College Outside the U.S. – Is It Cheaper?

Published by Wendy Nelson on

girl with globeCollege outside the U.S. – Is it cheaper for American students? The answer is, sometimes. There are many important considerations though. I will go through those as well as some of the best countries to look at if your student wants to explore getting an affordable college degree outside the U.S.

Top Countries Offering Affordable College for American Students

  1. Germany – Searching on the German Academic Exchange Service, I found 110 bachelors programs listed that offer English-only instruction. For those students who know German, there are even more options. Tuition for these programs ranges from free to cheaper than a private college in the U.S. Many of the programs run 6 semesters, instead of the 8 required in similar U.S. programs. There are a wide variety of majors offered within these English-only programs.
  2. Norway – In Norway, public funding offers free tuition at public universities to both Norwegian and International students. Private universities do charge tuition, but at a much lower rate than the U.S. Norway’s cost of living is high though, so be prepared to spend more on room and board and other living expenses than in the U.S. Some bachelors programs are taught entirely in English, but this varies by school and program. Study in Norway is a great site to dig into the specifics about going to college in Norway.
  3. Luxembourg – University of Luxembourg offers free tuition for foreign students. It offers bachelors programs taught in English, French and German. 50% of the student body comes from outside Luxembourg. Read about the requirements for admission as a foreign student on the university’s Application page.
  4. Austria – Public universities in Austria charge a vary low tuition rate for both Austrian and foreign students. The main language of instruction is German, but there are some bachelors programs taught in English. The English programs can be found HERE by setting a filter for English language.
  5. France – Tuition fees at public universities in France are very low, in the hundreds of dollars per year instead of thousands. Also private universities charge less than American private universities. The Campus France site can help you find bachelors programs taught in English as well as everything you need to know about going to college in France.
  6. Spain – Spanish public universities also have extremely low tuiton fees. Most programs are taught in Spanish, but you can find English programs at Global Business School and Schellhammer Business School.  Bi-lingual students and students who have excelled in Spanish throughout high school may be comfortable studying in a Spanish program. Visit the Study in Spain site for everything you need to know to explore college in Spain further.
  7. Finland – Tuition fees for foreign students from outside the European Union vary from around $4,600 to over $20,000 per year. There are some scholarships available for gifted foreign students. There are two types of schools, Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences. Both offer a large number of English-taught degree programs (click the link and scroll down to explore Bachelor’s programs at both types of schools that are taught in English). The Study in Finland site will help you find all the other information you need.
  8. Sweden – Most of the bachelors programs taught in English in Sweden that I found cost less than $20,000 per year tuition and some were about half that amount. There are lots of English computer science, business, science, math and engineering opportunities, as well as others. The Study in Sweden site can help you find these opportunities and learn more about why Sweden is a good place to study.
  9. Malaysia – At Universiti Malaya, most programs are taught in English. Tuition per semester runs in the range of $1,250 – $2,500. Most programs run for 7 semesters, although there are a few that are 6 and a few that are 8.
  10. Czech Republic – Tuition fees run from zero up to $22,500 per year. Searching the Study in the Czech Republic site, I found a large number of programs taught in English. It is also a more affordable country with average student cost of living between $350 an $750 per month.
  11. Brazil – There are tuition fees for non-European Union foreign students studying in Brazil, but they are very low compared to the U.S. Additionally, you must know Portuguese to study in Brazil as there are no English-taught degree programs. Check with individual colleges in Brazil to learn more.
  12. Argentina – Public universities in Argentina only teach in Spanish, so it is really only feasible for bi-lingual students or others with an excellent command of the Spanish language. There are study abroad programs through American universities that can accommodate Spanish-learners, but learning as you go is not feasible for a full foreign college experience in Argentina. For those fluent in Spanish, Argentina may offer free or nearly free tuition. Check with the individual universities for details.

Other popular options like England and Canada offer great schools, but do not tend to be significantly less expensive for American students than American colleges.

Access to free or low tuition by going to college outside the U.S. is great, but there are many other factors you need to consider when exploring this option.

Other Considerations for Going to College Outside the U.S.

  • Cost of Living – This was touched on for some of the countries above. Some countries like Norway have a very high cost of living while others, like the Czech Republic are much more affordable. Make sure you look into the details of room and board costs when exploring these countries as in some cases, the high cost of living may offset the savings on tuition.
  • Language – Even when looking at programs taught in English, you need to understand how well your student will be able to do on his/her own without knowing the country’s language. Does a majority of the population speak English as a second language? How much of the native language will your student need for negotiating public transportation, buying groceries, visiting other cities, etc?
  • Distance from Home – Will your student do ok being that far from family and friends in the U.S. with a limited ability to travel home?
  • Travel Cost – Figure in the number of trips home your student may make for breaks, even if it is only at the end of semesters, but additionally figure in the trips your student will want to take while abroad. Studying at a foreign university is great in itself, but it also gives a student access to surrounding areas and countries that he or she may otherwise never get the chance to explore.
  • Socialization – How well will your student do in a foreign country with limited U.S. students? While in general, going to a foreign college isn’t that different than what a student experiences as a freshman in the U.S. who doesn’t know anyone at a college, it is somewhat different because there may not be a huge population of American students. Students who are naturally introverted may have a hard time adjusting, especially being so far from home and all things familiar.
  • Program Reputation and Rigor – You will want to do research to see how the university and the specific program are regarded in the global marketplace, especially compared to those in the U.S. Will it give your student the same level of opportunities post-graduation as a U.S. program in the same field? Additionally, investigate the school’s level of rigor to determine if your student will be challenged enough by the coursework.

After further research, if you are still unsure this is the right fit for your student, a great in-between option is to find a more affordable college in the U.S. (or one where your student can get a great merit scholarship) that also offers good study abroad options. Most study abroad options run for one semester, although there are also short-term options, summer options and year-long programs. A couple things to look for are a university that offers study abroad programs at the same rate as on-campus programs, or fairly close and a university that offers study abroad programs with and without language requirements.

If you are interested in further exploring general information on going to college outside the U.S., rather than the country-specific sites I provided links for above, here are a few good resources I found:

Federal Student Aid for Students Studying at International Universities

The 50 Most Popular International Universities for U.S. Students Getting a Global Education

Study in Europe