Charging fees for international students is the wrong route to take
Current draft legislation drawn up by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts (MWK) provides for the introduction of tuition fees for international students and for second degrees as of winter semester 2017/18. CHE has commented on the draft legislation at the request of the MWK.
In its opinion of 13 January, CHE strongly criticises the planned legislation. Concrete implementation challenges, a negligible yield and a lack of an overall concept give the impression that tuition fees for international students and for students pursuing second degree programmes only is the wrong route to take.
First, the obligation to pay is not coupled to an entitlement to a loan or any other type of deferment. This route would fail to rule out obstacles to mobility for less well-off students as well as competitive disadvantages for higher education institutions (HEIs).
Second, HEIs are unlikely to receive an appreciable financial net income from the introduction of tuition fees. In fact, 80% of the proceeds from tuition fees for international students would be swallowed up by the Federal State budget; and the entire yield from fees for second degree programmes would disappear completely into state coffers. Ulrich Müller, Head of Policy Studies at CHE: “In view of the brake on debts that is enshrined in the Basic Law, revenue from fees should for the most part compensate for savings in the budget of the Ministry of Science. A fear that has always been associated with the introduction of student fees would then turn into reality – namely the concern that HEIs, and therefore students, would benefit only to a small extent or not at all from the additional resources.” But paying students would have to benefit from a service in return, i.e. it would be imperative for the vast majority of the revenue generated from charging student fees to be promptly channelled into better supervision, services and infrastructure. Such a relationship between performance and counter-performance concerning payment and benefit cannot be established using the intended model.
Third, according to CHE, a stringent, systematic overall picture is lacking in the Baden-Württemberg approach of students sharing the cost of their higher education. International students and students pursuing a second degree are to be made liable to pay tuition fees, continuing education programs are fee-based, and administrative cost contributions have repeatedly been appreciably increased ‒ Baden-Württemberg is therefore merely pursuing several partial solutions that are not very convincing. Müller: “Charging tuition fees from a relatively small subgroup of students ultimately means a lot of effort for little gain.”
CHE recommends a transition to a graduate contribution as a politically acceptable path. Müller: “It is comprehensible and correct that a person who benefits in many ways from higher education should also have to bear some of the costs incurred. But this fundamental idea should then be thought through systematically and applied to all students.” The approach involving deferred tuition fees for all students, where there would only be an obligation to pay if the graduate was capable of paying, i.e. once he has entered the job market and reached a certain income level, is a compelling approach that makes sense.