Beyond The States
Beyond The States
Is Tuition Cheap in European Colleges?

This episode of the Beyond the States podcast focuses on tuition cost. Jenn presents information on the astronomical tuition in the US and related problems. She then demonstrates how tuition for the English-taught bachelor’s and master’s degree options in Europe allow an international student to pay less for her entire degree program-including travel costs- than one year of tuition alone at many schools in the US.

Peter Kumble, an American professor at Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic joins the discussion. They explore how it is possible for international student tuition to be so reasonably priced and dig into information about the continued savings students have for other related costs like housing, fees, books, and health insurance.

Podcast Transcript –

Jenn Viemont: This is episode two of the Beyond the States podcast. Today we’ll be talking about tuition. Specifically how tuition for the English taught bachelor’s and master’s degree options in Europe allows international students to pay less for their entire degree program including travel costs than one year of tuition alone in the US, I thought that might get your attention.

Intro: You’re listening to the Beyond the States podcast with Jenn Viemont. Did you know that you can go to Europe and get your entire degree taught in English for less than one year of tuition at many American schools? Jenn will take you on a deep dive into the many benefits and options around English-taught higher education in Europe, helping to make the possibility less foreign.

Jenn Viemont: Thanks for joining me again. Today, we’re going to be talking with our guests shortly. But in the meantime, let’s talk about the tuition problems that are going on here in the US. So I mentioned before that I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. So I do spend some time when I’m looking to compare numbers on their website. And I want to start with telling you reading you this excerpt from the UNC website that just really cracked me up. So the heading is this, we don’t want cost to be a roadblock for anyone. And then it goes right on to say for the 2017 to 18 academic year, the total cost of full time attendance for undergraduates is estimated to be $25,876 per year for North Carolina residents and 53,100 for out of state residents, as if those are costs that wouldn’t create roadblocks. So I’ve known for a while that colleges are getting insanely expensive. But I didn’t know how quickly the cost is growing until recently. I went to college in 1992, which hard to believe it was 25 years ago, it doesn’t seem so long ago, I was lucky because my stepfather was a professor at the University of Chicago and one of his benefits was at the University covered my tuition up to the cost of the University of Chicago. So I didn’t have to think about costs. And I didn’t even really have any idea how much my tuition was. So I recently found this great site, it’s actually really disturbing. We’re going to put the link on our show notes. It’s college And you can search for college. And it’s going to tell you what the tuition was each year in the past what it is now and what it’s expected to be 510 15 and 18 years down the road. So I started school at Vanderbilt University I finished elsewhere, it wasn’t a good fit, we’re going to talk a lot about finding a good fit school and a future episode. But anyway, according to college cap, tuition in 1992 at Vanderbilt was $15,235 per year. Now, just 25 years later, it’s $46,500 per year. And in just five years, if you have a kid who’s in eighth grade or younger, you should probably sit down or pull your car over for this in just five years, it’s expected to be 87 $371 per year. And the rate of increase is pretty consistent. For instance, I live in Chapel Hill, like I said, an in state tuition and fees here in 1992, were only $1,000 per year. And now it’s almost $9,000 per year from 1980 to 2010. There was a 1,120% increase in tuition in the United States, which is more than any other good or service including health care. And then we add to the fact that only 34% of students entering four year institutions earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, it should probably be named six year institutions, because it’s taking 64% of students six years to graduate. So it’s not surprising that students and families are accumulating mounds of debt. I’ve been doing some reading to figure out why these costs have risen so much. And I really haven’t received satisfactory answers. I’m someone who doesn’t mind paying a little more if it’s worth it. But the rising costs have nothing to do with an increase in the quality of education. There are a number of reasons that have been cited for the rise again, nothing to do with the quality of education, states are cutting spending to higher education. Others are talking about the administrative bloat as a reason for the increased tuition. And then there are also the PARCC wars, which are known as a climbing wall wars as well. And this is where colleges create high end amenities to lure students Auburn University, for instance, built a $72 million Wellness Center. So the bottom line is that US universities are nonprofit, but they’re being run like big business, and they charge an arm and a leg because they can I’ve also heard a lot about sticker price versus actual