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November 05, 2014 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-05

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6B Wednesday, November 5, 2014 // The Statement
Do U.S. colleges have something to learn from German tuition policy?
by Rachel Premack

en German universities began
charging tuition in 2006, the back-
lash was swift. At the University of
Freiburg, where University of Michigan His-
ry Department Chair Kathleen Canning
was administering a study abroad program in
the 2000s, students occupied classrooms and
hung enormous banners that read, "Education
is a human right."
The fees that caused the outrage? An aver-
age of $630 per semester. At this University,
in-state LSA students pay $6,579 and out-
of-staters pay $20,789.
"It didn't matter how much it was,"
Canning said. "It didn't matter that it was
affordable for most middle-class fami-
lies. It was the principal of introducing
Lucky for the students, the final Ger-
man federal state abolished tuition in
October. Now anyone - German citizen
or not - can receive a free college educa-
tion at one of Germany's globally lauded
Past German college students are now
among world-renowned philosophers,
researchers, entrepreneurs, writers and
leaders. The nation is the world's third-
largest importer and exporter. More
Nobel laureates are from Germany than
any other nationality - save for the U.S.
So why don't these students have to
pay tie thousands of dollars per year that
Americans do?
Tuition in the United States has not
always been so high. At the University, adjust-
ing for inflation, in-state students paid $1,472
in the 1969-1970 academic year. It rose, by
decade, to $1,970 in 1980, $3,065 in 1990 and
$5,704 by 2000.
Just as well, until the mid-20th century,
higher education was something attainable
only by the most elite social classes in Ger-
"The whole notion of buildings, education,
was a fundamental attribute of the bourgeoi-
sie and the nobility," Canning said. "It was not
something that anyone in the middle class or
lower middle class could aspire to."
University education remains somewhat
exclusive in Germany, though its hierarchical
system is becoming easier to enter. In elemen-
tary school, children take an exam that divides
them into one of three schools: gymnasium;
realschule or hauptschule. Only gymnasium is
a university-preparatory school.
Gymnasium has become more accessible
VdMMthe past few decades. According to Ger-
man dataportal Statista, 15 percentofstudents
in 1952 were in gymnasium. By 2005, it was 33
The increasingly open doors of the gym-
nasium have caused a strain on universities
the past decade and a half, Canning said. Pro-
essorships are few. In the Frieburg history
department, for instance, Canning said there

were nine history professors. The University
of Michigan has 90.
"There's a second tier of what they call
mid-career instructors who, however, have no
job security and they're not even permanent
lecturers like-you would have here," Canning
added. "They're often filling in or actually
teaching for free while hoping to geta profes-
sorship somewhere else."
Johannes von Moltke, associate profes-
sor and chair of German, said, "There's over-

per semester was unlikely to break the bank;
however, the implementation of tuition on
principle could later prove difficult.
"There's always the possibility that it could
be increased," Capotescu said. "We saw that
in the U.S. that once higher tuition was intro-
duced it kept increasing."
In 2012, the average debt of a University
graduate was nearly $28,000, with 44 per-
cent of the student body graduating with debt.
Moreover, while the German government

client and because of the way American capi-
talism works, customer service is part of the
experience... Of course it kind of commodifies
education. It becomes a good to be exchanged
between a seller and buyer. Whereas in Ger-
many, the ideal is still it's a public good so
you're not paying or buying for it, you're taking
advantage of your right to education. But then
it isn't kind of fenced in with all of these con-
sumer bells and whistles."
That lack-of-consumer model is also
reflected in the type of education students can
expect. Canning described three types of
classes: lectures and small, introductory and
advanced seminars.
A first-year student in an introductory
seminar on the French Revolution, Canning
described, would be expected to already
know the chronology of the Revolution, or
receive suggestions for background reading.
The course would focus on reading primary
sources - in French - and discussingthem.
Students in lecture courses rarely have
performance-based measurements, like
quizzes or tests, at the end. Instead, stu-
dents ask to take an oral exam with a profes-
sor if they feel they know the material well
"If you bomb, it's your own fault and no
one cares," Canning said. "There's nobody
there to hold your hand. It's up to you. You're
a scholar, you're at the university because
you wantto actually learn. Ourlittle 'holding
out the carrot' just doesn't happen."
LSA junior Alexandra Trecha, who is
y studying in Freiburg this year, noticed the
difference in expectations.
"There definitely isn't as much 'checking in'
and students are expected to be much more
responsible and invested in their work here
compared to the U.S.," Trecha said.
At the University, students expect, well,
everything from their college experience. The
University provides transportation, housing,
food, libraries, mental health support, aca-
demic and career advising and - perhaps most
importantly -- a social scene.
In the U.S., the college years are supposed
to be "the best time" of your life. Germans see
college as a continuation of one's education,
as momentous as moving from tenth to 11th
grade. More fanfare surrounds. moving away
from home.
"It's not the place you go and get away from
your parents for four years and drink and fig-
ure out who you are," Canning said.
Capotescu noted that much soul-searching
and deciding what one's talents are occurs in
high school. Indeed, hopeful doctors in Ger-
many attend medical or law school directly
after high school rather than dabbling in biol-
ogy courses for two years before deciding to
major in philosophy.
"College is a lot more functional," Capo-
tescu said. "You go through university to get
to a job."

fashion voyeur:
boxers? briefs? boxer briefs?


