The Road Less Traveled
by Thomas MacLean
It has been common knowledge to Americans for ten years that our higher education system is broke. The tuition rates are climbing higher as students and their parents get less real value. We can all see this, but there is no real answer to the problem. The federal government has increased subsidies to state schools, more classes are being offered online, nothing has worked so far to slow down the rising cost. Will this problem be fixed in the next twenty years? Probably, but we aren’t going to college in the next twenty years, we’re going within the next four. Although we do need a long term solution, I propose a short term solution: go to school in Europe.
When people first hear about going to university in Europe they think to themselves, “Wow, that must be really expensive.” It’s not. Unless you can fluently speak Spanish, French or another continental language, the European schools that you look at will be restricted to those in the British Isles. How much does school there cost? Well for Scottish schools (and in full disclosure I am going to one) the tuition is only roughly $23,000 for American students (fluctuations in currency exchange make the number hard to pin down). This is about the same cost that you would pay to go to UMass Amherst, a state school, and half the price that you have to pay to go to Boston University. And this price is for ANY Scottish school. You can go to St. Andrews, the sixth best school in the UK, for barely over $20,000 a year.
But won’t this affect your ability to get FAFSA and scholarships? Not at all. FAFSA can be used for UK schools and except for a few scholarships that specify that the recipient must go to school in the US most can be used overseas.
Now comes the issue of distance. There’s no escaping the fact that plane tickets will be expensive and it is unlikely that you’ll get to home more than once or twice a year. However the cost of a ticket to London, for instance, is roughly $2,000, and even when adding this to your tuition it’s still cheaper than Boston College where you will pay about $60,000 a year. In the US you become an adult at eighteen. Not to be harsh but is seeing your parents on the weekend really your biggest priority when you go to school? First of all, your education is more important and second of all, let’s not pretend that we’re not going to college partially to get away from our families.
My last point can appeal to both teenagers and their parents for two entirely different reasons; the drinking age in most of Europe is eighteen. That means that when you go to college you can drink alcohol with no fear of being arrested or thrown out of school. At some colleges they will throw you out if they catch you drinking one too many times but this cannot happen at UK schools. College students are going to drink no matter what the law says, why not go somewhere that what you do on the weekends has no impact on whether or not you have somewhere to live.
Going to school in Europe seems like a crazy idea when you first think of it. However after a close examination, it makes more sense than going to an American school.