Friday, May 25, 2007

Financial Side of Education in My Country

1. Where we study and how much we pay (or get).

For a long time education in Russia (formerly USSR) was completely free of charge. Colleges also used to pay stipend to students who got good grades (A’s and B’s). My parents tell me they were paid enough money to go home on holidays on plane.

Now about half of students in Russia pay for tuition, and the other half don’t. Those who don’t and get good grades still get the stipend monthly, but nowadays it’s relatively small. One can hardly have ten big meals in student cafeteria with that money. The students who pay for their education are charged somewhere between $1000-8000 a year in Moscow. In other parts of Russia the sum may be a little smaller, I guess.

It seems that the majority of high school graduates choose a college in their hometown. Consequently a lot of college students stay with their parents and their lifestyle doesn’t change much. However, a fraction of prospective students choose colleges in other places, mostly Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. There are also people from small towns and villages who either go to Moscow or Saint-Petersburg (the capitals) or to the capital of their region (state). All in all, there are students who move to another city and live in dormitories or rent, but they are in the minority, I guess.

Those who live in a student residence are charged with a little money. It may be $100-300 a year for a room in a dormitory, meals are not included. It must be a good deal, especially for Moscow, where it’s not easy to find a room to rent for less than $400-500 a month.

2. Students’ money.

Those who live with their family continue their lifestyle of a high school student. They get their pocket money that is spent on entertainment, clothes and eating out. But those who start to live on their own in another city are more finance-savvy and that’s quite natural. They get some money from their parents and they have to spend this fixed amount on everything: food, transport, entertainment, etc. That teaches them to budget and control their spending.

In Russia most students are not eligible for credit cards, because they are too young and don’t have a consistent income. I don’t think I ever heard anybody seriously complaining about this, though. The students should probably be happy about this because this restriction keeps them from having consumer debt.

An average Russian student is constantly whining that he lacks money. He or she eagerly awaits parents’ money or a monthly stipend. It’s practically impossible to use credit, so a lot of students have to work part-time.

All in all, I think Russian students are in such conditions, which are very healthy for their finance. Practically everyone graduates debt-free because student loans are not wide-spread and credit cards are not available for those under 21. Not many are aware how lucky they are. Some can be often heard complaining that stipends are too small and must be increased :).

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