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Maybe not an Obvious Choice



The comic in the July 6 NCJ shows two prospective students staring at the CSU system's rising tuition while the Earth is gesturing toward a list of the countries with free or low-cost education. At first glance, you might think the pair should obviously pick from the Earth's list, but a closer look might change your mind. I use the European schools as the basis for comparison as they comprise seven of the nine countries listed.

European and CSU bachelor programs are not equivalent. Most European universities offer three-year focused programs unlike CSU programs that are broader in scope but on average take four years. Further, the European schools may have a greater demand due to their low cost, which can result in larger classes. These days, obtaining an education in English should be no problem.

Examining the CSU system, you're likely to get a more rounded education due to the extra year and wider availability of electives. Also, you'll have lower travel expenses by staying in California.

Surprisingly, the free to low-cost tuition isn't necessarily the advantage it seems. According to an April 2023 CSU financial aid report of the 2020-2021 academic year, due to scholarships and other financial aid, approximately 18 percent of CSU undergraduates pay full tuition while 22 percent pay a partial amount and 60 percent have their tuition fully covered, which is equivalent to a student in the tuition-free countries.

So why can't U.S. universities offer low-cost degrees? Primarily it comes down to funding. All the European countries have a value added tax on products and services ranging from 19 to 25 percent, as well as peak income tax rates between 45 and 55 percent, except Norway at 38 percent due to a petroleum subsidy. It's doubtful such rates could fly in the US.

Sherman Schapiro, Eureka

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