Hack Studying Abroad: Free Tuition in Europe
The opportunity to study abroad is one touted for its educational and cultural benefits by the majority of American universities, but many students believe that it’s simply too expensive to even consider. In order to continue receiving financial aid, students are typically required to enroll in study abroad programs sponsored by their US-based school, which can cost ten times as much as international student tuition at the host school.
While higher education costs are rising stateside, the trend in Europe is toward extremely low-cost or even nonexistent tuition fees. Tuition-free policies often include international students, meaning that Americans who want to study on the cheap can do so while enjoying the cultural perks of traveling abroad.
Among the most popular free study abroad destinations is Germany, especially since Lower Saxony became the last German state to abolish tuition costs in 2014. For those who don’t speak much (or any) German, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service) has a search tool to help potential students find a program based on degree type, subject area, location and language (English, German or a percentage combination of the two).
Other countries that offer free or low-cost undergraduate and graduate programs in English include France, Sweden, Norway, Slovenia and Finland. If you aren’t particular about where in Europe you’d like to study, studyportals.eu can help you explore the various options available depending on what type of degree you’d like to earn and what language(s) you speak.
If international education is so cheap, why do so many students opt to build up debt here in the US? One major financial obstacle every international student should take into account is the difference in cost of living between the host country and home. Norway’s student information website warns that while tuition may be free, “you should take into consideration that living expenses in Norway are higher than in many countries.” This warning is well founded, since Oslo, Norway’s capital city, is one of the most expensive in the world, with day-to-day costs that make NYC look like a bargain.
According to Finland’s international student site, potential international students need to be able to show that they have 6720€ ($7420.90 at the time of writing) per year at their disposal in order to be granted a student visa. The student’s access to that minimal amount must be proven each year to renew immigration documents, though it is recommended that students budget at least 700-900€ ($773-$994) per month. Students should not expect to be able to work a side job as easily as in the US, since language barriers, visa policies and cultural norms can render that option impossible for many.
Other financial considerations for students traveling abroad include travel (to and from the country, travel during breaks and travel throughout Europe), passports and visas, international credit cards/banking, currency conversion, international cell phone and electronics costs and amenities that need to be purchased in the country instead of taken from home. Butler University has a study abroad budget calculator that works for any program and can be used to get a rough estimate of the actual living cost of a given study abroad program.
For students who only want to study abroad for a short time, something else to research is the process for transferring credits. Accredited or not, the difference between educational systems, school calendars and course availability can have a huge impact on what classes taken in a foreign country can be applied to domestic degrees. Some American schools will allow students to take a semester to travel abroad at any institution and transfer the credits with no qualms, but others forbid, restrict or charge fees for non-school-sponsored programs.
Studying abroad in Europe is certainly not for those pinching pennies, but if you plan well and have some savings to lean on, discount tuition certainly makes it a possibility.