A Free Bachelor's Degree For Americans? You Bet — Just Head To Germany

If you've ever balked at the thought of paying off your student loans for what feels like the rest of your life, get this: all German universities now charge zero tuition for U.S. citizens. All you need is a passport. (And be willing to learn German, obviously.)

Free education is not a novel concept. Norway, Argentina, and Finland, for example, don't charge tuition for undergraduate, and many graduate, programs at public universities. (Maybe U.S. politicians should take the hint?) Meanwhile, colleges in the U.S. often work as businesses, rather than serving the purpose of, say, developing an informed, responsible society. College presidents are paid absurd salaries, and students (read: customers) are drowning in debt. In fact, Student debt in America has topped $1 trillion (that's 12 zeros), and the average student owes $24,803 in loans.

German universities boast rather impressive rankings, and many are located in cities rich in history and culture, like Munich, Berlin, and Heidelberg. And, yes, German may seem like an intimidatingly guttural language to learn, but there are plenty of beginner classes for international students.

Although Germany used to have free higher education, in 2006 they experimented with charging up to €1,000 ($1,268) a year — which isn't even a lot, considering the average price tag of an American higher education: $30,094 at private colleges, $8,893 for in-state students and $22,203 for out-of-state students in public universities.

And sometimes it's just not worth it. Starting a career with an exorbitant amount of debt is not only an economic burden, it's also proven to have both physical and psychological health effects like depression, suicide, and high blood pressure.

While an American college degree comes with a certain prestige — especially if it's from a top-tier college — an education in Europe could be just as worth it, at a fraction of the price. Also, who would say no to the chance to study abroad and learn a new language?

Here is the tuition of three of the most popular majors in the U.S. at their top schools, compared to that in Germany (cost not including fees and living expenses).

Psychology

  • Stanford University, School of Humanities and Sciences: $44184/year
  • Free University of Berlin: $0/year

Nursing

  • John Hopkins School of Nursing: $69,024 — $69,456/year
  • University of Freiburg: $0/year

Biology

  • Stanford University, School of Humanities and Sciences: $44,184/year
  • University of Heidelberg: $0/year
Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Although tuition for public universities is free in Germany, keep in mind that the cost of living is not. Being the economic superpower that it is, Germany is comparably more expensive to live in. However, with a part-time job and no tuition to pay, the quality of life and the lure of German culture — as well as the idea of being student debt-free — could be a glorious change. You know you're tempted.

Images: Getty Images (2), Flickr/wolfro54, Flickr/Spreng Ben, Flickr/Werner Kunz