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College Too Pricey? You Can Study in These 7 Countries for Free (or Nearly Free)

By Maurie Backman - Sep 22, 2017 at 6:00AM

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U.S. college tuition prices are going nowhere but up, so you may want to consider getting your degree abroad.

Students studying


There's a reason so many students and their families stress about college. In the past five years alone, the cost of U.S. tuition has jumped 9% at public universities, and 13% at private ones. Even community college costs have risen 11% since 2012.

In fact, here's what college tuition will cost you, on average, based on what students paid last year:

College Type

Average Annual Tuition



In-state public


Out-of-state public





And it's not just college tuition that's gone up. The cost of textbooks -- a necessary peripheral expense -- has climbed over 1,000% (yes, you read that correctly) since the late 1970s. Students today, in fact, can expect to shell out $1,200 a year, on average, for books related to their coursework. It's no wonder, then, that Americans owe a collective $1.45 trillion in student debt, with the average Class of 2016 graduate coming away more than $37,000 in the hole.

Now if you're wondering why anyone in their right mind would be willing to take on that much debt, here's the reason: Though college is undeniably expensive, perhaps even excessively so, graduates tend to make considerably more money than those without degrees. Last year, full-time workers with college degrees earned a median of 67% more than those who only graduated high school. To apply some real-world numbers, the median income for 30- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor's degree is $40,944, but for workers in the same age range who aren't college-educated, the median income is just $31,807. That's a sizable gap.

So what's the solution? It could come in the form of pursuing as low-cost an education in the U.S. as possible. Or it could mean taking your studies abroad. That's because several countries offer Americans the opportunity to go to college at no cost, or for a nominal fee. Here are a few you should know about.

Berlin skyline


1. Germany

Back in 2014, all German public universities began offering free tuition to citizens as well as to international students. This means that Americans can relocate to Germany and earn an undergraduate or graduate degree without shelling out a dime for tuition. Best of all, many degrees are offered in English, thus eliminating language-barrier concerns. Now, there are a few restrictions. Americans must purchase health insurance to enroll, and meet certain academic requirements. Furthermore, while some programs are taught in English, that's not always the case, so you may need to brush up on your German prior to buying that plane ticket.

Helsinki Old Town pier


2. Finland

As an American, you can benefit from totally free tuition in Finland -- provided you comprehend Finnish or Swedish. International students studying in these languages aren't charged tuition, so if you're fluent in either, you're in luck. Otherwise, you'll pay a fee to study in English, but depending on the program you choose, it might be considerably less expensive than what a U.S. college would cost you.

The Eiffel Tower


3. France

It's not just the food and culture that draw people to France; it's also the fact that international students can study virtually for free. While France technically charges students tuition, the typical fees you'll face are truly negligible (currently, the equivalent of just over $200 per year). And while many degrees are indeed taught in French, there are plenty that are available in English, particularly at the graduate level.

Norway's Geiranger Fjord


4. Norway

Norway is another country where international students can study for free, and many universities offer programs taught in English. There is, however, a catch: Norway also happens to be one of the most expensive countries to live in, not just in Europe, but in the entire world. So while you might save money on tuition, you might also spend a small fortune to stay in the country long enough to earn a degree.

Prague Castle


5. Czech Republic

College tuition is free in the Czech Republic, but only if you're willing to learn to speak Czech. Still, if you happen to be fluent in the language, or are willing to become fluent, you can get your degree at no cost. Not willing to take that step? You can still study in English at a fairly low cost -- just over $1,000 per semester.

Reykjavik, Iceland


6. Iceland

Though all public colleges in Iceland are free for American students, most courses are taught in Icelandic, which means the typical U.S. student is out of luck. That said, there are a number of postgrad programs offered in English, so if you're looking at one of those, you can snag an advanced degree at a minimal cost (American students typically pay modest registration fees).

Rio de Janeiro seen from the air


7. Brazil

You don't need to hop on a plane to Europe to study for free. If you're willing to venture to South America, you can get your degree in Brazil, where public colleges offer free tuition for local and international students alike. Better yet, programs are typically offered in both Portuguese and English, so you won't need to learn a new language to benefit from a no-cost education.

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