More degrees than a protractor factory.

Senator Bernie Sanders favors making a BA at the 629 public four year colleges a free good for all “qualified” applicants. He says that this would be on the European model.

What is the American model?

  Number Enrollment
Public 4-year institutions 629 6,837,605
Private 4-year institutions 1,845 4,161,815
Public 2-year institutions 1,070 6,184,229
Private 2-year institutions 596 303,826
Total 4,140 17,487,475
Undergraduate 14,473,884
Graduate 2,097,511
Professional 329,076


What is the European model?

European universities.

Country.          Universities.   Students.        Percent.[1]         Cost.               Drop-out rate.

Britain.           115                  2.6m.               43                    E10,500.          8.6 percent.

France.            80                  2.3m.               39                    E     177.          42.0 percent.

Italy.                79                  1.8m.               43                    E1.5-3,000      45.0 percent.

Germany.       108                  2.4m.               42                    Free.               28.0 percent.

Poland.            98                  1.8m.               54                    N.A.                24.0 percent.


The obvious lesson to draw here is that if something costs you something, you value it more. Where college costs are high, the drop-out rate is low; where college costs are low, the drop-out rate is high. “Eh, I’ll take a shot at it instead of looking for work, but if the professors want real work (or if the girls won’t come across), I’ll bag it.”—Anonymous.

So, France, Germany, and Italy all have virtually free tertiary education, BUT they spend one-third to one-half of what the USA does. How do they make it work? They admit a lot of kids from good schools, then throw them in the deep end of the pool and tell them to swim for it. No hand-holding. No office hours with professors. No counseling. No Writing Centers and Math Centers for free tutoring. No “second chance” when young Bobby messes up. You need help writing a paper? Hire a grad student with your own money. Short of money and you don’t want to admit to your parents that you’ve messed up? Try dealing hash. (I’m told that the “Milkweg” in Amsterdam used to be a good place to go, but how would I know? See: ). Also, no sports teams. No dorms and dining halls. No marching bands. Just cafes on the Left Bank and Gitanes.

So, one follow-on question is which countries have people with degrees, rather than just having attended college?

Germany and Italy have lower graduation rates than does Britain or the United States.

Obviously, there is a lot more that can be done with this data, but this is a start. For one thing, why isn’t Sanders going off on the Finnish model? Nokia and mink ranches: let’s build our future on that.

Your thoughts?

[1] Percent of “young people” (otherwise undefined) in tertiary education of any sort.

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