As the burden of student loans continues to grow heavier for young people, many high school graduates are looking for ways to dodge the high cost of education. One of the ways that Americans are avoiding crying themselves to sleep about their student loans? By attending free college abroad. And it looks like traveling to a foreign country for higher education is becoming increasingly popular amongst U.S. scholars. According to Reuters, last year 46,000 Americans were enrolled in universities abroad, which is a four percent increase from 2011.
The Washington Post recently put together a list of seven countries where Americans can study for free, or for a negligible cost, in English. Here are a few of these alternatives to expensive American universities:
German universities made the news last month when Lower Saxony, the last public university to charge tuition to international students, got rid of its fees. Though the former cost of a semester of education in Germany was only around $630, much less than the cost of the majority of American colleges (or even the costs of books per semester), German officials still found that charging for education was “unjust”. As if the appeal of free tuition isn’t enough, German students also reportedly receive many student discounts for food, clothing, events, and transportation.
According to Salon, there are currently around 900 undergraduate and graduate degrees taught in English. These courses are meant not only to promote fluency in English amongst German students, but also to appeal to foreign students, as the country is hoping to attract skilled workers.
Though whether or not to charge foreign students for Finnish education has been a question debated for years in Finland, currently all education in Finland is tuition-free by law. If you are interested in jetting off to this Nordic country to take one of their many university programs taught in English, know that you will be responsible for covering all of your living costs.
Norway’s government has also been debating the merits of offering free education to foreigners. The politicians who pride themselves on having a “free education” principle in Norway are currently in control, and tuition is free for all who wish to study there. However, Norway is known for being very expensive, so the cost of living, which isn’t subsidized by the government, might be prohibitive for some students looking to study abroad.
But how do these countries benefit from offering free education? Most obviously, keeping education free ensures that a country will stay competitive in the search for international talent. Foreign students also add diversity, skill, and innovation to the programs where they study, and many of these students chose to stay in the country where they attended college. In fact, around 50 percent of imported Finnish students choose to stay in Finland to work.
More abstractly, allowing as many students as possible to travel for university contributes positively to internationalization, creating more diverse “citizens of the world” who can act as cultural ambassadors for the countries where they studied. Furthermore, countries like Finland and Sweden believe that charging foreign students for education would be a violation of equal opportunity. A student's union in Norway said changing their free-education policy would be “discriminatory, given that Norway is hailed worldwide as custodians of human rights and free education.”
Wouldn’t it be great if the United States followed these countries' examples and began to think of education as a basic human right? NPR reports that over the last five years prices for an American education have drastically increased. In Arizona, costs have gone up 77 percent, in Georgia, 75 percent and in Washington state, tuition has increased 70 percent. Isn’t it time the American government subsidized education as a national public service?
Until that time comes, click here for Washington Post's list of countries that offer free education, and don’t forget to vote for student debt reform policies in your state tomorrow.