Going to college or grad school doesn't have to cost a fortune — as long as you're willing to travel. Here are four countries that offer educational programs (in English) for little or no cost.

In this article I’ll share four countries that offer educational programs for little or no money. You’ll also find plenty of resources within the article to help you further explore if going to school in another country is right for you.

Four great places to study abroad for cheap (or even free)

1. Germany

Currently more than 4,000 Americans go to school in Germany. That number has doubled in the past 5 years.

Tuition is free in Germany, but you’ll have to pay a few hundred dollars for miscellaneous fees. You’ll also have to cover your own room and board, as well as any other cost of living expenses.

Germany has over 900 undergraduate and graduate programs available in English. But, unlike in the United States, you will get accepted into a major, which will affect the courses you take. You can’t just go “undeclared” until you decide you want to pick something, like you can at most American universities.

This article (courtesy of BBC) is a great resource for more in-depth information on going to college or grad school in Germany. It also provides details on how to apply and get started.

2. France

France is another excellent place for students to attend college or grad school for a low cost. While it’s not free, French public universities charge only around $200 for tuition.

It helps to know French, but you don’t have to, as many programs are now taught in English. In fact, there are about 700 programs designed for English-speaking students.

France is also known for its strong education system, and the cost of living isn’t that bad. For example, rent is about 50 percent less in France than it is in the United States.

3. Norway

About 15,000 international students study in Norway. And for good reason, too. Tuition is free. (There may be a few exceptions, though).

Norway offers bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees. There are also a growing number of programs offered in English, which makes it an enticing place to go to grad school for US citizens.

One major downfall to Norway is the cost of living, as compared to the United States. Things like rent and food tend to cost much more in Norway.

Here is a great article on what it’s like to study in Norway. The author also walks you through how to apply and get a student visa there.

4. Finland

Outside of some minor exceptions, there is no cost for tuition in Finland, regardless of your nationality. As with most other countries, you’re still on your own for living expenses.

There are plenty of benefits to studying in Finland. Here are just a few:

  • There are many programs offered in English
  • There’s a large (and growing) number of international students going to grad school there
  • The cost of living is low compared to the United States, and
  • It’s a beautiful place to be

How hard is it to do this?

Applying and getting into a university out of the country isn’t that much different from what it’s like in the United States. The two major things you’ll want to look into are the country’s cost of living and getting a student visa.

You can estimate your cost of living using a site such as Numbeo. Just make sure to do some more in-depth research before jumping on a plane and heading to another country, as these are just estimates.

Getting a student visa can be a simple process, but each country has its own rules and regulations you’ll have to follow. NAFSA.org is a good starting place to do some research on student visas for the country you’ll be studying in.

Other than that, you’ll want to think about things like culture shock and homesickness. You’ll be in a completely foreign country with unfamiliar rules, habits, and customs. Make sure you’re comfortable with this type of extreme change, especially if you’re committing to a 4–5 year degree program there.

Can I get loans?

Some universities will offer scholarship programs to international students, but it’s not common. Especially when tuition is already free or low cost.

Scholarships offered tend to cover more than just tuition. For example, it might help you pay for living expenses like room and board. You’ll want to look into the specific university for this information.

As far as loans go, some universities in other countries take part in federal loan programs. The list is pretty short, but you might find one that interests you. NAFSA also talks about the myths and realities of financing your education abroad.

If all else fails and you can’t find a university with free tuition, you’ll want to look into a third-party loan provider. Some of these companies will also help you finance some of your living expenses. Just be careful with these loans, and make sure to read all the fine print before agreeing to anything.

Who studying abroad isn’t for

Getting a degree in another country isn’t for everyone. If any of these situations apply to you, you might want to re-consider studying abroad:

  • You get homesick
  • You don’t travel well
  • You don’t adjust to change
  • You can’t commit to living in another country for sometimes 4 to 5 years
  • You can’t afford the cost of living in another country
  • You’re not open to the idea of working in that country after you graduate
  • You’re not a risk-taker
  • You don’t speak any foreign languages
  • You’ll miss luxuries that you’re used to having here

Conclusion

Going to grad school doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. If you’re willing to make some lifestyle changes, you can get a degree for free in another country. Sometimes the quality of education is even better than in the United States.

Before you make any major decisions, review all the pros and cons. Take a look at what it will cost when you factor in travel and living expenses. Make sure that studying overseas is right for you, because it’s a big commitment.

If you still need help deciding, here are a few more resources to look into:

Have you have ever studied abroad, or considered studying abroad? Please share your experiences with us below!

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About the author

Chris Muller picture
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Chris has an MBA with a focus in advanced investments and has been writing about all things personal finance since 2015. He’s also built and run a digital marketing agency, focusing on content marketing, copywriting, and SEO, since 2016. You can connect with Chris on Twitter.