On July 10, 2016 the New York Times featured an article on the situation of student loans in Australia. Susan Dynarski painted a rosey picture for Australia’s loan situation whilst looking closely at the alarming Americans who owe $1.3 trillion in student loans and the more than seven million people who are in default on their student loans.

The New York Times article states that, “ In Australia, income inequality is much higher than in Sweden. Yet while students borrow about as much as they do in the United States (30,000 Australian dollars, or about $22,000), the system works smoothly because borrowers pay nothing until their earnings reach about $40,000. Above that threshold, borrowers pay 4 percent of their income until the debt is paid off. Payments rise and fall automatically with earnings.” The contrast is clear, because in the United States, there is no payment variance. Additionally, in Australia payments are automatically withdrawn from the paycheck, and not submitted via a separate payment form.8

It begs that while Australia seems to be doing quite well with student loans with the average student paying off their loan in 8 to 12 years, a further look at other countries and the state of their student loans is needed.

Britain

Valuecolleges states that, “ In England, the most a university can charge for a single year is limited to £9,000 (more than $14,000 in USD); currently three-quarters of the universities in England are charging the maximum, costing the average student £8,647 in 2014. In the United Kingdom, the government expects the value of outstanding loans to reach over £100 billion (2014-15 prices, $150 million in USD) by 2018, with a protracted prediction of £330 billion (2014-15 prices, $516 million in USD) by 2050. “ So they are near or beyond the disarray of the United States student loan situation.

Good News for Germany and Finland

Germany has a shortage of skilled professional workers; so in order to attract German college students, as well as global college students, the country has tuition free colleges and universities.

In Finland, the colleges are also free of tuition charge, but students must pay for their housing accommodations. And if the language of the professor is not Swedish or Finnish, non-EU students will be assessed further fees.

Closer to Home: Canada

In Canada, the average student graduates with a loan debt of $28,000.00 The Canadian Federation of Student’s states that, “Post-secondary education is effectively a requirement to succeed in today’s labour market. Unfortunately, while the demand for education has increased, public funding has failed to keep up. Public funding shortfalls have resulted in a significant growth of costs that have been downloaded onto individual students, namely in the form of high tuition fees. From 1990 to 2014, national average tuition fees have seen an inflation-adjusted increase of over 155%. In Ontario, tuition fees have increased over 180%. For most students—often having spent little time fully active in the workforce—funding their education has become increasingly difficult. Many students must now take on significant levels of debt to pay for their education. Students requiring a Canada Student Loan now graduate with an average debt of over $28,000. “

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The plan to ease this burden is to evaluate other existing educational programs, cut those that are ineffective, and then revamp the current loan programs to be more realistic and payable. Additionally, with an increase in the market the debt should decrease.

Russia

Russia actually offers more students loans to non-Russians than to Russians in an attempt to improve global Russian relations. Inquistr notes that Russia gives out scholarships and state sponsored loans to 15,000 foreign college students. Russia does rank fourth in the world for young adults with a college education, so the plan must be working. However, the average debt for a student graduating in Russia is a little over $25,000.00.

So while the New York Times article “America Can Fix Its Student Loan Crisis. Just Ask Australia” focused on Australia, there are many countries that offer free tuition to students; in fact there are over 40 countries that include Argentina, Denmark, Greece, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, Uruguay, Scotland and also Turkey. And there are also many other countries that are struggling with student loan debt situations similar to the United States.

Dynarski finishes her piece with this warning, “ What’s special about the United States is not how much we borrow. What’s exceptional is that we have turned manageable debt into a financial disaster for millions. The repayment system in the United States was built when students borrowed little; many did not borrow at all. Other countries have overhauled their loan systems to reflect changing times. The United States has not, and borrowers are paying the price. ”