Why are so many Americans coming to Germany to Study?

About a month ago, two reporters from WGBH Boston visited the Rhineland to do a story on German higher education. While they were here, they took some time out to shadow a trip I was going on to scout out some destinations for our upcoming College Visit in June. The story came out yesterday, and I was very pleased at how well the NPR team presented the reasons why so many Americans are moving to Germany to study.

The initial reason that they wanted to talked to me was to discuss the fact that German universities no longer charge tuition fees. I made the point that this was only one of many reasons to consider studying here, but one of the students they interviewed at the University of Cologne made a good point about the pure economics that drive many people decision to come here. 

I wouldn’t have studied my master’s in the United States, just the cost was not an option. I have enough debt from studying my undergrad, so I didn’t want to pile that on. But when I found this program. I realized it could be an actual option.
— Rachel Smith, University of Cologne Grad Student

At the same time, those who only consider studying in Germany for the price might not be taking into account the scale of the challenge they're taking on. At most German universities, you won't have the kind of creature comforts we've come to expect in American higher education, and you'll likely have to deal with culture shock, loneliness, and home-sickness, something not everyone is ready for.

One of the things you have to consider is that you’re going to cry, a lot. You’re going to miss home a ton.
— Delisha Duran, University of Siegen Exchange Student

That being said, there's a reason why the number of Americans studying full-time in Germany has doubled in the past five years. Students here have come to expect consistency, which comes from the egalitarian approach to education in Germany and the broadly shared consensus that everyone should have access to an education. 

With all due respect, [America has] the best colleges but [it also has] some of the worst. There’s probably a new sort of class divide between people who get there and who don’t get there, where as in Germany basically most everybody who wants to go to an average college can go there and get a decent education.
— Prof. Frieder Wolf, University of Heidelberg