A German perspective on the (high) cost of college in the United States


I am an exchange student from Germany and I have the opportunity to study “International Journalism” at Hamline University for one semester. Hamline has a partner university, the University of Trier, which sends one or two students every year to participate in this program. It is very interesting for me to compare the differences of the two educational systems, especially since Hamline is a private university, while Trier is a state university.

Talking with other students here at Hamline, I was very surprised, actually rather shocked, about the high amount of the tuition and fees. The cost of Hamline tuition is $40,000 per year.  In comparison, a German student pays about $0 – 1000 per year at a normal state university, depending on the state.

Yes, the differences in this case couldn`t be any bigger. BUT, I also realized that the students here get lots of support in many cases. For every problem there is somebody to fix it. If you have problems with writing papers, there is the Writing Center. If you have personal problems there are psychologists you can talk with. If you have problems with your roommate or something in your room needs to be fixed, there is the Resident Assistant who can help you out.

Other than that, there is a Healthcare Center, the Career Development Center, and the Academic Center, just to name a few destinations. I could add a few more points to that list but to make it short, this huge support is one of the reasons why students decide to come to Hamline.

From a German perspective I can say that Hamline treats their students very well. I felt comfortable here from the first moment. We don’t have that kind of support at my university in Trier. In many cases, the students are left on their own. Especially at the beginning of my study, I found it very difficult to deal with.  

For Aaron Rahkola, 21 years old, who is a student of science, this was a main reason why he chose Hamline University. “It`s the `hands on feeling,` the small classes and that every teacher knows my name,” he said. “I don`t feel like a number. At my last college, it was a state college [and] we were like over 60 people in a class.” 

Stephanie, 24, who is studying global business and German language at Hamline:, said: “Well, Hamline has one of the best business and law schools in the United States. That’s the reason for me why I came here. But the high cost for education in America really sucks. Education should not cost anything. It`s a human right, in my opinion. That’s why I actually think about doing my master program in Germany.“ 

Aaron was also very surprised when I told him about our German system. “The major failing of the American school system is that it feels more like a business than a school,” he said. “It seems like it is more about getting money to go to the school than to actually go to the school.”

These comments make me very thoughtful. The costs are really high. But have to agree that Hamline is a great university. I felt comfortable from the first moment. My program is very practical orientated. The combination with an included internship makes this experience so valuable. I wish this would be possible at my university in Trier, too.

But would I be willing to pay $ 40,000 for it? I still remember the discussions and student demonstrations which took place in 2005 after a new law introduced the student fees in Germany. The outcry was enormously high. Only two states could enforce the student fees of 500 € per semester. In other states the education is still for free.

I have to say, that I am very thankful for the German education system. After experiencing the American system I appreciate it even more. 


This is one of a number of articles produced by student interns at the TC Daily Planet.