June 16, 2022

Where American Students Can Go to College for Free (or Almost Free)

With the cost of college increasing exponentially in the U.S. it is becoming harder and harder for the average student to avoid student loans.

With the cost of college increasing exponentially in the U.S. it is becoming harder and harder for the average student to avoid student loans. This is why so many of my clients spend time talking with me about all the various ways they can reduce their college costs. 

In this article, rather than talking about how to reduce college costs, I want to spend some time discussing where American students can go to school with little to no college costs.

Are there free colleges in the U.S.? No. But if you are willing to be an international student you can go to college for free or close to it.  Over 40 countries around the world offer free, or very low-cost post secondary education, even to international students including: Germany, Denmark, Greece, Argentina, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, Uruguay, and Turkey. Many of those 40 countries even offer courses in English allowing international students to benefit from their free tuition. Some of the best places for Americans to do this are: Brazil, Germany, Finland, France, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden. You would still need to cover living expenses but tuition would be free or have a very low fee. We are going to take a closer look at 8 countries where international students can earn degrees for free or close to it. Every country and school is different but the countries in this article offer public education for free or a very low fee, even to international students, and offer classes in english. Each country will also have private universities with tuition rates well below or comparable to the U.S. But for this article, we’ll discuss the free public universities. 

1. Germany

While most universities have programs that are taught in German and programs that are taught in English, there are some German universities whose main language is exclusively English. 

The public universities in Germany do not charge tuition, however, each semester, all enrolled students will most likely pay a social contribution fee. The social contribution fee is newly calculated each semester and as of 2022 is approx. €300 

Cost of living will of course vary.  So let’s take a quick look at Cologne. Students can expect to pay per month approximately: 

  • Rent (including extra charges) - €370
  • Learning Material - €20
  • Health insurance and medical fees - €79
  • Phone and internet - €33

Click here to learn how to get a student visa in Germany.  (link: https://www.germany-visa.org/student-visa/

2. France 

In France you may not be able to find undergraduate study abroad offered in English, however, more and more graduate programs are creating English-language degree programs. Most Master's programs in subjects other than French literature or French studies now allow students to do some or all of their coursework in English. Over 1,000 master's degree programs offered 100% in English are available to students wishing to pursue graduate study in France.

Again, the cost of living varies so let’s take a look a few places: 

  • Paris: between 1,200 and 1,800 EUR/month (sometimes including the accommodation, if you choose to live in a student hall of residence)
  • Nice: between 900 and 1,400 EUR/month
  • Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux or Toulouse: between 800 – 1,000 EUR
  • For the rest of France, you can manage with smaller amounts (at least 650 EUR)

Click here to get a student visa in France. (link: https://france-visas.gouv.fr/web/france-visas/student)

3. Luxembourg 

The University of Luxembourg has three different teaching languages: English, French and German. 

Luxembourg is fairly expensive to live in because  it is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. In addition there aren’t many universities so competition is high. However, Luxembourg does have very inexpensive higher education. A Master’s degree has a fixed annual cost of 400 EUR. 

As a student, you will spend between 700 and 1,500 EUR every month to cover your living costs. 

Click here for a student visa in Luxembourg. (link: https://guichet.public.lu/en/entreprises/ressources-humaines/recrutement/ressortissant-pays-tiers/etudiant.html)

4. Iceland 

“Iceland” is a bit of a misnomer as this country is a huge green and yet treeless island.

Even though the primary language of instruction is Icelandic, the University of Iceland offers several study programmes that are taught fully in English and are therefore open to international students.

In Iceland there’s zero tuition fee at the country’s public university, the University of Iceland

For the cost of living, you can expect: 

  • Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment): 200,000ISK ($1650) 
  • Utilities (monthly average): 13,000ISK ($110)
  • Monthly public transport pass: 13,000ISK ($110)

Click here for a student visa for Iceland. (Link: https://utl.is/en/residence-permits-for-students

5. Sweden

Next on our Nordic list is Sweden where tuition varies but still remains much lower than in The States. Some universities might only require a ‘symbolic’ tax of 100 EUR. But most of them usually have tuition fees between 1,000 and 5,000 EUR/ year.

In addition, even if you pay for your Master’s, you will get paid for a Ph.D.  PhDs in Sweden require some teaching and research which is paid. As a doctoral student, you become an employee of the university.

Living costs for students in Sweden are above the European average. You should expect to spend between 700 – 1,200 EUR/month. 

Dormitories range between 240 – 620 EUR/month. Renting or sharing an apartment, you can pay anywhere between 350 and 700 EUR/month. 

Public transportation fares for students cost around 40 - 55 EUR/month. Or you can choose a bicycle for transport and pay around 110 EUR for it. Around 27% of students in Sweden use bicycles to travel in the city.

Books and other study materials: 80 EUR/month

Health insurance: rates start at 30 EUR/month

Click here for a student visa for Sweden. Link: (https://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Studying-and-researching-in-Sweden.html)

6. Greece

Another low-cost option on our list is Greece. All non-European international students are expected to pay fees of around €1500 per year for undergraduate studies, which includes the cost of course books. For master’s studies in public universities, the fees are around €1500-€2000 per academic year/semester. 

In Greece you can find fully English-taught Master's degree programs in a variety of disciplines. 

Greece is one of the more affordable European destinations for international students. Most people can live comfortably on a budget of 450–750 EUR per month. Of course, Your lifestyle and choices will decide if this budget goes up or down. 

Click here for a student visa in Greece. (link: https://studyingreece.edu.gr/living/before-arrival/visa/)

7. Argentina 

Argentina is famous for its colorful and vibrant culture. This, along with the fact that they offer courses in English,  continuously attracts international students from around the world. 

Undergraduate courses at public universities in Argentina are tuition-free for foreign students. Masters or Postgraduate degrees can have a tuition fee of approximately from $2,300 to $27,000 per year. 

The Cost of living in Argentina depends on factors such as university location and lifestyle. On average, it can cost you around $2,500 to $4,500 for one year. As Buenos Aires is where most international students find themselves. Here the cost of living is approximately:

  • Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment): 22,600ARS ($275)
  • Utilities (monthly average): 4600ARS ($55)
  • Monthly public transport pass: 1260ARS ($15)

Click here for a student visa for Argentina. (link: https://cancilleria.gob.ar/en/services/visas/student-visa-365-days)

8. Brazil 

The University of São Paulo or Universidade de São Paulo is Brazil's leading, world-class institution and the largest public university that offers English-taught programs in Brazil and it has earned its place among the world's best based on international rankings. Public universities are free for international students.  

The cost of living in São Paulo is comparable to those in Rio and Brasilia.  

  • Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment): 2300BRL ($430)
  • Utilities (monthly average): 270BRL ($50)
  • Monthly public transport pass: 275BRL ($50)

Click here for a student visa in Brazil. (link:https://www.passportvisasexpress.com/visa_services/brazil/country_information/brazil_student_visa

Being an international student not only opens Americans up to quality education at a much lower cost, but can also provide something American universities can’t: experiencing different styles of education, picking up another language, boosting career opportunities, finding new interests, and learning from other cultures and perspectives. 

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me. 

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WRITTEN BY EMMA B. PEREZ

CAREER COACH FOR TEENS AND YOUNG ADULTS
Founder of Be On Purpose, LLC, Emma is a mentor who specializes in helping teens and young adults craft who they want to be and how they will impact the world.

As the author of "What's the Point of School: Ed Transformation, A Matter of Life and Death" Emma is pushing the education transformation movement forward. Her work seeks to redesign our school system from its industrial structure to one that serves our students by giving them the tools they need to thrive in all areas of their lives, internal and external. 
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