You can buy a new Bentley for the price of a 4-year degree at a Sydney university

You can buy a new Bentley for the price of a 4-year degree at a Sydney university
Only for the rich. Source: Shutterstock

They say education makes you rich.

However, judging by how much it costs to go to college in these cities, it seems as if you have to be rich first, in order to get an education.

Monthly living and studying costs for international students at Boston, Sydney and London start from USD4,600 per month, according to a newly released report on tuition, accommodation and living costs for international students in 20 cities by Savills World Research and student accommodation provider

If that monthly figure is multiplied by four academic years (the common duration for a degree in the US, UK and Australia), it comes up to a grand total of around US$220,000.

That’s about the same price for this year’s Bentley luxury car models, prices of which start from US$200,000 each.

Luxurious education. Source: Shutterstock

Compare that with what it costs to study in mainland European cities like Prague, Berlin, Vienna and Warsaw, where costs are among the lowest and a fraction of prices in cities at the top of the table – tuition is minimal and accommodation are half the average of the 20 cities studied.

This issue of having to dig really deep into our pockets to attend university is not new. US Senator Bernie Sanders has been calling for university to be made free as early as 2014, if not earlier. In an op-ed in Washington Post, the former Democratic Party nominee echoed the UN Human Rights enshrining education as a basic human right:

“An education should be available to all regardless of anyone’s station.”

Sanders isn’t a commie nutjob out of his mind with this proposition. Universally available education has been proposed since 1877, by US President Rutherford B. Hayes who said in his inaugural address that “Universal suffrage should rest upon universal education” and that “liberal and permanent provision should be made for the support of free schools”.

The US now has universal access to free, public schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, as Sanders notes. But beyond that, the costs of attending college is so high that the average 2016 American college graduate has US$37,000 in student loan debt, according to Yale University’s magazine YaleGlobal

Total federal student loan debt in the US, at US$1.3 trillion, is triple what it was a decade ago. Such disquieting record levels of debt are happening in Australian, Canada, Norway and Sweden too.

International students have it just as bad too, if not worse. In Australia, they pay up to 400 percent more than Australians for higher education – the price of a luxury supercar or a house located in Albany, a city two hours away from the glitter of Manhattan city by car and perhaps several houses in less expensive real estate markets elsewhere.

A generation ago, these sky-high prices may be justified by the value of the degree you get at the end of it. Getting a degree from a first-world nation like Australia was highly valuable back then when students return to their developing or so-called third world countries. Even better was scoring a job in their country of study itself.

But is going to university today really going to make you “tomorrow’s leaders” or be the first step towards solving humanity’s “greatest challenges” given how credentials no longer have the value they used to with twice as many students attending university today?

Or forget these lofty ideals, will these graduates even be guaranteed a job that pays enough for them to repay their debts and make a decent living, when even locals are struggling to get one themselves in their country of study and where back in their home country, youth unemployment is in the double digits?

In the face of this, applying to a university in Finland or Norway, countries where university is free and their academic quality recognised, never looked more attractive.

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