Denmark Students Paid to Go to College – Should America Follow This Trend?


In the United States, student pay at least $60,000 per year for college. Denmark, on the other hand, pays the students to attend college.

Under the Statens Uddannelsesstøtte program, “Every Dane over the age of 18 is entitled to public support for his or her further education – regardless of social standing.” Every month, a student who does not live with their parents gets about 5,839 Danish kroes, or $900 a month. Even if they decide to drop out of college, they don’t have to pay anything to the state. Also, student achievers enjoy more funding opportunities.

While Danish students get to choose a course and a career path without financial issues, American students rely at the mercy of a national tuition arms race and suffer the future of lifelong debt. Obviously, Denmark must be an example for the policy makers of the country as they prepare plans to address the rising cost of higher education.

Denmark’s Education Program

The Statens Uddannelsesstøtte program monthly allowance is a result of the Scandinavian social democratic model, where exceptionally high tax rates are used to finance improving social services from childcare to public transportation. Among all rich countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Denmark tops the list of countries with 60% personal income tax rate on its highest earners.

Mads Hammer Larsen, the press spokesperson for the Danish Ministry of Education, explained to the Washington Post, “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”.

Because of Denmark’s model for financing higher education that spoils students, conservative critics have argued. For them, the government’s generosity leads the students to fixate on the comforts of a better career at the expense of the job market. However, in contrast to the rumors, Denmark’s youth unemployment rate is lower than most of Europe and the United States’.

Basically, there is insufficient evidence that Denmark’s choice of making higher education a comfortable financial experience is destroying the new generation of Dane workers. Given the fact of a high educational performance statistics, Danish graduates are entering the world of employment quite well.

A Comparison of Two Nations’ Educational Programs

The American model and the Danish model are universes apart. In the past three decades, there has been a 500% increase in college expense that has caused former students to think about higher education at a much new perspective.

Based on the 2014 report of the Institute for College Access and Success, Danish students graduate without any debt at all, while about 70% of the 2013 student population of America completed college with a debt of $28,400 on average.

Last year, the default rate of student loans in the United States was already 13.7%, which is about one percent lower than 2013. Nevertheless, it is still extremely high. These default rates are measures of insight that tells about the usefulness of a career in the job market, as well as the imbalance between the education costs and the returns provided.

Today, about 40 million Americans hold a combined student debt of $1.2 trillion. And for many, these numbers are crippling. The numbers are so high that they have to think of repayment as an endless task. Though others manage to pay after several decades, still, the rates are affecting other investments, such as housing. While many believe that college is still a worthy investment as it opens up doors for better opportunities of attaining higher pay, many disillusioned workers are looking at the possibility of seeing high-quality education for a little or no cost.

The Reason Danes are Paid to Attend College

23-year-old Danish engineering student Louis Moe Christoffersen has tried what it was studying in the United States. He arrived in Baltimore around January for an exchange semesters. At that time, he immediately noticed a great difference – everything was way too expensive.

“It’s like somebody is paying you a salary for going to your college classes,” Christoffersen shared his student life back at home. He also added that plenty of shops and companies give special students for buses, museums, trains, and cinemas.


Another Danish student Astrid Winther Fischer, who attends college at Denmark Technical University, explained “Some Danish think that we spend the money we receive in bars and clubs, but most students understand what is at stake: The scheme’s existence is crucial to enable an excellent education for everybody, no matter how much their parents make.”

Many European countries like Germany have similar programs, however, theirs are run by private companies. For example, there are companies that offer dual degree programs, which involve semesters spent in a college environment and practical training at work. The students are the paid by the companies with  their salaries, even if they are still studying. This way, companies are able to develop and discover promising and aspiring talents earlier.

But, for many Danes, access to education has never been an issue as the government takes takes full responsibility. They believe that it must not be left in the hands of private companies or universities.



Could free college education hurt the economy?

Today, there are industries facing shortage of suitable graduates. Some engineering companies have even spoken about their discontent with the higher education system in Denmark. They believe that if students were forced to pay, this would push them to choosing more technical and scientific courses, which guarantee higher average incomes upon graduation. Other industries have just asked the government to focus their efforts on universities and courses that generate better jobs and growth.

Michael Almer, vice president for human resources at Novozymes, a top Danish biotechnology company, told the Washington Post, “A lack of talents would limit the growth of both the economy and particular companies. Our government needs to be smart about which types of education are funded — we need more engineering and science students.” He also added that companies themselves must do something so that they would look like attractive employers.

But, contrary to the notion of many countries, Denmark hasn’t faced any negative economic consequences. So, whether or not America follows Denmark’s free higher education program, its success will greatly depend on the people and the leaders.

Learn more about the education programs in Denmark:

What it’s like studying in Denmark:

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