The Myth of “You Get What You Pay For”

“You get what you pay for” is a response I sometimes see posted on Facebook about the college costs in Europe. Why people feel compelled to respond to something that they know nothing about-and state it as fact-is beyond me. It’s also simply not true-even about higher education in the US!  Does a student paying out of state tuition receive a substantially superior education than the student paying in state tuition? No! It’s similar in Europe, one of the reasons tuition is so reasonable is because it is subsidized by the country.

One of the schools I visited a few months ago, Wiener Neustadt University of Applied Science, provides an excellent example of how “you get what you pay for” is false.  Students pay just 726 euros (about $818) per year for their English-taught Business Consultancy bachelor’s program.  That’s just incredible to me.  They will pay less for their entire three years of tuition than many overnight summer camps costs here in the US!

Let’s look at whether or not their experience is sub par due to their tuition. The first three semesters of the program focus on the fundamentals of business, including courses in accounting, m

anagement, finance, economics, marketing, and law. Students can also chose to do a semester abroad during their third semester.  Remember, students continue to pay the Wiener Neudstat tuition during that semester, even though the tuition at the study abroad school is almost guaranteed to be much, much higher!

Consultancy-specific courses begin in the fourth semester, along with those related to the students chosen specialty. The specialization options are; International Accounting and Finance, Marketing and Sales or Management and Leadership. The programs ends with a mandatory internship in the sixth semester.  The practical knowledge is not confined to the internship. Almost half of the classes are taught by industry experts and case studies are incorporated throughout the curriculum.

I met with three American students who are studying in this program; Darshaun from San Diego, Jack from Boise, and Vanessa from Dallas.  They all stated how much they appreciate the international student body in the program.  In fact, 70% of the

students are international students from all around the world.  In addition to appreciating the multicultural perspective they gain, they also noted that this large percentage means that the program addresses the needs of international students (academic and non-academic). The students noted that the professors are very accessible to students and get to know them.  Most of the classes are in groups of 20 and include discussion, group work and such.  There is only one lecture course each semester that has all 80 students.

Jack and Vanessa both live in the school’s student residences. These cost 330 euros per month for a single bedroom and a bathroom and kitchen that is shared with one other student.  They both enjoy the international feel in the student residences and community it provides.  Vanessa’s dorm arranges an international Sunday dinner each week in which students from different countries host and serve a meal. Dashaun lives with friends in Vienna and commutes to school.  Her commute is just 30 minutes each way by train and her student train pass is just 150 euros per semester!  Though there are a few places in town that students hang out it, they often head to Vienna social opportunities as well.

The only drawback I saw to this program was the location. The town is small and the campus is a good 10 minute drive from the city center.  However, there is a new campus opening this October in the heart of the city center.  The design blends old and new, with an old church functioning as the library and modern buildings serving as classrooms and IT labs.  The facility is walking distance to the train station and there is a free bus that connects the old campus to the new. Further, by living in Wiener Neustadt, students are able to access nearby Vienna easily, while paying much lower  living costs.

Because they are funded by the state, the school has to prove that they are a good investment.  How do they prove this?  With educational outcomes pertaining to employment.  How do they achieve those outcomes?  With a strong curriculum, practical experience, and an impressive and international student body. It’s not surprising that the school has the highest employment rate of all the Austrian universities of applied sciences! In fact, they find that companies seek the out to recruit students for internships. So I guess the statement “you get what you pay for” does apply here.  The state gets what they pay for so the students don’t have to foot the bill.