About 900 undergraduate or graduate degrees are offered exclusively in English, with courses ranging from engineering to social sciences. For some German degrees, you don't even have to formally apply.

In fact, the German government would be happy if you decided to make use of itshigher education system. The vast degree offerings in English are intended to prepareGerman students to communicate in a foreign language, but also to attract foreign students, because the country needs more skilled workers.

Denmark also has universal free education, and provides a monthly stipend

tem Sweden devised to pay for higher education. For example, whereas in the US parents are expected to help pay for the their children's college education, in Sweden parental income levels are just not part of the equation. Students are viewed as adults, responsible for their own finances. As a result "levels of student support are based on students' own income, rather than that of their parents," wrote analysts in a white paper on the system. Compare that to countries like Germany, where any aid from the state agency that doles it out, known as BAföG, is premised on parental income. In the US it's the same deal. In Sweden, the entire system is aimed at severing the financial link between parents and young adults. This is the key. While Swedish students end up with relatively high levels of debt, the monthly costs of carrying that debt are pretty cheap. (It's about 3.8% of estimated average monthly income of new graduates, according to one study.) Interest rates are low. They're set by the government and maintained through subsidies. And the length of repayment is long: 25 years or until the student turns 60. In other words, the Swedish system of student debt is financially manageable and sets students up to begin their lives as viable adults separate from their parents.


Compare that to the US system, where high levels of debt are increasingly impeding young people from taking on the trappings of adulthood. A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found those with student debt retreating from purchases of cars and homes, for example.

With American students, recent graduates, and their families staggering under a growing pile of debt, it's becoming clear the US must change how it pays for college. The Swedish-style, state-led solution will be a nonstarter in the US of A. But the Swedish system helps clarify exactly what student debt is about. It's not just a method of paying for books and professors. In a broader sense, student debt is just our solution for an age-old problem. It's society's way of financing a restructuring period for the currently unproductive assets it will depend on in the future: young people.

higher education and not go bankrupt? Where is the money coming from?
Even before this news, Germany had extremely low tuition and fees — around $600 per student. In other words, around $14,000 less than what students here have to pay. Germany, and many other European countries, view higher education as more of a public than a private benefit. They can afford this for a couple reasons. First, they simply agree to pay higher taxes. Second, Germany has a lower percentage of students go on to college than we have here in the U.S. Here, particularly at public schools, college costs have risen as a response to lower levels of public support from states, and increasing numbers of students going to school.

But it’s important to remember that a high-cost, debt-based system was not always the norm here. Just 20 years ago, fewer than half of graduates borrowed for college (compared to 7 in 10 graduates today). And just 30 years ago, you could finance a year’s worth of tuition at a minimum-wage summer job. But due to deep and unrelenting state budget cuts, inadequate grant aid, and poor targeting of some of the subsidies we do provide, that time seems as foreign as Germany’s system does today.