'm not sure what kind of
underwear I'm supposed to
buy anymore.
When I was a toddler, briefs
were the thing. Then boxer briefs
when Igrew up alittle. Boxers were
cool because you were supposed to
sag your pants and show them off.
I guess it was considered "cool" at
the time. I mean I still think box-
ers are cool - cool enough, or I
wouldn't wear them. I don't sag
my pants like a little hoodlum any-
more, though.
My boxers have neat patterns on
them, usually. Most of them have
a checkered pattern of some kind.
But the nice ones have vertical
stripes. I can't explain it, but there's
something classy about vertical
stripes. Once my brother asked for
silk underwear for Christmas, and
they had vertical stripes, too. You
can't get silk underwear in check-
ered pattern, that's for damn sure.

Except now, suddenly, all of my
friends are wearing boxer briefs.
The happy medium between
tighty-whities and boxers. Should I
also be wearing them? Not that I'm
feeling undergarment-related peer
pressure, but I'm just wondering
if there's a benefit to boxer briefs.
Why the switch, guys? They look
too tight, too revealing, too uncom-
fortable. At the same time, they
seem like a more mature type of
underwear. It seems like the kind of
underwear that a twenty- or thirty-
something would wear. In fact, I'm
pretty sure that's the kind of under-
wear that my dad wears, and he's
fifty-something. The other day I
was consideringmakingthe change
to demonstrate an increased level
of maturity. A fake it till you make it
kind of thing. But at the same time,
I'm content with boxers. They're
comfortable, breezy. I like that. So
maybe I'll stick with them for now.

crowding in German universities. Because it's
really accessible, a lot of people study."
Rackham student Cristian Capotescu
received his history degree from the Univer-
sity of Freiburg in 2010. Lectures are not so
different in German schools than in the U.S.,
Capotescu described, with packed lecture
halls of hundreds of students.
Where differences existed were in semi-
nars and tutorials, the latter being something
like a class section with a greater emphasis on
learning how to better write, read, etc. Capo-
tescu said graduate students often teach semi-
nars, whereas here professors almost always
lead them. Stranger yet, undergraduates are
wont to teach these tutorials.
"The quality of those sections are a lot
lower," Capotescu said. "I certainly think
graduate students are more qualified to teach
those sections, but is it worth $40,000 a year?"
The ban on tuition in Germany was lifted in
2006. Following that, various German states
began issuing small semester fees to better its
quality of education. Canning said the hugely
unpopular tuition actually did not help condi-
tions at university.
"Either they just conceded that it wasn't
enough money to really do anything and it was
too controversial to even bother with it," Can-
ning said.
Capotescu agreed that 500 euros ($624.95)

continues investmoney in education, a mere 16
percent of the University's budget come from
state appropriations.
"The money we need grows and the money
we get shrinks," von Moltke said.
As recently as 1990, state funding and
tuition contributed equallyto the budget.
Capotescu noted issueswith a huge student
body, not unlike Germany.
"We assume that with American educa-
tion, you pay so much so it's better. When you
look closer at elite public higher education at
schools like Michigan, it's not a perfect world
or utopia," Capotescu said. "You still have 150
students in a lecture."
The increased tuition did encourage a state
of mind that does not exist in Germany. Amer-
ican college students view themselves as con-
sumers at the University; we spend a certain
amount of money and expect a certain qual-
ity of service. German collegiates, though, are
"student-citizens," von Moltke explained.
For instance, career advising is more or less
non-existent in Germany. Students can use
government offices for these things. In fact,
most services like housing and public trans-
portation for students are provided by the city
or state.
"Itsjob is to serve the public, not to treat its
students as clients," von Moltke said. "For bet-
ter and for worse, in the U.S., you are apaying

I study water quality, water purification, sustainability of using water ... Water is a huge
issue. We don't consider the fact that there could be a drought and you might turn on
your tap and water won't come out of it ... You have to have water to do things. And I
also just love chemistry and math and you get to do a lot of that (in my field). It's fun, it's
super nerdy ... Hey, got to be nerdy about something!

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