Students in Buenos Aires spend, on average, nearly a fourth of their annual income on tuition.
By: Andy Billmeyer, Jessica Byrd, Mary Coker, Ben Dobbs, Hillary Houston and Ryan Riley
A desire for a good education and a respect for customs, family and national pride outweigh the negative aspects of severe inflation and low average income on many university students in Argentina.
Three students majoring in psychology at the Universidad del Salvador in the Recoleta barrio in Buenos Aires (www.salvador.edu.ar), Paula Kolosuarg, 30, Karina Pizarro, 31, and Martina Harubout, 18, said that their decisions to go to college were based on a multitude of things including opinions of family members and family income. But when it came down to it, Hartubout, a Buenos Aires resident, or porteña, said the reason she is there is because she liked staying close to home.
“We prefer to stay in Buenos Aires; our family and friends are here,” the first year student said.
Although annual tuition of 7,200 Argentine pesos (about USD $1,800) may sound like a bargain to many Americans, the cost of higher education is steep for the average Argentine.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Argentina (www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/26516.html), the average annual income for Argentine residents in 2008 was USD $8,219. Therefore, the cost of tuition alone at the Universidad del Salvador is about 22 percent of an average citizen’s yearly income.
Besides the cost, another influential factor in the students’ decision whether to pursue a college degree was their personal feelings and desire for an education. As in the U.S., they had the liberty to choose to continue their studies at a college, or begin their careers. But a college education in Argentina is not as imperative to success in the workplace as it is in the United States. Job availability without a degree is not a major issue and income is not as highly affected by education levels as in the U.S.
Even though a college degree isn’t required, Argentine’s do value education and boast a literacy rate of 95 percent. The country has over 20 national universities in addition to many state and private schools.
Hartubout said the Universidad del Salvador was the first school to implement a psychology program in all of Argentina. The program is also one of the most preferred majors within the university.
Students are subject to a more structured yet nonspecific schedule. Unlike in the United States, students don’t have a choice of what classes they take or what time they begin.
“It is all different,” Hartubout said. “I arrive at eight but it ends differently [each day]. On Wednesday we ended at eleven but today we ended at one.”
Rather than having a set time for the classes to end, there is only a specified beginning. It is up to the professor to decide when each class ends.
After class each day, Hartubout waits for a family friend to pick her up and drive her 40 minutes to her home. Hartubout has to commute each day since there is no student housing or commuter parking available on the campus located on Avenida Marcelo T. de Alvear, a busy street in a crowded city.
But despite the challenges in an Argentine economy that finds many families struggling to survive, Hartubout and the other women have still found a way to earn a degree in an atmosphere many North American university students are not required to face. These women said they are determined to advance in their chosen profession so they can help others in their community.