One of the most shocking things that this reporter has ever said to a European person was that the government did not pay for her educational trip abroad.
In Vermont, students get scholarship money a variety of ways including by earning good grades. They also get financial aid money based on need.
The majority of students pay for the rest of their higher education by taking out loans from the bank, which they have to pay back later in life.
In other countries, though, higher education is free, or almost free to all students.
When professors heard that an American student had to pay over $10,000 to study abroad at their university, they were speechless.
“You mean the government didn't pay for the entire trip for you?” said Eugenia Gomez, a Spanish language professor at the University of Malaga, Spain.
“I paid for the entire trip myself,” said Karah Huntsinger, and American student from South Carolina who is studying at UMA.
Huntsinger goes to a small school in South Carolina called Coker College and she doesn't get any scholarships or financial aid from her college.
She had to take out a $5,000 loan and work 65 hours a week this summer in order to study abroad.
In Spain, if you pass the exam at the end of your high school career, with a grade of a 5 or better (Spanish grading systems are a scale from 1-10) you can be accepted into any public university with no tuition cost whatsoever.
The rules are slightly different though, when it comes to private versus public schools, but for the most part, higher education in Spain is free.
“I think it is better this way because it gives everyone an equal opportunity to go to college and get a good job,” said Paqui Abascal, another professor from UMA. “Jobs are hard to come by in Spain for young people.”
While equal opportunity education sounds like the main goal, Spanish people also have to take into account where the government funding is coming from.
“The government gets their money from the people. We have nearly the same tax percentage as the United States, but our average income is about half of the U.S,” Abascal said.
It is clear in Spain that the job market really opens up for those who have a college degree. It is the same in the United States. If you have a college degree, the chances are that you will receive a better job than someone who does not.
It is difficult for the Spanish people to understand that in the U.S education is something to strive for, but also something that could break the bank.
“I don't understand why American's college tuition is so expensive,” Gomez said. “If a degree is something that so many students strive for, why don't they make it easier for them to get it?”
“America is a big country. If the government paid for every student to go to college, the cost of living would be so high because the taxes would be so expensive everywhere,” said Charlotte Hendriks, a student from Netherlands. “America is already very expensive.”
As the debate went on, students and teachers realized that this is the discussion that America has been having for countless years. There are people who want free higher education, but can't seem to figure out where the money is going to come from.
“Although free education sounds amazing, and being able to study abroad without having to pay is like the ultimate dream, but the fact is, we aren't there yet, and neither are the Americans,” said Leena Kang, a student from London. “We don't have free education either, and look how expensive our country is already. Can you imagine if we made the residents pay for out education too?”
“In reality, the money has to come from somewhere. It's just a matter of whether or not you want to make the students pay for it, or divide it up between the residents of the country,” Huntsinger said. “When you think about it, the government doesn't pay for either of our educations. It's the people who are paying, just in different ways.”