In the US, solid states give bang for the buck

December 2, 2010

Alan Ryan tells us that even at £9,000 a year, higher education in the UK will still be cheaper than going to the University of California, Berkeley as an in-state student ("A big bang is off the cards", 25 November).

In the same issue of THE, Elizabeth Davis, an American studying at the University of St Andrews, asserts that her fellow nationals face paying roughly £31,0 a year "for an education of a quality that is hard to gauge" ("Law of the excluded middle", Letters).

A quick search on the web reveals a different reality: a Californian undergraduate attending Berkeley pays $12,460 a year (including health insurance) - under £8,000 at current exchange rates.

That sum allows students to attend one of the world's best universities, with facilities and resources that we in the UK can only dream of.

Just to give another example: Wisconsin students who attend their outstanding flagship university in Madison pay $8,313 (£5,333) a year, and 62 per cent of them receive some type of financial aid. The university shells out nearly $300 million a year in aid, more than $100 million of which goes to provide grants and scholarships rather than loans.

While it is true that out-of-state students pay a good deal more (as do those attending private colleges and universities), the US state-funded system offers millions of Americans an excellent education at a cost well below that which many English vice-chancellors are setting their sights on.

Derek Attridge, Department of English and related literature University of York.

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