The Difference Between College in the U.S. and Denmark

October 26th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

The cost of a college education in America is on the rise. Between skyrocketing tuition and housing fees, the average college student in the U.S. leaves with $28,400 in student loan debt. And while President Obama has called for reform measures such as free community college for two years, college affordability remains one of the biggest concerns for young voters.

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Enter Denmark. The northern European country stands in stark contrast to the U.S. when it comes to higher education, and as frustration with the American system continues to grow, many are turning to Denmark as an example of how to run colleges that are both effective and affordable. In fact, Danish students are paid an average of $900 per month to attend university for up to six years.

This meme nails the incredible difference between college in the U.S. and Denmark.


Did you hear the American student body collectively gasp? In order to qualify for the Danish financial program, all students have to do is live away from home, and they don't have to pay the government back. The idea of being paid to learn is about as distant from our country's approach to higher education as it gets—and yet it seems to be working for the Danes.

"The aim of the support scheme is to ensure that it is not the social and economic standing of potential students but abilities and interests that decides about educational success," Mads Hammer Larsen, a spokesperson for the Danish Ministry of Education, told the Washington Post.

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While some opponents have argued that offering free education to Danish students encourages them to pursue degrees that are less essential to the success of the country's economy—i.e. the liberal arts—that claim has been challenged by researchers who say that the country has faced virtually no negative economic consequences from the program. Denmark has one of the highest tax rates in the world, but it also has one of the lowest unemployment rates.

As it happens, Denmark's youth unemployment rate sits at 11 percent; in the U.S. it's more than 12 percent.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has voiced his support for tuition-free public college in the U.S., citing Denmark as one of the leaders in higher education. "The United States, in size, culture, and the diversity of our population, is a very different country from Denmark," Sanders wrote in a blog post. "Can we, however, learn some important lessons from them? You bet we can."

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Posted by ATTN: on Friday, August 28, 2015