Would it be outrageous if the costs of a four-year degree in America increased nearly EIGHT times faster than wages and DOUBLED the rate of inflation?
“Today, the US spends more on college than almost any other country.” ‘“The U.S. is in a class of its own,” says Andreas Schleicher, the director for education and skills at the OECD, and he does not mean this as a ‘compliment. “Spending per student is exorbitant, and it has virtually no relationship to the value that students could possibly get in exchange.”’[iii]
Quoting Bob Dylan, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”. Go abroad for a bachelor’s degree, or more specifically, the UK.
UK not lacking in stature
Certainly, US universities offer exceptional facilities and world-class research but its counterparts in the UK system enjoy a rich tradition of education quality too. More than half of the world’s top 200 universities are located either in the US or the UK.[iv] The UK is also the second most popular destination for international students due to its impressive international reputation and social life.
A richer education—depth not breadth
Sascha Auerbach, who has taught history in the US, UK, and Canada argues that, at least in the humanities, the UK university system offers a much richer education.[v] Students in the UK are often required to specialize beginning in their first-year. As a result, they are better adept at analysis and expertise than their companions in the US. Similarly, discussion groups and exams in the UK are taught and graded by full-time “lecturers” who are experts in their field in direct contrast to the US where such lessons are handled by postgraduates with limited training and knowledge.
“Put simply, the level of expectation, in terms of critical thinking and analysis within any given discipline, is significantly lower at the most prestigious of US institutions than at their UK counterparts.”[vi]
American employers seem to concur. According to a poll commissioned by the British Council, “73% of employers in the US and Canada consider degrees earned in the UK to be equal or better to those earned in North America”.[vii] “We can now say, unequivocally, that employers put significant value on an overseas educational experience…”.[viii]
Half the costs of leading private universities in the US
While wages are stagnating in the US, the costs of college have increased exorbitantly. Compared to leading private universities in the US, costs for a UK degree is approximately half of an American degree. Tuition, or ‘fees’ as they are called in the UK range from $21,000-$25,000 (17,600-20,500 pounds depending on major) while housing and other living costs extend between $11,000 to $14,000 (9,000-11,500 pounds). Overall, total cost per year is about $34,000-$40,000 compared to $60,000-$70,000 in the US. With the looming Brexit and the decline in the Sterling Pound, overall costs could be lower.
3-year undergrad programs
To save even more money, students in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland can earn a degree within three years. For students wishing to pursue a fourth year, there is an optional “sandwich course” that allows students to study or work abroad. Additionally, Master’s degrees (including MBAs) are one year in length compared to the usual two in the US.
Easy application process-–$30 and ONE essay
An often-overlooked reason to apply to the UK is the relative ease of their application process. For less than $30, a student can apply up to five universities under the UCAS system. The clincher in the entire process is that there is exactly one essay—no supplementary essay, no optional essay, no additional explanations, no short answers, no existential statements–just a 500-word personal statement on why a student wants to study a particular major and what evidence he or she has to support it.
(Please see article on UCAS and the Application Process for more details.)
Valuable international experience
According to Chad M. Gasta, professor of Spanish, his own research “shows that students who study abroad are better critical thinkers and problem solvers, more entrepreneurial and have better communication skills. They are also more tolerant and understanding. They have a greater appreciation for the arts, social issues and world events. They gain more insight into themselves and their lives. Study abroad makes students more marketable for top jobs…In fact, students who study abroad for a meaningful period of time make as much as 20 percent more money over the course of their careers.”[ix]
“Several major U.S. technology firms, such as Dell, Google and Microsoft, have stressed the need to find employees who are better-equipped to understand the global marketplace.”[x] After all, 95% of the world’s consumers are outside the United States.
Leading world institutions, tutorial method of learning, half the price of US private colleges, easy application process, valuable skills for employers: For these reasons, every student in America should seriously consider studying in the UK, not just for a year abroad, but for the entirety of his or her undergraduate years.
[i] Maldonado, Camilo. “Price of College Increasing Almost 8 Times Faster Than Wages.” Forbes, 24 July 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/camilomaldonado/2018/07/24/price-of-college-increasing-almost-8-times-faster-than-wages/#5ebbb27f66c1
[ii] Wong, Vanesa. “In 18 years, a college degree could cost about $500,000.” Buzzfeed News, CNBC, 17 Mar 2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/17/in-18-years-a-college-degree-could-cost-about-500000.html
[iii] Ripley, Amanda. “Why Is College in America So Expensive.” The Atlantic, 11 Sep 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/09/why-is-college-so-expensive-in-america/569884/
[iv] Best Universities in the World 2019.” Times Higher Education, 26 Sep 2018, https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/best-universities/best-universities-world
[v] Auerbach, Sascha. “Don’t be seduced by the US—UK universities offer a richer education.” The Guardian, 30 Jun 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/jun/30/uk-universities-better-education-dont-be-seduced-by-us
[vi] Auerbach, Sascha. “Don’t be seduced by the US—UK universities offer a richer education.” The Guardian, 30 Jun 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/jun/30/uk-universities-better-education-dont-be-seduced-by-us
[vii] “A Competitive Edge: Value of an international degree.” The British Council, https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/a-competitive-edge.pdf
[viii] Memis, Sharon. “A Competitive Edge: Value of an international degree.” The British Council, https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/a-competitive-edge.pdf
[ix] Gasta, Chad M. “More American students are studying abroad, new data show.” The Conversation, 13 Nov 2018, https://theconversation.com/more-american-students-are-studying-abroad-new-data-show-106678
[x] Gasta, Chad M. “More American students are studying abroad, new data show.” The Conversation, 13 Nov 2018, https://theconversation.com/more-american-students-are-studying-abroad-new-data-show-1066