The Blog of Justin Loutsch

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About

I'm Justin, and I live in Boston. I'm a huge geek into process automation and work reduction, and am also an editor at Eat Your Serial. Thanks for dropping by!

I’m not sure how many of you know this, but all over Europe European students are occupying their universities in protest of classroom conditions and fees of (approximately) 300 euros per semester. I studied in Austria myself, and I know all about the conditions of their classrooms. I was in a class where many of us, myself included, had to sit on the floor because there were not enough desks and the class was over-registered. Another common problem is that many classes have way too many people registered at the beginning of the semester, and consequently the first day is spent just figuring out who will go and take the class next semester, and who will be allowed to stay. This really sucks. I completely agree with them that such conditions are not acceptable.

Where I disagree is the solution they are seeking. I’m not really a proponent of occupying the University, but honestly I couldn’t care less about it. They are doing this in an effort to create media coverage and get their demands out, which are basically that they want more classes, better seating and fewer students per class, and oh ya, they want all these things for free.

Maybe it’s just because I went to university in the United States, where we are used to paying exorbitant sums for our future. When I look at my view of college and that of most of my Austrian classmates’ it is clear that we don’t see eye to eye on this matter. For starters, the 2 universities I went to had a maximum number of seats available and would not let anyone else register without special permission from the professor. On top of this, it would not let you register for 2 classes if, say, they overlap at any time on the same day. So what this means for us is that we can only attend one class during a specified time, and be sure to have no more people than there are chairs available in that class. I think due to the fact that we pay so much for our education, many students think of attending class as “getting your money’s worth” and as some kind of an investment.

In Austria, it works a bit differently. There seems to be no cap on the class size, at least from my experiences. You can register for lectures regardless of the times they take place, and many people would often walk out of class early to attend that lecture or come late from one that just ended. I found this behavior extremely annoying. Worse yet, I feel that the free education they receive makes them feel entitled to many things. The average Austrian takes 6-8 years to finish their degree (for the males, this after 1 year of military service or 2 of civil service) and they often don’t get out of university until the age or 25 or 26. College is viewed as the best time of one’s life, where you should have as much fun as possible. I can’t count the number of times that I received emails from other students in my class (oh ya, they can mass email their entire class) asking for notes because someone had to leave early to go home, or they were sick, or just didn’t want to come to class. I hated those emails.

And when I say that the education is free in Austria, it was not when I attended. These 300 Euro fees were introduced somewhere around 2003 I think, and people hated them. I received an email last spring stating that because so many people complained about them, the fees were being removed starting summer of this year and that it would once again be free to attend university.

So to all of you protesting students out there, I say to you: suck it up. Maybe if you were paying for your education you would have some right to complain about the situation, but demanding free education is only going to make your problem worse. There will continue to be less and less money available to fix your problems, which only multiply as time goes on. Maybe once higher fees are introduced, people will begin to wonder if they really want to spend all that time and money on university, or if they should complete their degree a little faster, or even not go at all.

As long as you all can enroll for free, just remember how much we Americans are paying for the privilege of sitting in chairs during class.

8 Responses to “Fed up with Europeans protesting against their universities”

  1. This post seems very “I paid, so quit complaining when you don’t”. Everyone should have a right to free education. Everyone. Yes, even the Americans you say pay so much. Just because you have to pay it doesn’t mean that it’s right that you have to.

    I’m pretty sure that something could be simply arranged like the NHS here with National Insurance. Have a life long tax to fund government funded education for everyone.

    Dilandou

  2. I am sorry, but suck it up yourself. We have every right to protest about the situation, even if we don’t peay for it (what one third of students still has to do).

    It’s central europe my friend, it is consensus that the state has to provide the education for it’s population. We don’t like the anglo-american of a social system model. Social equality is an important value here. We also don’t demand circumstances like you find it at Harvard, but we demand better circumstances to study – and those would be easily possible.

    Additionally the problems in our system would by no means be solved, if you introduce fees – so your rant is pointless anyway. Austria is generally spending far less money on education than most other European countries. For decades the budget was reduced and got a smaller and smaller share of the GDP.

    (And when we had to pay fees, the government just cut the same amount that was brought in from their part of the budget.)

    Plus: The protests are not only directed against the introduction of tuition fees, but also against the de-democratization of universities, non-transparent budgets, and the permanent budget cuts in schools, kindergardens and universities, that we experience for many years now.