cost. I think it’s meant to be reassuring, but it causes me a lot of anxiety. I was really psyched when Carmex came out because it took away the haggling, which I’m no good at it’s different prices mentioned a lot as a way to note that the listed tuition price is not the price that many pay. However, if your family income is $110,000 or higher, you’re paying the sticker price. So let’s look at that. I think we’d all agree that when we think of people with tons of disposable income, we certainly don’t think of teachers however I [email protected]. And if we have a married couple, they’re both elementary school teachers in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, we’re making the average salary, they’re making $110,000 a year or more and are going to be paying sticker price for their kids. So before I get all worked up, let me tell you about international student tuition in Europe. And this applies to both masters and bachelors degree students. So there are all these English conducted, English taught bachelor’s and master’s degree programs throughout continental Europe. And that means you don’t need to know another language, all of your classes are taught in English, all of your tests are in English, all your assignments are in English, it’s all in English. So for these programs in continental Europe, the average tuition for bachelor’s degree programs is just over $7,000 a year for graduate programs. It’s over $8,000 a year. Now that might sound comparable to in state tuition. But I need to tell you a couple of things. One is that there are a lot of American schools in Europe that pull up that average, because they’re charging American tuition rates there. And also that MBA programs also pull up that average. The other thing to note is that most undergraduate programs take only three or three and a half years to complete, which adds to the overall savings. And there are a number of master’s degree programs that are just one year in duration, which also lead to further savings. There are also hundreds of options, 800 options actually, that are tuition free, even to international students. And there are 1000s of options under $4,000 a year, honestly, $4,000 a year. That’s a cost for a lot of overnight summer programs for high schoolers in the US. So it’s crazy to think you could get a full year’s tuition for under that it’s easy to think that these programs that are practically free are the only ones that would really save a lot of money, you might think that after travel and housing, they’d be much more comparable in price. But let’s touch down on that for a minute. So as you might know, if you’ve listened last week, you’ll know that my son Sam, is planning to go to college in Europe. And one of the reasons we started beyond the states was when we stumbled upon this information that we thought would be a good fit for him. So as luck would have it, he’s interested in a school that’s on the higher side of the tuition range. In Europe. Of course, even on the higher side, it’s only right around $12,250 per year. So earlier we talked about the rising tuition. One thing that’s interesting to note is in this school, which is Leiden University in the Netherlands, they had the exact same tuition last year, no increase. And it’s actually decreased from the tuition that was charged in 2015, which was about $13,000 a year decreased. Okay, so back on track, Sam is interested in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic. So if you decided to pursue college in the US, one of the schools, you probably would have looked at as Middlebury in Vermont, they have a really reputable Middle Eastern Studies program. So the tuition there is $52,080 per year, unlike Lytx. And these fees are going up by about 5% a year. So like most schools in Europe, the program at Leiden takes three years to complete. So intuition will pay a total of $36,750, which is more than $15,000 less than just one year at Middlebury. So let’s pretend that room and board is a wash, though it’s not it’s much less expensive in Europe, and we’ll talk about that in future housing episodes. And let’s not even factor in the fact that there will be travel costs for us from North Carolina to Vermont, we could seriously fly him business class that we won’t for the three years and still pay less for the entire cost and a year at Middlebury overall our savings will be more than $171,000. And that’s only if Sam was part of the small percentage of of us students who graduate from US schools in only four years, our savings would likely be much higher, because it would take him more than four years to graduate here in the States. So I hope that what this demonstrates for you is that if you’re considering out of state schools or private universities, your savings potential is huge. Hundreds of 1000s of dollars huge, even compared to state tuition. There are a number of programs where you would still have tremendous savings, we get a lot of questions about how tuition in Europe can possibly be so reasonably priced, whether there are trade offs and why countries would want to have international students given the low cost of tuition. So our guest today is going to be able to give us some insight on those topics. Peter Campbell was a professor at the University of Michigan as well as the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, before he moved to Prague to teach at the Czech University of Life Sciences.

