I’ll admit that when I first chose TCU, I wasn’t looking for the cheapest option. In 2012, the total cost of attendance was around $48,000 a year (it’s now jumped to $59,370, but that’s a whole other story).
I knew that I wanted a great education at a small liberal arts school, and of course most of my options turned out to be private schools. I did land a sizable academic scholarship that helped pay for some of my school, but if I didn’t have a generous grandma with a passion for education, I would be going to community college instead–or at least be elbow-deep in crippling student debt. (Not-so-fun fact: American federal student loan debt now adds up to about $1 trillion!) American college ain’t cheap, and tuition is only growing, at 500% of what it was in 1985.
Naturally, when I discovered that in Europe, most countries subsidize university education, I was stunned. Spaniards only have to pay between €600 and €1,800 per year (at a public university, but still). In Germany, a university education is now completely free. Some students at UPO have been handing out flyers for their upcoming protest of “the privatization of public universities” (aka, a tuition jump of about €100). One of my roommates told me she almost started laughing when she heard them ranting. If only they knew we attend a school that costs about 65 times as much.
Luckily, the high price of American tuition does ensure a better quality education, at least from what I’ve seen. Of course, I’m not taking any classes with Spaniards, but from what I can tell the professors at TCU are more qualified than the ones I’ve had at UPO, even if they’re not bilingual. They also just seem to be better teachers, which is one of the reasons I decided to attend TCU in the first place. Like most students, I do much better in school when I’m encouraged by a great teacher.
When I asked my host dad, Alberto, for his opinion on the price of university education in Spain, his immediate response was “demasiado caro” (too expensive). For him, about €800 a year was too expensive. When I laughed, he realized pretty quickly that it was more of a pained laugh than an amused one. “¿Y en los Estados Unidos? Es mucho más caro, no?” he asked.
Sí, Alberto. Sí. He looked floored when I explained that a year of school at TCU now costs almost $60,000. He did point out that for most Spaniards, a middle-class worker makes only about €40,000 a year. (And the euro is exactly $1.09 right now, so that’s basically equivalent.) Housing is also way cheaper in Spain (about €800 a month for a three-bedroom house in a good location in Sevilla). So maybe they make up for their cheap university cost with smaller salaries and a cheaper standard of living?
Either way, I can’t help but be jealous of my host mom, Raquel, who’s currently getting her master’s in Pychology at a private Spanish university for free with a scholarship. I have a 3.9 GPA at TCU and I’m not getting anything for free.
Still, as I always remind myself when I hear my friends from other schools talk about their tuition being under $10,000 a year, I wouldn’t trade my TCU education for the world. (Or €800.)