While student loan debt in the US has totaled more than $1 trillion, most German students have not incurred school loan debt because attending an institution of higher learning in Germany is virtually free.
Marguerite Ward of Mic Network, Inc., explains that most German universities are publicly funded. Only 3% of German students attend private universities, where tuition tops out at $25,573 per year, compared to an average private college tuition in the US of $29,056. A well-known college or university in the US, however, could cost as much as $61,000.
A German student at a public university will pay $300 to $2,000 in fees. A four-year public college in the US will charge $8,893 for in-state students and $22,203 for out-of-state students.
In Germany, tuition fees are not applicable. In 2005, several German state universities tried to charge tuition fees, albeit small ones, but the public voted it down. The only universities that still charge tuition will stop doing so at the end of 2014.
Does low price mean low quality of education in Germany? Absolutely not, says the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in a recent report. US students scored well below German students, particularly in math, on a test given to recent graduates across different academic areas.
Although Germany has a much smaller college-aged population than the US (8.7 million citizens aged 15-24 compared to 43.2 million of the same age in the US), it seems to take great pride in making a good education available to as many of its citizens as it can. US students may be in danger of losing out to their European peers, even though some US students have more expensive degrees.
An article written by Sarah Lynch for Al-Fanar Media in Cairo discusses Germany's upswing as a destination for international students:
"Germany has become one of the most popular destinations for students worldwide," said Michael Harms, director of the German Science Center and the German Academic Exchange Service Cairo office (DAAD), which promotes international education. "Germany is high on the agenda, not only for some countries, but especially for the Middle East, and that is particularly true for Egypt."
In 2013, the DAAD Cairo office gave 2,400 Egyptian students scholarships for covering the cost of their living expenses while attending school in Germany.
"We like to open our campuses for the best brains from wherever," Harms said, noting that most international students who study in Germany go for a master's degree or a PhD. "It's competition for good brains." The collaboration also helps create long-lasting partnership between Germany and students who eventually return to their home countries", he said.
Foreign students know there will be challenges connected to their decisions to attend German universities. Learning the language, blending in with the communities in which they will live, and the stringent academic expectations of the schools can be difficult.
Learning the German language is not, however, a necessity for many, since approximately 1,600 programs are taught in English. The German mindset, in general, can take time to assimilate. The system in Germany is about each person finding his or her own way. There is no "hand holding" in the German education program.
In German public elementary, middle, and high schools, 70% of parents are asking for full-time school rather than half-day schools. At this time, there is a shortage of about 2.8 million places in all-day schools, according to the Global Post.
A $4 billion investment in the "Future Education and Care" program between 2003-2009, created 175,000 places in all-day schools, but since the program has ended, only an average of 104,000 students join all-day schools each year.
"The expansion of all-day schools should be speeded [sic] up, because it improves the individual advancement for all children and therefore ensures more equal opportunities," said Joerg Draeger, board member of the Bertelsmann Foundation.
The Bertelsmann Foundation is taking this challenge on and has called for a joint effort of the Federal Government and the federal states in financing this German education reform.