He’s an associate professor and director of International Programs in the environmental sciences department, specifically the land use and improvement department. He’s also the father of perhaps the cutest baby I’ve ever seen, and the best behaved dog I’ve ever encountered. Peter, welcome, and thanks for joining us today.

Peter Kumble: Everybody. Good to speak with you today, Jennifer.

Jenn Viemont: So Peter, tell me why is education in Europe so affordable for international students? 

Peter Kumble: Well, I think it’s affordable for international students. because it’s affordable for domestic students here, Europe, not all European countries, but many European countries, particularly EU member countries subscribe to what’s called state sponsored education. Because the feeling is that an educated populace, contribute to society, get better jobs and push the country forward. So with that the goal is to make education affordable to all those, what did it cost range at your school where we charge between 204 100 euro for the entire year for tuition,

Jenn Viemont: So a student could get their master’s degree in your program, which is a two year program, correct?

Peter Kumble: Yeah. So you could do a master’s degree and your entire tuition outlay would be as much as 800 Euro. Now, there always is the question, well, if I buy a car, and I buy the car for $500, and I buy another car, and it’s $25,000, obviously, the $25,000 car is a better car than a $500. Car. The question is, is tuition that’s $400 a year inferior compared to spending between 30,000 to 60,000? US dollars a year for tuition? And the answer is no. It’s because of state sponsored education students.

Jenn Viemont: Well, you know, what’s interesting is that here in the US, technically, our public universities should be state funded for the state residents. But it’s really even though schools are being run by like big business. One thing I see a lot of I’ve mentioned to you before, when we met, my son is in high school. And every day, every single day, he’s just entering his junior year, I get a stick. Well, he gets he gets a thick stack of brochures that are just beautiful. And the money that the schools are putting towards marketing, or wellness centers, tell me this, do you have a lazy river on your campus? 

Peter Kumble: No, we haven’t witnessed a lazy river.

Jenn Viemont: A lazy river is something that there are at least one American university that has now they have the Met like the water amusement parks, where you just lay on your float and it takes you all around no lazy river

Peter Kumble: While you’re studying, right.

Jenn Viemont: Right. Or not.

Peter Kumble: We have no lazy river here. We actually unlike American universities, we don’t have big sports, most Czech universities, actually, most European universities, for that matter, are not sports oriented. And that’s not to say that if you’re a student here, that there’s not lots of great sports venues to go see from soccer, football, hockey, etc. In Prague in the city, the different club teams, you know, like, like in the UK, there’d be Manchester United here. And other Czech city teams, we don’t have big sports and it is amazing what big sports costs universities, right and ultimately, every student. And the irony is how many of those students are actually getting a benefit from the sport being there other than all the merchandising, but it’s the university doesn’t subsidize sport. We do have sports facilities, football fields, swimming, tennis, etc. People play ultimate frisbee, etc. But we don’t have Well, excuse me, we do actually have a hockey team. A cu LS check University of Life Science hockey team.

Jenn Viemont: But not a $92 million Wellness Center like Auburn University has built

Peter Kumble: And not a football stadium that holds 115,000 People like Michigan or something like that, right? 

Jenn Viemont: So I want to do a little rapid fire cost comparison, we’re starting to do rapid fires on our episodes. So what I’m going to do, as you know, I live in in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and our public university is UNC Chapel Hill. So I’m going to give you the cost in US dollars that a graduate student so that we can compare apples to apples, but a UNC graduate student would cost and if you would pay. And if you could tell me what the comparison would be at your university. That’d be great. No UNC graduate student tuition $9,942 a year. How about in your program?

Peter Kumble: $400 per year. 

