Why American Students Are Flocking to German Universities

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Americans are lured by nearly free higher education in Germany. Here's why it's a great deal for both Bonn and the international college students.

It’s auf Wiedersehen, America — with your cost-prohibitive college tuition and suffocating student loan debt — and hello, Germany, and your FREE college education!

Viewed from a purely financial perspective, it’s really no surprise that a growing number of American students are packing up their bags and heading off to Germany to earn a college degree.

Germany has a tuition-free university system for all students, including international students. More than 10,000 American students are currently enrolled in its higher education programs, NBC reports. That’s a 9 percent increase from last academic year and a whopping 25 percent jump from the 2008-2009 academic year.

Last summer the BBC introduced readers to Hunter Bliss, a South Carolinian working on his physics degree at the Technical University of Munich, one of the most highly regarded universities in Europe.

Bliss pays the university a $120 fee each semester, which also includes a public transportation ticket for Munich. His health insurance costs $87 a month in Germany, which his mother Amy Hall says is much cheaper than she would pay if she added Bliss to her health plan in the United States.

Altogether, Hall pays roughly $6,000 to $7,000 annually — including rent, mandatory health insurance, the $120 per semester university fee, and other expenses — for her son to live and attend college in Germany, according to the BBC.

At [Bliss’] nearest school back home, the University of South Carolina, that amount would not have covered the tuition fees. Even with scholarships, that would have totaled about $10,000 a year. Housing, books and living expenses would make that number much higher.

Like Bliss, all college students in Germany pay their university a “semester fee.” NBC says the fee, which rarely exceeds $250, covers some of the school’s administrative costs and also goes to support student unions.

Dorothea Rueland, secretary general of the German Academic Exchange Service, told NBC that free tuition isn’t all that entices American students to study at German universities.

“Germany and its universities have quite a good reputation in the United States,” Rueland explains. “And we have a huge increase in courses taught in English and this obviously makes it easier for American students to channel into the German system.”

Rueland said funding international students’ college education is a “win-win situation for Germany” because about half of them stay there after they earn a degree, working and paying taxes.

It seems like a win-win for American students as well. If I were a young college student today, I would jump on the opportunity to travel abroad and earn a free college education!

What do you think of the number of American students packing their bags and heading to Germany for college? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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