When the cost of an education is definitely worth it

4:07 pm Hong Kong Education

By Sue Smith


Education, particularly tertiary education, seems to come at a very high cost nowadays. Even though most countries provide state funded primary and secondary education, going to university can really be a high cost proposition.

Some countries operate a system of student loans or have government grants that eligible students can access. But there are some places where tertiary education is more reasonably priced.

The United States is notorious for high cost college education. But for those students who attend a state funded university the cost is much lower than that of their peers at privately funded universities.  Now, the state of New York has introduced a means tested programme to provide tuition free places if a student’s family income is less than $100,000 USD per annum. Of course, even though tuition costs are waived, if a student lives on campus, he or she will still need to meet the cost of board and lodgings.  And the scheme comes at a price.  Students who receive their education through the free tuition scheme are obliged to reside and work in the state for the same number of years that they received the benefit for. But it is still an attractive offer for those who felt that higher education was out of their price range.

There are other places in the world, mostly notably in Europe, where the cost of tertiary education can be very low indeed.

Countries from Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries all have very low cost tertiary education. Sometimes it is just open to citizens or local nationals, sometimes to EU members.  So is it possible to go to a European country in order to receive a virtually cost-free tertiary education?

Well, the first thing to consider is language of instruction.  Germany and also possibly Holland offer a range of low cost tertiary options which are taught in English. This is useful in a practical sense because you won’t have to learn the local language before commencing your studies.  But it might also make your qualification more portable once you graduate.  A degree taken in a language other than English, depending on the field of study, can mean that local industry boards won’t recognize the qualification  if you try and use it in a majority English speaking country.

In some countries, the low cost price tag is for study only in the local language, making it virtually impossible for anyone who is not a local person from accessing this educational option.

But look around to see if it is possible for you to gain admission to a low cost university option by going abroad. Remember that many students pay handsomely to go on an exchange year to Europe so by doing your research first you might be able to have a similar experience at a fraction of the cost.

It is also possible that universities give out funding in the form of scholarships to international students to encourage them to do a semester or two at their institution, and possibly learn the local language as well.  An acquaintance of mine allowed her daughter to do a semester of Spanish at a Spanish university and she was entitled to a scholarship which covered virtually all of her living costs as well as fees while she was there. This was a great and low-cost way of benefiting from a truly international learning experience.

There are some individuals who believe that as the end user of an education is the society, the society has a responsibility to educate their population. But tertiary studies are now producing a generation of graduates with high student related debt. Look carefully at the available options and do your research but there might be a degree programme out there for you which is richly rewarding in experience but cheap to pay for.


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