Jenn Viemont: Gosh. Okay, how about fees? The University of North Carolina student is going to pay $1,986 in fees zero. That’s crazy. So at UNC, of course, they have meal plans, graduate students probably wouldn’t partake in them so much. But just to compare. Now, I know that your school and European schools as a whole don’t have meal plans. But if a UNC student did a meal plan, and they ate on campus for all of their meals, it would cost about $19 a day, or $233 a week. So how much do you think I didn’t know this is kind of a harder one to figure out. But how much do you think a student can expect us to spend on food on a weekly basis?

Peter Kumble: Well, I’ll give you a per meal basis. The cost per meal for a student here is approximately between two and three US dollars. 

Jenn Viemont: So they would pay if they had all three meals it’d be 750 a day as opposed to the 19 a day.

Peter Kumble: Maybe about that much.

Jenn Viemont: Okay. So housing at UNC for graduate students is $1,440 a month. How about a tech university life science?

Peter Kumble: You pay approximately 140 250 US dollars a month for shared accommodation in the dormitory or if you rent a room in a flat in Prague might be between 250 to $350. On average, friends, which apartment, which part of the city, etc. If you rent a whole apartment on your own, you could pay anywhere from between 500 to $700 per month for the whole apartment.

Jenn Viemont: So tell me this, the UNC student, the estimated cost for books for graduate student is $1,600 a year how much is a student going to pay for books at your school?

Peter Kumble: So very, very, very little cost of books per month, per semester. Matter of fact, most all of my classes, we have required readings, but there is PDF article.

Jenn Viemont: So how about health insurance? Here a student health insurance is $185 a month. And I know this is something international students are required to have health insurance when they study in your country. So how much does international health insurance cost?

Peter Kumble: On average 40 something dollars a month. And that’s not to say that you’re in the Czech Republic, medical coverage is sketchy. The AIDS vaccine was developed in the Czech Republic, the artificial heart was developed in the Czech Republic, well known for its health coverage in his health, intelligence. It’s just not a huge for profit type of business as it is in North America.

Jenn Viemont: So tell me this, I know that a lot of countries, there are limits on how many hours international students can work or sometimes there are a ton of hoops they have to jump through for work permits. How does that compare to the Czech Republic?

Peter Kumble: A person who would come to the Czech Republic that wants to work, we’d have to get a work permit. But if you are a student, you are not required to have a work permit?

Jenn Viemont: How about after they graduate? Are they able to stay in work?

Peter Kumble: After you graduate? If once you have a degree from a Czech university, you have lifetime avail availability to the Czech labor market meaning so for example, I actually did my PhD here while I was teaching in United States when I was hired here, I there was no question about a work permit because I had a degree from the Czech University, which is good for as long as I’m a lot. And the idea being that an educated citizen is a benefit to society, and when you live in, and your economy and the economy as well. But you know, what you haven’t asked me about is the Czech Republic, or some people call it Czechoslovakia hasn’t existed for almost 30 years. So when people say what’s it like living in Czechoslovakia, I have no idea was the Czech Republic. And then there’s the Slovak Republic, two entirely different countries, both using different currency, and both economically quite different to Czech Republicans quite economically strong. The unemployment rate here is perhaps 4%. That’s quite low, and so on and so forth. If you never looked at our world map to find the Czech Republic, take on a map of Europe and make an X and in the very dead center is where the Czech Republic is. It’s a small country. It has a total population of perhaps 10 million people. So it’s like the size of a neighborhood in LA. The city of Prague’s population is approximately 1.3 million people dead center in Europe, it’s really easy to get around not just the Prague, which has public transportation that runs 24 hours a day folks, buses, trams, Metro, and regional trains 24 hours a day. But as I say, you’re in Central Europe, you can get a train and go anywhere. Right, I can go to Vienna, in three and a half hours for about $30.

Jenn Viemont: So that brings up a good point about the advantages, you know, so you’ve worked in the US, and you’ve worked there. So you have a really interesting perspective on this. What do you think are the main advantages other than being able to travel and explore easily to studying in Europe or studying in the Czech Republic?

