University Post
University of Copenhagen
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Comment: Is it better to pay for your education?

Danish Sara Sjölin is studying Economics and Journalism at New York University. Originally sceptical about the high tuition fees, she now wonders if the American system is better than the Danish one

When I first came to New York University (NYU) last summer to do my Master’s I was certain that I would disapprove of the American educational system with its ridiculously high tuition fees.

But after spending almost eight months and a lot of money on NYU, I have observed several benefits of actually having to pay for your education.

First of all, I have experienced a completely different level of motivated students: No one skips classes, everyone reads all of the study material and in general there is a consensus that school comes first.

After all, it makes sense that when you spend more than DKK 100,000 per semester on schooling you want to get your money’s worth and not spend hours hanging out with friends or getting drunk on Thursdays, like most Danish students who take their free education for granted.

Paying for quality

Another huge benefit of studying at a private university like NYU is the quality of the lectures and the general facilities. We are only 12 people in my program and the individual attention we get is sometimes almost too much.

We have our own internship advisor, a journalism teacher that was made the subject of a movie, and an accounting professor who writes books for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The general facilities are world class which makes it so much easier to be a student. For example, most of my lectures are videotaped and if I write an email to any office at the university they get back to me within hours. In general, the service level is impeccable and everything works.

Creating inequality

But of course the extra service level and high quality lectures have a downside. The tuition fee is extremely high and it prevents lower income students to attend certain universities. The ones who do end up with student loans well over US$ 100,000.

The free Danish educational system gives everyone an equal chance of getting a university degree, regardless of their parents’ income. Students tend to be less competitive and the result is that students help each other out, learn how to work in groups and dare to think creatively.

So, even though I have learned to appreciate the privileges of NYU granted by its high tuition, I would be terrified if Denmark copied the American system. But it needs to be recognized that Denmark is not perfect and that there actually are advantages if students pay for their university education.

Read Sara’s blog on Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende (in Danish)