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As the impact of the financial crisis on higher education becomes more visible by the day, countries around the globe struggle to come up with innovative solutions to minimise the damage. Some American colleges have eliminated the application fees for all students enrolling for the autumn 2009 class to grant access to all students wishing to apply. This was triggered by the fear that the cost of multiple application fees would determine some students to limit the number of their applications. Although admirable, the initiative seems far from coming up with an answer to the most stringent question: How will US students cover the costs of their education, given that many banks have stopped offering federal student loans already last year?
In the UK, all efforts seem to be headed not towards those entering university, but towards those exiting tertiary education in 2009 – the “crunch generation”. With the crisis determining thousands of job losses in white-collar professions, John Denham, the UK Skills Secretary, initiated talks with major employers – including Barclays and Microsoft – and set up a National Internship Scheme for “Gordon’s graduates”. While the internships will not pay a full starting salary, the graduates will be given up to three months paid work. Another laudable initiative, but only a short-term solution, and therefore the unsolved mystery: What will happen with the graduates after this three-months compromise?