    Tom Schaffer

  3. 1. When something is free, demand is infinite. Supply of that thing will of course be constrained.
    2. Quality education costs money. Even if it’s just 300 Euros. If I went to a school that cost 300 bucks ber semester…my degree would be worthless.
    3. Nobody works for free, and the state doesn’t make people rich…unless they’re stealing the taxpayers to give to their friends, but that’s America.
    Poorly paid professors can’t be all that good.
    4. Don’t want to pay more? Then go get a job. You shouldn’t be in school anyway.

    Shawn

  4. @Shawn
    1. Introduce a dedicated education tax. Not so free, only mass paid for.
    2. Just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worthless. I point you towards Open Source as one example.
    3. Over here, at least, schools up until secondary school are government funded. Teachers don’t work for free there, why not extend that to further education?
    4. Seriously bad reasoning. You don’t want to/can’t pay more so you shouldn’t be educated? So only the rich, or poor eternally ever after, should be educated?

    Maybe i’ll take the time to mention the problem with paid further education we’re having here right now. Students who want to attend university are having massive financial problems. Student loans aren’t being paid out, grants are delayed, scholarships aren’t being handed out etc. Many students are having to drop out of uni because they simply can’t get hold of the necessary funds. Are these people who shouldn’t be in school anyway? Do they not have a right to that education they’re being denied because of financial issues beyond their control?

    Dilandou

  5. Dil, I’m gonna have to agree that that’s part of what I’m saying. But I’d also like to make the point that you get what your pay for, and I put forth that this is a very good example of that.

    Justin

  6. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be in school. They are perfectly willing to pay. There’s a distinction between willing to pay and able to pay.

    Nobody has a right to that education. By extension that means you force someone to teach that person at whatever rate the state is willing to pay.

    Anything you claim to be a right that obligates someone else to act on your behalf is not a right, it’s a privilege. The only thing you have a right to is a negative right – that which does not imply action on someone else’s part.

    Wikipedia: A positive right is a right to be subjected to an action of another person or group. In theory, a negative right forbids others from acting against the right holder, while a positive right obligates others to act with respect to the right holder.

    Saying you have a right to a free education means that A)you force someone else to pay for it and B)force someone else to provide it, perhaps at a rate they are unhappy with.

    You force someone else into servitude because you think you deserve a free education. That’s wrong.

    Sidenote

    We wouldn’t need government funded education if the government got out of the way. The minute the government began printing money out of thin air and providing student loans, colleges/universities increased tuition because they knew people could get the funding.

    Government funded college is just another way for more people to be dependent on the state instead of making their own way. As it is now, it is basically impossible for anyone to pay their own way through school in the U.S. If the government would restrain its spending, this wouldn’t be as big of a problem. But that’s a big if.

    Shawn

  7. In any case, the answer isn’t more taxes. That way lies ruin. I’ve been to France. The unemployment rate there is ridiculous because virtually everybody has a degree. Free education means everybody went to school. Too bad you can’t tax more jobs into existence huh? That money has to come from somewhere, and it will be from a productive person or business. One less job, or one less person spending money on a consumer good, leading to…one less job for the person that would have made that product! But hey, someone’s got a job digging a hole and someone else has a job filling that hole, supplied by the government.

    If the government would stop printing money out of thin air, our money supply would go back to a sustainable level. With such loose lending standards, pretty much anybody can get a loan to go to school.

    Still, should this change, I can’t say the schools will descrease their tuition overnight.

    As it is now, our economy depended on cheap consumer credit – witness $1000+ TVs as the new normal, while people no longer have the credit needed to purchase this stuff. The prices haven’t gone down any even though the reasons these prices were predicated on turned out to be false.

    Shawn

  8. My university wasn’t free it was 750euro/year.

    The flip side is that the tax rate in ireland is huge, 21% on any item you buy (almost) and a personal income tax of 17% for the people making the lowest.

    The other thing is the poorest don’t have to even pay the 750euro.

    Paying $300 or w/e for university doesnt make it worthless. University is what you make of it. Its not what they fill your head with its who you meet and how you get on with them. You learn that very quickly on your first day of “real” work.

    The rational for such filled classes is simple. Most people won’t continue to attened them the whole year around. Some of my classes started with 80 and only had 3 people attending during the term.

    I agree that they should try to keep education free while they can. But even our high tax goverment is feeling the burden of paying for education due to the recession and the extremly quick demise of property sales.

    The other side is as Shawn says when everybody has a degree unemployment can go up because well is somebody with a degree is too good to clean tables? I hope not..

    Pierce