In Italy, the constant public underfinancing of the HE system from the Law 240/2010 to the present day has severely burdened the pockets of thousands of students. There is an 82% increase in the average annual university fee compared to the amounts students paid when they enrolled in 2004. The increase in absolute terms amounts to €609.73, raising the national average fee to €1353.43. In addition, the autonomy of HEIs in defining their own taxation creates greater inequality, defining in advance which universities a student can afford.
According to an analysis we carried out as Unione degli Universitari, studying at university costs families around €5000 per year for on-site students, €5500 for commuters, and €11000 for students who have to rent a room. The cost of learning materials is estimated at €697.60 per year. The canteens are not sufficient to cover students’ needs, and subsidised prices are increasingly high. Estimating an average meal cost of €7.50, on-site students spend up to €2,730 a year on meals, non-resident students up to €5,460. Urban transport usually provides discounts for students: the average cost of an annual season ticket is €200.14, a discount of about 36% compared to the ordinary cost. On the other hand, extra-urban transport provides an almost total absence of discounts, especially for rail travel.
The number of public residences is derisory in the context of an ever-increasing number of students requiring the service: the total number of beds is just under 36500, compared to just over 764000 students who have to rent a room. The number of guaranteed rooms is less than 5% of the total requirement. The automatic answer is to access the private rental system, in an increasingly expensive market: around 26% of the average annual expenditure made by students is for rent payments alone. Furthermore Italy ranks among the countries with the highest amounts for study grants, but for example only grants them to 14% of bachelor students. The comparison with 15 years ago and with other European states shows how Italy does not implement policies that concretely invest in young people and their future, but rather evaluates from year to year provisions that allow an expenditure as little as possible. The failure of all these policies is shown by the rate of graduate students in Italy, which currently stands at 20.1%, while the European average is 32.8%.
What is needed is a serious and concrete response: the solution to be undertaken is self- evident and consists in the structuring of a totally free university system that guarantees not only the total abolition of university fees, but also investments such as to make the entire HE system free of cost, providing for a total gratuity with regard to the purchase of learning materials, season tickets for transport, daily meals, and rents, for an estimated expenditure of around 17 billion euros, that would become the most important investment in the future that the government has ever made.