What I Learned About Denmark While I was in Peru
“Not only are students charged no tuition fees, but all Danish citizens (and many others meeting certain criteria) are offered monthly financial aid, known as “SU” (Statens Uddannelsesstøtte, meaning State Educational Support), amounting for each student to about DKK 950 monthly if the student lives with his/her parents or guardians, and they have high incomes, and about DKK 5,486 monthly if the student lives away from his/her parents or guardians.”
One thing I enjoy about traveling is meeting other travelers from countries around the world. I learn a lot about their countries, and it also turns out I learn a lot about the US. I met a girl who was from Denmark and traveling and I asked her a lot about how things work in Denmark.
She explained to me that — not only do you not have to pay to go to college — you get paid.
In the US meanwhile, there is a student debt crisis, with most people unable to afford college, and many struggling to pay back loans years later. The system in Denmark is so diametrically opposed to the way in the US, but is so clearly superior. Not only that — the results bear it out — the education system in Denmark is ranked among the highest. Denmark is #2 on the education index, the US is #8 ([source]) … but in the US there is $1.5 trillion of student loan debt (, ).
I feel it needs repeating to understand how much different and better this system is.
Not only do these students not have massive crippling debt, they get paid to go to college.
They get paid about $150/month if they live with their parents or $850/month if they live on their own.
The average debt of a student borrower in the US is $37,000 ([source]) and in Denmark over four years… you end up up $40,000.
This shows you how we think of things in the US. To get an education in the US, go $40k into debt. To get an education in Denmark, you get paid $40k (I estimated this from $850/month * 12 months * 4 years).
And on healthcare, in Denmark they spend $5,205/person — and everyone is covered. Compare that to the US where spending is $9,892, and people still pay significantly more and get significantly less. She just has a health card, and goes to the doctor, and doesn’t pay and it’s covered by taxes. Sounds so simple and … sensible. [source]
Sometimes it’s just clear when other countries have better systems for doing things, that are far better than in the US, and these ideas should be adopted. When it comes to education and health care, in Denmark it is just better.
In the US, the view of our culture is to get basic public services like education and health care you may need to go into massive debt or pay huge amounts, with system costs that are much more and provide much less.