
Winni, a third year international student at the University of Leipzig, said “[Without] the opportunity to study at no cost, I’m not sure I would even be able to study. I don’t know where I’d go.”
Winni said he appreciated that he could come to Leipzig to get his education without steep tuition costs to worry about. He considered studying in America, but said this was not an option for him mainly because he knew how costly it would be. This made the University of Leipzig a valuable education option for him because he can receive his education without worrying about years of debt like many American students do.
In the United States, the process of receiving a college degree is undeniably expensive. According to Forbes magazine, it is one of the most costly education systems in the world. It is a known fact that enrolling for classes also means taking out loans or applying for scholarships to cover the cost of higher education. The average annual cost to attend a private four-year school in the States is $29,056. International students are typically charged more to attend an American university.
Leah Amstutz, a second year student at Goshen College in Indiana, said she thinks it would be wonderful to pay so little for a college education but realizes that there is a lot that goes into the fee differences between the German and American education systems. Amstutz said some of her international friends that struggle to pay for college in America have tried to save money by living with a host family.
“I have seen the big source of worry that high tuition costs have caused my friends. Some of them have had to drop out, some transferred to a school in another state,” Amstutz said.
Honour Ruffer, a resident of Ohio and mother of 5, said she does not think it should be the government’s responsibility to pay for college. Ruffer said that she has many friends who are still paying back student loans well into their 30’s, with the pressure of loan schedules playing a large role in maintaining household budgets.
“The rising costs of secondary education are out of control,” Ruffer said. “With the constant reports of underemployment of college graduates, one has to wonder how soon the ridiculousness of consumerism and over-inflated prices of a degree will catch up with us.”
Critics of the tuition hikes are worried about their ability to pay back loans in the uncertain job market if fees continue to increase.
“To me the best part of Leipzig is the school. If I had to pay more, I couldn’t afford it, I wouldn’t be here.” Winni said. “I don’t know what kind of job I will get, so if I had to take out a loan, I don’t know how I would pay it back.”