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Monday 19 November 2018
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Going to School: Pay Day or Pay Nay?

Going to school is something almost all of us have done. Whether we loved it or hated it, we still had to go or risk our parents facing jail terms. (In all seriousness, this can actually happen, no joke). At some point in our journey through school, we’ve all probably heard someone say or we said, “I should get paid to go to school” as a joke but what happens when the joke becomes a reality? For post-high school (the UK’s equivalent of sixth form) students in Denmark, this is their reality- they can receive up to £1000 per month for up to 6 years just for attending university which they don’t have to pay back. Whilst this policy is not a new one, it being the time of year for university applications led me to re-encounter this policy and I began to muse over how and why is it enforced only in Denmark?

Why Was the Policy Introduced?

The main purpose of the policy was to ensure that a student’s social background didn’t hinder their academic opportunities and progress. Just like student loans in the UK, the grant value is dependent on the household income and includes the cost of travel and books. Without sounding cruel, why is it that there is a push for students to go into university? It all comes down to economics. Research has shown that populations with higher education levels have more booming economies. In Denmark, 76% of adults between ages 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high school degree. While this is slightly higher than the average of other OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, which is 74%, it is still less than that of the United States, where the rate is 89%. Denmark’s state-funded education grants are undoubtedly a move to fix this gap[1].

Policy Pros

It can be debated that this policy is having the desired effect on the Danish economy as the 2014 unemployment rate in Denmark was 4.2%, compared to 6.7% in the United States. As well as this, it is a known occurrence that being in education reduces a child’s rate of committing crime so overall the policy could potentially reduce their crime rates. Data from http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Denmark/United-States/Crime confirms this as Denmark’s crime levels are 23.44, compared to 55.84 of the United States on a scale of 0-100.

Policy Cons

However, some will not agree with this policy as school is an attempt to improve a student’s life so if they cannot be bothered to attend without an incentive, the issue lies with them. Adding on to this, whilst money is important, school offers more than just education but an opportunity for students to grow self-confidence and branch themselves out as individuals. Being paid to attend school almost makes it like a job- something they must do as well as something they do not necessarily enjoy. This can arguably lead to a cyclical life with no true meaning or simply following the pursuit of money. It also goes without saying that a policy like this does put a financial strain on the government and may likely result in an increased rate of tax.

Should the UK Adopt this Policy?

As nice as the policy sounds, I feel there are many reasons explaining why this policy would only work in Denmark. If these reasons weren’t clear enough for you, here’s a picture summarising the points:

It seems as enticing as the policy appears, there are more factors involved in the introduction of this policy making it not as great as it first appears. What can be taken from this is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is; always remember to read into schemes and deals like this before you end up moving to Denmark and can’t afford to pay for gas for your car!

[1] https://mic.com/articles/86635/this-country-pays-its-citizens-to-finish-high-school#.HBhUBshvr