[ExI] the formerly rich and their larvae...

Amara Graps amara at amara.com
Mon Feb 11 05:46:25 UTC 2008

>Oh?  Do explain, Amara.  In other countries, do not students need to borrow
>money to pay their tuition?

I had no tuition at the University of Heidelberg, as did no other
students during the years that I was there. I should add 'obviously'.
After my California B.S. and M.S. degrees, where I was still paying
debts ,and had no desire to accumulate tens of thousands of dollars of
debt for my PhD, I was significantly motivated by Germany's free tuition
(and the fact that I only needed 3 years to finish) to move out of the
US to Germany to make my PhD with my advisor. The other good things that
followed regarding my advisor, our research group, the culture(s),
Europe, and so on, added to my wanting to stay, which I did, beginning
my ten years of European life.

In most of Europe, until just a few years ago, a free university
education is/was a basic 'right'.

But several years ago (after I finished), some or all of the German
universities started charging a fee (very small), following the lead of
the UK, where the universities are undergoing large changes in their fee

>I expect students to be in debt, regardless of where they are from:

Do you know that this makes me feel kind of sick? Not you directly, but
at a culture where these kinds of expectations are part of mainstream
thinking. It is a philosophical issue on the other side of the Atlantic.
I think few people in Europe would understand why a 'civilized', western
society would want to burden a young person, who is just starting their
independent lives, with a thousands or tens of thousands of euros debt.

>they are
>usually young, so they could not have had much time to save a pile of money.
>Even if they go to a school in which the state pays most of the tuition,
>they still need to cover their living expenses.

And when, around your PhD thesis work, do you have time to work enough
to live?

OK, _I_ worked thirty hours/wk at my NASA scientific programming job
while I carried a full physics graduate student coarse at San Jose
State, and I slept on average 4 hours a night for about six years with
no medical benefits, no time off, and no life. And then, two years
later, I suffered a work injury (repetitive strain injury) that forced
me to quit my job, and was out of work for two years while I went on
California's worker's compensation and tried hard to heal myself. At the
end, the result is a 20% permanent loss of strength in my hands and

California paid alot of money from that result, and I paid with my
health and more debt. Do you honestly think the US system is better for
young people (or in my case, middle-aged people)?

Four years later, when I moved to Germany for my PhD, I, and my
co-students at Max-Planck Institute Kernphysik did not have to cover our
living expenses. My advisor gave me (and his other students) a PhD
student stipend which was enough money to leave on. Far from
extravagant, of course, but still enough. The money for my living
stipend came partly from the German government and partly from his DLR
research grants. Mine was a typical German PhD student situation.


Amara Graps, PhD      www.amara.com
Research Scientist, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado

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