I gave a talk today to the faculty, staff, and students; everyone was invited and quite a few showed up. The talk, or colloquium, was about Higher Education in America. The colloquium is a time honored tradition where scholars get together and learn from each other for the sake of learning. Often, but not always, it is about the research that a scholar is pursuing, or to discuss the publication that resulted from that pursuit. Today I spoke about the different types of colleges and universities, for-profit or not, 2-year and 4-year, technical and liberal arts, etc. Then we talked about who paid for college.
The Russian were quite taken back by the debt that students incur in America. The average American student has somewhere around $30,000 of debt by the time they leave college. This is difficult for people in Russia to comprehend when college tuition is free or very cheap compared to what people pay in America. It got me thinking: everything we have and everyone’s salary at a university (Russian or American) has to be paid for by someone, either tax dollars or tuition. American students are leaving college under crushing debt. Russian students have none. Granted, there are fundamental differences, but there are some choices being made also.