A 2013 report from the Knesset Research and Information Center showed that tuition costs at Israel’s universities were higher than any other country in Europe, with the exception of Britain. The U.S.’s higher education system is notoriously expensive, sending college students into crippling debt before they even start their adult lives.
In 2016, it cost the average American student between $9,700 (public college) and $33,500 (private college) to attend college. In Israel, the annual tuition rate is NIS 10,198 (2,217 euros) for BA students and NIS 13,781 (2,874 euros) for MA students.
Israeli students are still better off, as tuition is set by special committees. Some states in the U.S. have tuition caps on public colleges, but not all do. Israel is also lacking the expansive student loan programs that the U.S. and other European countries have, which helps save students from entering the world with a heavy debt burden. In the U.S., the average college student graduates with about $26,700 in student loan debt.
Going out into the world with that much debt makes it difficult to buy a house or start a family.
In countries like Switzerland and Hungary, the cost of a college education is 795-5,532 euros for BA students and 830-3,319 euros for MA students.
Italian BA students pay about 1,300 euros, while Spanish BA students pay 1,074 euros. In Portugal, tuition is 1,066 BA students. It costs just a few hundred euros to attend college in France, Turkey or Iceland.
Students in the Czech Republic and Poland pay only a registration fee of 21-41 euros.
For students in some other European countries, higher education is tuition-free. In Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Norway and most German states, studies are free.
Israel has taken some steps to stem the rising costs of higher education. The committee in charge of setting tuition fees recommended reducing tuition fees by 50% over five years, but costs only fell by 26%. They have since risen slightly.
In the U.S., little is being done to control tuition costs. Proposals have been made for tuition-free college, but the chances of that happening are slim with the current administration.
Ultimately, when higher education becomes unaffordable, those who come from low- and middle-income homes will struggle to attend college or choose to forgo it altogether. Those who cannot attend college because of costs (or refuse to go into crippling debt to attend) will face more challenges in securing a high-paying job. Jobs that require a college education will be completely out of reach.
Many argue that the cost of tuition reflects the quality of the education. In many cases, this is true. Harvard and the California Institute of Technology, both American colleges, regularly top the lists of the best universities in the world. But Switzerland’s institutions also rank high on the list, a country where college is easily affordable.
Not every student aspires to attend the best university, but yet many still wind up paying almost the same amount for their education at an Ivy League school (if they attend a private school in the U.S.). Having access to affordable schools is crucial, and while public colleges are a step in the right direction, the costs are still too high for disadvantaged students.
Tuition regulation could help American students get the education they need without having to take on a substantial burden of debt. Regulation is a more practical solution than tuition-free solutions, which won’t even be considered by conservatives. Israel could also do more to help its students, starting with following through on the promise to lower tuition fees.
Investing in higher education will ensure that the young adults in today’s society can obtain the knowledge and skills they need to secure higher-paying jobs and contribute to the economy.