Peter Kumble: Here’s a really big one. There’s a European program that’s called Erasmus or Erasmus. If you Google that, folks, you’ll find it Erasmus. This allows you to spend one or two semesters studying at another university while you’re a student here. So it’s like study abroad while you’re studying abroad, you pay your home university tuition 200 to $400. You study at the other university, the credits transferred back here.

Jenn Viemont: So a student could go to one of those schools in the Netherlands this $12,000 A year and still just pay the tuition for the year tuition if they’re

Peter Kumble: Wow, as long as it’s within the EU, although we even do have this arrangement with the Philippines for some but so we have students that will spend one or two semesters in Lisbon or Indiana or in Amsterdam. out or in different German or Norwegian countries, or Sweden or Switzerland or Italy or name it, you can go there. And so you can go there for one or two semesters and have the credits transfer back here. It does not extend your study time here. As long as the classes that you take there at the other university away from here are congruent with the ones you would get here.

Jenn Viemont: Tell me about your program. Tell me about the classes you teach what the students learn, where do they end up employed? What can you tell us about your specific program or your school today?

Peter Kumble: Well, I’ll begin with by saying some people say, Well, you’re doing this master’s degree and chuckles Fuck it. Is it any good in the United States on a return back? Oh, I hear that a lot. Yeah, a master’s of science is a Master’s of Science, regardless of where you get it. So to answer your question, I’ve got four programs that we’re teaching in English, and the students can go to our web page, which I think you’ll provide for them, so they can be on the show notes. Because it’d be steady applicants, you select master’s degree programs taught in English. The first one is called landscape planning. So it’s a bit of a hybrid between landscape architecture, urban and regional planning, some landscape ecology, and other natural sciences as a two year four semester program. Another one is called Environmental geoscience geosciences, which is the study of soil contamination, and students should have chemistry or geology background to be in that program, it’s actually a requirement. Another one is called nature conservation or natural resource conservation. And so students are studying both plant and animal conservation, and resource management. So I just had a student that finished her master’s degree, and she did her research on bats, and bat habitat. And her work received the Czech government award, because she, she was recording the audible sound that that’s make when they fly to determine are they foraging, mating, being chased by a predator or chasing something. So she did research on that, or Applied Ecology. And the final one is perhaps the most technical one is called Environmental Modeling. So it’s really issues of climate change, looking at hydrologic changes in flow, and air quality and air temperature changes all for these degrees. If someone said, I want to study how to save the planet, how to save the environment, I’d say this is a great place to do it. It’s not just classroom work, but we spend an awful lot of time outside the classroom in the Czech landscape. And I’m looking at it right now. So with that, it’s, we use the landscape here as a canvas for which to teach from because it’s so old here in Europe, compared to the United States, we can see elements of human settlement here from over six or 7000 years ago, we can see the impacts of socialism, communism, when the Russians ran this country for 4550 years, we can see those impacts in the landscape as well as everything in between those time periods. So it’s a really fascinating place to study. So students are really pushed and taught to look at what the landscape looks like, and ask, Why does it look that way? What caused it to be that way? And if it needs to be restored or managed, whether the tools available to me to learn how to do that, so that yeah, if you’re really interested in issues of climate change, saving the planet and dealing with overpopulation, and over consumption of resources, this is a great program to study. 

Jenn Viemont: Well, Peter, thank you so much for joining us today, the Tech University of Life Sciences 21. English conducted programs that range from about 200 to $4,500 per year. We’ll have links to that information in our show notes. 

So today you learned about how you can save money with higher education in Europe. Next week, we’ll be talking about how you can save your sanity with the transparent admissions processes. We’ll be talking with an administrator from Groningen University in the Netherlands about the overall philosophy of access to higher education and how that plays out in the admissions requirements. Hope you join us then. Thanks again for listening. Today, you’ll find the show notes and links about our guests on our website, www dot beyond the state’s dot com. If you have questions or comments, please join the discussion on our beyond the state’s Facebook page or get inspired by visiting us on Instagram. If you enjoy the podcast. I’d love it if you’d subscribe and rate it on iTunes. Thanks in advance.