I’ve been in the United States for over 20 years and I still haven’t taken the step of taking on American Citizenship. Why? In a nutshell: Education. Not for me (mine served me fine), but for my children. By clinging on to my Dutch citizenship, I keep the door open for my kids to get their advanced education in Europe. Why? Because, even if at par with the US, it comes at a fraction of the price. Tuition at any college/university in the Netherlands is around $2,300 annually.
Is college that much different?
Are colleges and Universities better in the US? Not in general; some surely are (if by prestige only), many are at par and some don’t come close. Even the most prestigious ones can come in third, when it came to designing the SpaceX Hyperloop pod, (the University of Delft beat MIT).
When it comes to cost and ROI (return on investment, and yes, college is an investment of both time and money), the scale easily tips in favor of Europe.
Average annual tuition for college in the US: $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges. These are tuition, we’re not even adding cost of living.
Average annual tuition for college/University in the Netherlands: €2.006 ($2,386.96). Other European countries come in cheaper or come free!
New students, as of 2016 in the Netherlands no longer receive an automatic scholarship (I did, when I went to college in the amount of some $400/month). Now, students have to borrow money, but the conditions are pretty favorable. Here are some statistics:
- Maximum allowed amount per month one can borrow: €1034.85 ($1,231.42)
- Average amount borrowed (full course): €13,000.00 ($15,469) for undergrad/€19,000.00 ($22,609) grad
- Time allowed to pay off loan 35 years
- Payments never to exceed 4% of annual income (unless you wish to pay off fast)
- Interest 0% (THAT’S RIGHT NO INTEREST AS OF 2016)
Keep in mind that tuition doesn’t exceed $2,386. These loans mostly cover living expenses while in school. A cunning person might consider enrolling into college at a mere cost of $9,544 to secure an $50,000/35 year/0% loan. And it’s done; over there they call that “Loan to savings”.
I can’t really speak for quality of college education but when it comes to Non-higher education (elementary/high school), I have doubt it’s better over there. A dirty little secret (one I haven’t let my kids in on yet); a US high school diploma is not good enough to get into a European college. A US high school graduate requires either entry exams (if available) or at least 2 years of US college before being accepted to the first year of college in the Netherlands.
Here’s my beef with US High schools: Every kid be it, short, tall, on the Spectrum, OCD, ADHD, intelligent or not-so-intelligent, proficient at learning or not so proficient at learning, goes through one and the same educational path. I hate to say it but when it comes to intelligence or the ability to learn (two completely different things, btw), we’re not all created equal . Yet, each child from age 4 thru 18 in the US sits in the exact same class room and is taught the exact same curriculum. This means, some are either severely over-served (more than they can handle) and/or some are severely under-served when it comes to knowledge. Sure, some schools have special- education and advanced learning tracks but these are purely at the discretion of the school and dependent on budgets.
I recently explained in a nutshell over at Freedom Is Groovy what preparatory education looks like in the Netherlands and I will elaborate on it here.
In the Netherlands, all kids go through Kindergarten and elementary school just like US kids do but, in 6th grade thing get VERY different from the US school system. In 6th grade every kids takes a test know as the CITO Toets. Think of it as an SAT for your 12 year-old.
The results from this test along with limited teacher’s input will determine what level of education you go to (this is were every US kid automatically flows into one and the same high school).
From this point on a Dutch kid goes to one of the following levels of education:
- VMBO which stands for Preperatory Middle Level Vocational Education. It lasts for 4 years. It provides vocational training and theoretical education at a, let’s say, easy to understand level. After this track, a student (age 16 if all went well) can flow into either the workforce or can continue his/her education into MBO (additional 2 years of vocational training).
- HAVO which stands for Higher Administative Continued Education. It lasts for 5 years, after which you can roll into the workforce, continue on to either HBO (undergraduate/bachelor) or flow into VWO
- VWO which stands for continued scientific Education. It focuses on the sciences lasts for 6 years after which can roll directly into WO (Graduate/masters) or opt for HBO (Bachelors).
As consolidation takes it’s toll everywhere, some of the different tracks are housed in the same physical buildings but as a rule of thumb a student in one track will never share the same class room as one on a different track. These tracks are all taught at different levels.
As I mentioned earlier, intelligence does not equate proficiency of learning. With that in mind even a student that started in VMBO (the lowest level) can make it all the way to HBO/WO but would take several years longer to do so.
I think a chart explains it better than words can (each block represents one school year):
I hope you understand, that given the system I come from, US high school looks a little one-size-fits-all to me. Combined with the fact that every student needs to promote to the next level, I see two things happening: Less proficient students will take up more time from teachers, leaving the more proficient learners under-served and/or lesser proficient students are promoted regardless of progress and subsequently cause more issues upstream (like maybe an incredibly high college drop-out level). I think it’s more of an “and” than “or” situation.
So there you have it. A glimps in education done differently elsewhere. For those Dutch reader, correct me where I screwed up (it has been over 20 years for me) for the local US reader, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Good luck reaching your financial goals.