Why Your Most Affordable College May Be Outside the United States

Passport representing going to college abroadWhen creating a list of colleges to apply to, smart families make sure the list includes several “financial safeties.” These are colleges that the students are likely to be admitted and the family is certain to afford. However, given the need to apply for financial aid, it’s increasingly difficult to identify financial safeties. After all, you don’t really know how much you’re going to pay until you get your award.

This is one reason why families might consider including some foreign colleges on their lists. The price tags are already set so there is no guessing involved. And with the price at some foreign universities starting below the cost of attending a local community college, they can be great deals for many families.

For students whose family income is high enough that they should expect to pay at least the full-cost of attending their state flagship university, foreign universities can be competitive alternatives to attending private schools in the United States.

Yes, a good students can expect up to $15,000 to $20,000 in merit money if they apply to the right college. But when the total cost of attendance is passing $50,000 for many private colleges, that means that parents are still looking at coming up with over $30,000.

That’s about the same amount that international students pay at some universities in Canada and the United Kingdom depending on the major and the exchange rate.

Tuition for the University of Edinburgh School of Economics in Scotland is around $24,000 a year. International students at McGill in Canada can pay less than $20,000 in tuition depending on the degree.

Of course, you still have to consider living expenses and travel. But these are still prices that can often compete with private colleges offering merit money, especially those that don’t tend to be very generous.

If you’re looking for an even better deal, you should check out the universities in Germany where many don’t charge international students any tuition. Basically the students end up paying for their living expenses and some minor universities fees.

No, not like American public university fees, these are really minor fees. One physics student from South Carolina pays around $7,000 a year in living expenses to attend the Technical University of Munich in Germany. According to the BBC,

At his nearest school back home, the University of South Carolina, that amount would not have covered the tuition fees. Even with scholarships, that would have totaled about $10,000 a year. Housing, books and living expenses would make that number much higher.

Furthermore, an increasing number of undergraduate degrees, especially in the technical/science fields, are being taught in English. And in the cases where German is required, there are often subsidized language programs.

Most high school students graduating with a 3.0 from a standard college prep program and a 1300 on the SAT can apply directly to the German universities. You can search for German universities by degree level, field of study, and course language at the German Academic Exchange Service website.

The advantage and disadvantage of foreign universities is that the sticker price is pretty much what you will be paying. There’s no equivalent of the United States financial aid system. Although American students can use their student loans at some foreign institutions. And there are limited scholarships available for international students depending on the school.

Of course, there will be cultural differences to deal with even in English speaking countries. Yet despite these concerns, what better time for students to push their comfort zone and explore the world?

Learn More:

Should You Earn Your College Degree Overseas?
“The American grading system seems to be more forgiving, there is more wiggle room to get good grades or to improve your overall grade. Whereas in the U.S., typically there are many factors that go into your final grade, I have now had exams that are 100% of my final grade. It’s terrifying that one mistake could mess up your entire degree.”

Why More U.S. Students Are Going Abroad for College
“Chris Payne, head of the U.S. office of King’s College London, says that he’s seen growing interest from U.S. students, and that cost is a key factor. “The U.K. is more affordable than comparable U.S. colleges,” he says. Ivy League and top research universities in the U.S. can cost $50,000 or $60,000, he notes. King’s College London cost £15,200 (about $23,740) for the 2014-15 academic year.”

Should You Go to College in Canada?
“The top Canadian institutions of higher learning consistently rank among the best in the world and have fantastic global reputations,” says Reid. “There is very little difference between the world-class academics at U.S. schools and those in Canada.”

3 Things to Know About Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Canada
“Once international students arrive in Canada, they may also have a means to support themselves. Through their study permit, students can work part time on or off campus during the school year, and full time during academic breaks. And when undergraduate students graduate, they can apply for a work permit which allows them to stay and work in the country for up to three years.”

3 Canadian Colleges U.S. Students Can’t Resist
Brief overview of 3 popular Canadian universities and some information about studying in Canada in general.

Attending university in Canada and abroad
This is a post by a parent of an American student who chose to attend college in Canada. Provides very practical information including “10 things to assess when applying to a Canadian university.”

For Americans Seeking Affordable Degrees, German Schools Beckon
“The fact that many programs are taught in English and tuition is usually free has helped make Germany the third most popular destination for American students studying abroad. Only the United Kingdom and Canada are more popular.”

Admission Requirements: How to get into a German university
Details on how to apply to German universities.

How US students get a university degree for free in Germany
Profiles several American students studying in Germany.

Ten steps to studying in Germany
German Academic Exchange Service website is the starting place when looking for universities in Germany.

8 Best Universities in Germany for International Students
Brief review of universities in Berlin and Munich and a few smaller cities.

Federal Student Aid
Check here to see if you can use federal loans at a non-US university.

Studying in Germany
Comprehensive website for information on studying in Germany

GO Overseas
Website with information about study abroad programs and reviews.

For students whose family income is high enough that they should expect to pay at least the full-cost of attending their state flagship university, foreign universities can be competitive alternatives to attending private schools in the United States.

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