european universities save money
Looking abroad for uni options? You may find what you need in Europe, for a reasonable price. Source: Tobias Schwarz/AFP

For many students, going to college is an expensive prospect often involving hefty student loans. Though studying abroad is generally more expensive than attending a local institution, students from the US could actually save money by pursuing higher education in Europe.

Jenn Viemont, author and founder of Beyond the States, discovered just that while researching study abroad for her own children. Now, she advises students in the US on how to save money by studying in Europe. Here’s what she had to say in an interview with Making Sense of Cents.

save money European universities

American students stand to save money by choosing a European uni — even with travel costs included. Source: Denis Charlet/AFP

You can save money in tuition-free countries

You may have heard that it is free to study in certain European countries. Germany and Norway, in particular, are known for their tuition-free public universities. In fact, Germany has built such a reputation for allowing students to save money that 60% of international students choose to study in Germany without considering any other destinations first.

Beyond that, there are hundreds of programmes charging under US$4,000 a year; Viemont advises researching a wide range of options in different European countries before making a decision. “The average cost of the programs we have listed is around US$8,000 per year, compared to the average tuition in the US of US$9,139 (in-state), US$22,968 (out of state) and US$31,231 (private university),”  she shares.

Many universities also offer scholarships and tuition fee waivers to deserving students. With some research, you will be able to easily determine if you’re eligible — and how to go about applying for financial aid. Bear in mind, most countries will still require you to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself while studying in Europe.

European uni can be cheaper for American students

Would you believe it? If you select the right university in Europe, you could end up paying less than you would on a local degree in the US. Just how is education so much cheaper in Europe compared to the US? Viemont attributes it to the lack of “administrative bloat,” which allows universities to focus their attention and resources on delivering quality education.

“Yes, there is the additional cost of airfare and most students we work with go home twice per year. Without using miles or shopping aggressively for discounts, you can get a round trip ticket from most places in the US to most cities in Europe for under US$1,000,” she tells. “Even with the additional US$2,000 per year in airfare, you are paying less than you would for a four-year, in-state degree.”

save money

High school and college students at a climate change demonstration in Paris. Source: Jacques Demarthon/AFP

Yes, they speak English

What’s even better is that most European universities are welcoming and accommodating towards international students. You don’t have to speak a foreign language to get admitted into a university. English is widely accepted as a language of instruction and communication, especially in northern Europe and the Netherlands.

“If you do want to learn more of the native language, most universities have ways to do that in the way of formal classes or language buddies,” Viemont advises, “but English proficiency in many countries is quite high.” Campus life may be less community-based compared to American colleges;  students typically stay in private, off-campus dorms.

Your qualification from European universities is recognised in the US and beyond

Besides a transparent and straightforward admissions process, students in European universities can also look forward to a degree experience that’s focused on academic learning and outcomes. At the end of the three years, you will graduate with an international degree that can open pathways to fulfilling career opportunities abroad (or back home, if you prefer).

By this point, you may be wondering: am I cut out for university in Europe? Viemont believes anyone who is proactive and independent can do it — and if you’d like to sharpen those life skills, this could be the perfect opportunity.

“You really need to have international interests, and you need to be comfortable making decisions outside of group norms. You need to be comfortable being away from home, and being around people of all different backgrounds and perspectives,” she says. “We hear from students abroad that they really appreciate being treated like an adult and having expectations of an adult.”