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Tuition payments, usually known as tuition in American English and as tuition fees in Commonwealth English, are fees charged by education institutions for instruction or other services. Besides public spending (by governments and other public bodies), private spending via tuition payments are the largest revenue sources for education institutions in some countries. In most countries, especially countries in Scandinavia and Continental Europe, there are no or only nominal tuition fees for all forms of education, including university and other higher education.
Some of the methods used to pay for tuition include:
- Company sponsorship or funding
- Government student loan
- Educational loan (private)
- Family (parental) money
Countries such as South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom have “up-front tuition policies." These policies generally include a tuition fee that is large enough to give parents or guardians "a responsibility to cover some portion of their children’s higher education costs." This responsibility can make it difficult for a low-income student to attend college without requiring a grant or one or more loans.
Tuition fees in the United Kingdom were introduced in 1998, with a maximum permitted fee of £1,000. Since then, this maximum has been raised to £9,000 in most of the United Kingdom, while Scotland has abolished tuition.
College tuition in the United States is one of the costs of a post-secondary education. The total cost of college is called the cost of attendance (or, informally, the "sticker price") and, in addition to tuition, can include room and board and fees for facilities such as books, transportation, or commuting provided by the college.
French tuition fees are capped based on the level of education pursued, from 183 Euros per year for undergraduate up to 388 for doctorates. Some public universities have autonomous status, meaning that they can charge much higher tuition, and all private universities charge tuition.
In the German Education system almost all universities and most universities of applied sciences are funded by the state and do not charge tuition fees. In exceptional cases universities may offer courses for professionals (e.g. executive MBA programs), which may require tuition payment. Some local governments have recently decided that students from non-EU countries can be charged, although ERASMUS students, students from developing countries and other special groups are exempt.  In addition, some private institutions of higher education run on a tuition-based model.
In Greece there are no tuition fees as Bachelor-level higher education and Master-level post-graduate education is provided for free to all Hellene (Greek) citizens as a benefit of citizenship paid by taxes. However, universities accept very few students who have excelled at high school, with the selection being done through the Panhellenic Examinations, a system of state-administered examinations in which the chance of failure is very high and thus only a small percentage of students is able to pass and there is a limit to the number of students that can be accepted each year. Furthermore, it is difficult for mature students to be accepted at universities. Doctorate-level higher education is often also provided for free, but some universities may charge fees for PhD degrees. Students who are unable to pass the Panhellenic Examinations in a few attempts are effectively banned for life from the Greek university system and those who want a higher education must resort to registering at private universities (called colleges, κολέγια), which charge tuition fees, or emigrate to other countries in order to get an education. Some students who excel academically in school but fail to get a good "ethics performance mark" are disqualified from entering the Panhellenic Examinations because of non-academic factors, since the Greek educational system also marks the student's "ethics performance" (διαλογή, dialogi) rather than only his or her academic performance. For example, an unruly student or a student caught cheating or drinking may receive a disqualifying mark in his or her "ethics performance", which can disqualify the student from entering university (or in extreme cases from continuing in the high school) even if the student has excellent academic skills.
Tuition is charged at different rates from one type of institution to the next. Net tuition indices mark an increase in the “relative real burden” for payments at various types of institutions for higher education; in the period between 1980 and 1995; example, this burden increased by approximately 80 percent for students at public universities and by 148 percent for students at private universities.
Most students or their families who pay for tuition and other education costs do not have enough savings to pay in full while they are in school. Some students must work or borrow money to afford an education. In the United States, student financial aid is available to defray the cost of a post-secondary education: “Financial aid is typically thought to exert the most influence in [attendance], when admitted students consider whether to enroll in a particular institution.” It is often the case that the lower the cost of the school, the more likely a student is to attend.
Developed countries have adopted a dual scheme for education; while basic (i.e. high-school) education is supported by taxes rather than tuition, higher education usually requires tuition payments or fees.
People may purchase tuition insurance to protect themselves from fees related to involuntary withdrawal (illness, death of a parent or guardian, etc.)
In medieval Europe, universities were mainly institutions of the Catholic Church. As they mainly trained clergy, most of these universities did not have any need to exact fees from the students with one notable exception: during the 12th century, while under the supervision of Pierre le Mangeur, the University of Paris began collecting two sous weekly in tuition.
Later, the main duty of universities in most Protestant countries was the training of future civil servants. Again, it was not in the interest of the state to charge tuition fees, as this would have decreased the quality of civil servants. On the other hand, the number of students from the lower classes was usually kept in check by the expenses of living during the years of study, although as early as the mid-19th century there were calls for limiting the university entrance by middle-class persons. A typical family, however, could not afford educating a child or young adult, even if the education itself was free. A similar situation exists today in many Third World countries, where the expenses of "free" schooling (food, books, school uniform, etc.) prevent some children from attending any school.
After World War II the tuition systems of all of today's advanced democracies still were highly similar: Education institutions in all countries charged no or only very low tuition fees. It was not before the 1950s that the countries' education systems developed in different directions. Some countries, especially the Anglo-Saxon countries (for example the United States) but also Asian countries such as Japan, introduced considerable tuition payments already in the early post-war period. Other countries, particularly in Scandinavia and continental Europe, in contrast remained tuition-free. These developments were unrelated to the massive educational expansion that took place at the same time.
Since the early 1970s, the average cost of tuition has steadily outpaced the growth of the average American household. This trend continued particularly under President Reagan's higher education policies in the 1980s. Likewise, there has been a steady decrease in federal funding for grants and a rise in the interest rates of most major student loans, leaving many students struggling to pay debt for years after graduation.
College tuition for undocumented students
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate. It would allow the estimated 50,000 to 65,000 undocumented students in the United States to gain in-state tuition as well as a path towards American citizenship. The Act would apply only to those students with tangible proof of residence in the United States before the age of 18. This Act has stirred debate in numerous groups, including institutions, families, and the Senate itself.
As of March 2013, undocumented students in most States were required to pay the higher out-of-state students' tuition charged at public universities, often between $20,000 and $35,000 at a local public university. In addition, these students were denied federal assistance as they lacked valid Social Security numbers. Because such students often come from comparatively poor families, the costs are too high to allow many undocumented students to seek university education in the United States.
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- Cauchon, Dennis (June 27, 2004). "Grants more than offset soaring university tuition". Nation. USA Today. Retrieved 2006-05-11.