Monday, June 03, 2013


Entirely coincidentally I came across two unrelated but interesting articles about Sweden:

Swedish colleges and universities are free. Yep. Totally free.

But students there still end up with a lot of debt. The average at the beginning of 2013 was roughly 124,000 Swedish krona ($19,000). Sure, the average US student was carrying about 30% more, at $24,800.

But remember: Free. College in Sweden is free. That’s not even all that common in Europe anymore. While the costs of education are far lower than in the US, over the past two decades sometimes-hefty fees have become a  fact of life for many European students. Britain got them in 1998. Some German states instituted them after a federal ban on student fees was overturned in the courts. In fact, since 1995 more than half of the 25 OECD countries with available data on higher education have overhauled their college tuition policies at public institions, with many adding or raising fees.

And yet, students in Germany and the UK have far lower debts than in Sweden.
Personally, I think "fees"--whether they be airline baggage fees, hotel resort fees, or school student body fees--are a coward's way of gaming the system.  They're unjust.

And from the 2nd article:
Swedish repay their mortgages so slowly that it will take 140 years on average, according to the IMF.
I wonder if there's any link between the two....


Jean said...

Heh. Reminds me of my days at UC Berkeley. When my parents went, there really was no tuition (though I would have to ask them about fees, actually). By the time I got there, there was still no tuition, but the "registration fees" were several thousand dollars a semester. Now that it's $17K/year they've dropped the pretense and just call it tuition.

allen (in Michigan) said...

The situation of supposedly free education's common in third world countries where the schools implicitly exclude the poor by requiring uniforms or supplies the very poor can't afford. I kind of doubt that's the purpose of the high fees in Swedish schools but those Swedish schools still have to apportion a limited resource - space in classes - and pricing the product appropriately, even when it's supposed to be free, is one way to do that.

Ellen K said...

It seems to me that too often when things are "free" people take it for granted. For example, if you get in an accident and are provided with a rental car, it's likely that you don't take the same precautions you would with your own car. In a similar manner, when I provide "free" materials to my classes, they often waste them whereas their own purchased materials are carefully monitored. A "free" education is a wonderful concept, but consider how much our alleged "free" public education is taken for granted and used more for daycare than real education.

maxutils said...

And, of course, it isn't free ... it's supported through taxation. And taxes in Sweden are exceptionally high.