Open seminar: The Political Economy of Higher Education Tuition Fees and Subsidies

Presenter is Julian Garritzmann, University of Konstanz, Germany.

Julian Garritzmann (photo: private)


Why do students in some countries pay so much for college while students in other countries study free of charge and even get high public financial support? This paper provides an answer by analyzing the politics of higher education tuition fees and subsidies. Applying cluster analyses to a genuine dataset of 33 OECD-countries, I demonstrate first that four “Worlds of Student Finance” can be distinguished: a low-tuition-low-subsidy regime (continental Europe); a low-tuition-high-subsidy system (Nordic Europe); a high-tuition-high-subsidy world (Anglo-Saxon countries); and a high-tuition-low-subsidy regime (some Asian and some Latin American countries). What are the political and economic driving forces that shaped and sustained these regimes? This question is especially puzzling because the higher education systems in most countries were similar in the direct post-WW-II period.

My argument is that the partisan composition of government and especially the sequence and duration in which parties of the left and right were in office explain the four worlds of student finance. Empirically, I begin by illustrating my arguments in brief case studies of typical cases (Germany, Finland, the U.S., Japan), focusing on the critical junctures in the developments of these systems. Secondly, I conduct cross-section and time-series-cross-sectional-regressions to test my arguments on how the composition and sequencing of parties in government shaped the four worlds of student finance. Finally, analyses of survey data demonstrate that the existing tuition-subsidy regimes feedback on individual preferences, which makes them immune to change once they are established, explaining why the systems hardly have changed during the last decades anymore. In sum, the paper offers an explanation of the politics of tuition fees and subsidies.

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ExCID (formerly HEIK)
Published Feb. 18, 2015 12:04 PM - Last modified Apr. 16, 2015 3:02 PM