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    Countries With Free College: How to Get a Free Degree Abroad

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: January 24th, 2024
    Countries With Free College: How to Get a Free Degree Abroad

    Americans are so accustomed to the exorbitantly high cost of higher education that  it can be hard to wrap our heads around the idea of countries with free college. But there are many countries with low-tuition and tuition-free colleges that offer amazing opportunities for American students. Keep reading to explore some of these colleges and universities!

    Why obtain a degree abroad? 

    Beyond its financial benefits, going to school in a country with free college can provide an invaluable cultural education, expand your network, and help you achieve fluency in a second language. We’ve compiled a list of countries with free or low tuition college for international students that delves into the benefits and restrictions of attending school in each country.

    When exploring the financial viability of international colleges, it’s important to keep non-tuition costs in mind. You should factor in the costs of enrollment fees, course materials, travel, housing, and food, as well as the conversion rates of each country’s currency as you budget your expenses.

    Don’t miss: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

    Countries in Europe

    Germany 

    Germany’s public institutions have all eliminated tuition. Students are responsible for some administrative fees, but they typically add up to under $500 per semester. This fee breakdown at Berlins’ Freie Universität shows that their summer semester fees in 2024 were about $325. 

    Schools in Germany are very English-friendly, and although you will have many opportunities to learn German, it is not altogether necessary in cities like Berlin. German universities are well-attended by students from all over the world, making them amazing opportunities for cultural exchange.

    The cost of living in Germany varies based on the city you choose. The German government estimates student cost of living to be around 870 euros per month which is around $950. Altogether, this is a much less expensive option than paying full tuition at universities in the US!

    Related: 5 ways to go to college for free

    Iceland 

    Similarly to Germany, public universities in Iceland do not charge tuition. Students are merely responsible for administrative fees which are typically about $500 per semester. The cost of living is higher than Germany, averaging about $2,000 per month in Reykjavík.

    Iceland is less English-friendly than Germany for pursuing undergraduate degrees. The University of Iceland is the only institution in the country with a Bachelor’s program, and they have a limited list of majors that they offer in English. However, there are more postgraduate options for English speakers.

    Norway 

    Public universities are tuition-free in Norway, but the cost of living is extremely high. Norway utilizes kroner as currency, which has a less favorable exchange rate with USD than Euros do.

    Like Iceland, there are many postgraduate programs in English, but less bachelor’s degree programs. You can browse Norway’s programs for international students on the site “Study in Norway”. Norway also requires that American students receive a score of 3 or above on at least 3 AP exams, or have completed their first year of college.

    Related: Easiest AP classes you can take

    Sweden 

    Public universities in Sweden offer tuition-free research doctoral degrees, and other degrees for low tuition. Like Norway and Iceland, Sweden is known for its extremely high cost of living. If you are interested in pursuing studies in Sweden, this valuable collection of resources will help you understand what to expect. The average monthly student budget is estimated to be around $1,000.

    Other European countries 

    France, Austria, Spain, and Luxembourg’s public universities also have opportunities for international students to attend for free or low-cost tuition. Programs in these countries typically require a knowledge of the local language, but if you speak Spanish or French, they could be great options for you.

    Also see: Top full ride scholarships

    Outside of Europe

    Mexico 

    Public universities in Mexico charge little to no tuition to international students. There are few, if any programs offered in English, so these opportunities are open only to students who are confident in Spanish.

    The University of Guadalajara estimates the cost of living to be around $500 per month. This is a highly affordable option, as the US dollar carries a lot of buying power in Mexico.

    Brazil 

    Public universities in Brazil typically charge under $1,000 per year in tuition to international students. Universities don’t offer courses in English, so students need to be fluent and willing to conduct their studies in Portuguese. You can read more about the University of Brasilia’s international program on their site.

    Don’t miss: Top reasons to study abroad

    Other considerations for international study

    International study is a great option for some students, but the process can be complex. It’s best to know what you are getting into beforehand. Here are some of the barriers that you may face as you start to plan international study.

    Ineligibility for financial aid support

    International students are not eligible for the same financial aid resources. Programs like the Pell Grant cannot be applied towards international study, and there are significantly less private scholarships available. With free tuition, your main expense will be the cost of living, which you will not have the same resources at hand to pay for.

    Student Visa Requirements

    Obtaining your student visa can be a complicated process that requires a lot of planning. Make sure to start the student visa process long before you depart, and leave time for any possible delays or complications.

    Also see: How to get in-state tuition as an out-of-state student

    Limited wages for living expenses

    Many countries limit the number of hours an international student can work in their country, or restrict them from working at all. This could make it difficult to pay for your living expenses. One way to overcome this barrier is to secure a remote job in the United States before you leave.

    Also see: Online tutoring jobs for college students

    Degree recognition

    If you are planning on finding work in the United States after graduation, your degree might be harder to recognize by many employers. Having an international degree can be a selling point, but some employers may view it as less prestigious. Be prepared for a different job application process than that of your friends who got their degrees in the States.

    Don’t forget scholarships!

    Students who want to have an international experience can also study abroad while at an American University. This can take the form of a pre-college gap year or a traditional semester abroad.

    Best of all, there are specific scholarships for students who want to study abroad! Despite these barriers, enrolling at a tuition-free college in an exciting new country is a very attractive opportunity! If you can make it work for you, it can have amazing rewards. Good luck with your search, and be sure to explore scholarships for American universities as a contingency plan!

    Also see: How to find a financial safety school

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Attending a university in another country can be less expensive than attending a university in the United States
    • Some countries do not charge tuition, but do charge a small fee charge every semester
    • Research what countries have scholarships available for American students as well as the cost of living for international students 
    • Be aware that a degree from an international university may not be recognized by employers in the United States
    Key Takeaways

    Frequently asked questions about countries with free college

    Is education completely free in these countries?

    Some countries, such as Germany and Norway, offer free tuition. However, students may still be required to cover living expenses, books, and other personal costs. 

    Are there language requirements?

    Language requirements vary by country and university. Some programs may be offered in English, but proficiency in the local language may be required for other programs. Therefore, be sure to research any language requirements a specific program may have.

    Can I work while studying in another country?

    Regulations regarding part-time work for international students vary. Some countries allow students to work part-time during the academic year, while others have restrictions. You should check the specific rules of the country you plan to study in.

    Are there scholarship opportunities for American students studying in countries with free education?

    Some countries offer scholarships to international students which could cover fees, living expenses, and more. Therefore, you should explore scholarship opportunities offered by the host country or specific university you are planning on attending.
     

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