Great Universities For Less Than $1,000 a Year: Here’s Why Americans Are Looking to Europe For College

College tuition in the U.S. is skyrocketing. So much so that many parents and students are beginning to question whether it’s really worth paying upwards of $47,000 dollars per year for a private college tuition.

And, then, there’s the whole rat race of trying to get in to an American college.

So, why not save the money, get educated abroad and graduate with no college debt?

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That’s exactly what some U.S. students are considering.

As high school seniors prepare their college applications this Fall, some American students are discovering that by studying overseas in Europe–where tuition rates (even for Americans) are just a small fraction of what they’d pay for a very average private school in the U.S.–they can save a ton of money.

Plus, they have an opportunity to learn a foreign language, become acquainted with a different culture, and will have a very interesting credential on their resume that might separate them from the pack when seeking a job after graduation.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best countries and schools for U.S. students to consider when thinking about studying in Europe. From Germany, to Ireland, Italy and beyond, there are some great schools and great bargains available outside the U.S.

Studying in Germany

The country has a rich tradition in higher education. At present, it’s on the cutting edge of engineering and computer science.

And the best news is, most universities are totally free aside from some minor administrative fees. Even for foreigners. (One exception to this is the Federal State of Baden-Wurttemberg which, at the end of 2017, reintroduced tuition fees of 3000 Euros or about $4500 per year for non-EU students.)

Some of the best schools in Germany include, University of Munich, Technical University Munich, Heidelberg University – again, all are free.

Another notable university is the Berlin University of Technology – TU Berlin.

The university is among the top 5% of the world’s best universities, ranked among the top 200 in the world.

Tuition fees and other requirements

A bachelor’s or master’s degree at TU Berlin — where all classes are taught in English –costs American students less than $1000 per year.

Amazing, right?

Foreign students can apply provided they’ve already applied for a temporary residence permit. Living expenses can range anywhere from $652-$1,237 per month. Accommodation is the largest expense, followed by food and transportation.

Students should take the time to prepare the required documentation for their studies, including proof of academic qualifications, Grade Certificates, language proficiency, health insurance and financial resources. As mentioned, students must seek a residence permit.

Student life

The country has quite seasonal weather, so students need to be prepared for cold winters.

In terms of student life and leisure, Germany has something for everyone. From beautiful forests and historical sites to its numerous festivals and great nightlife.

Work opportunities:

Non-EU students can work up to 120 days per year while they study in Germany. If they exceed the amount, they will be required to pay into the German social security system.

The students can expect to earn up to $491 per month tax-free. Learning the basics of the German language is advantageous when looking for part-time employment.

Foreign language skills:

Around 56% of the population speaks English. The share is even greater among young people. And, the course work is available entirely in English.

Studying in France

As the fourth most popular destination for international students in the world, France is the most popular non-English speaking country for higher education. Over 1,100 study programs are taught entirely in English at French universities. Most of these are graduate level courses, though some universities (several hundred) offer undergrad degrees taught in English.

The county is home to some prestigious universities, including the world famous Sorbonne. Though no undergrad programs are currently offered in English (only French) the Sorbonne graduate program does have study programs taught in English.

The Sorbonne, Paris
Tuition fees and required documents:

Tuition fees vary quite a bit in France. Depending on the school, tuition can range from as little as $1000 to as much as $28,000 for private program providers.

The Sorbonne itself costs less than $1,000 a year for international students.

Monthly living expenses in Paris don’t come cheap. Students should expect to pay at least $906-$1,621 per month. Accommodation is the largest expense, followed by food and transportation.

In order to attend, American students will first have to get the “VLS-TS” visa for students. They should apply several months before the begging of the studies, as the visa application process can take some time. In addition, the visa must be renewed every year.

Student life and living expenses:

Paris is renowned for its active nightlife and a huge number of clubs, cabarets and entertainment events.

Work opportunities:

All foreign students are allowed to work while studying. Students can work up to 964 hours per year. That’s less than half of a full-time, 40-hour workweek.

The gross minimum wage in France is €10,25. This translates to about €8.20 ($9.69) once mandatory contributions to social security are deducted.

Foreign language skills:

Only about 39% of French people speak English to some degree. The wast majority of university courses are also in French. Therefore, it’s good to have a basic grasp of the French language before arrival.

The University of Sorbonne offers language assistance for students. This includes free French language courses on campus.

Studying in Italy

Italy has one of the greatest academic reputations in the world.

The world-famous University of Bologna, the oldest university in the Western World (founded in 1088) offers 47 English language programs. Tuition for the year costs $3,114.


Bocconi University is also well regarded in the fields of economics and business. It’s ranked 7th in the QS WUR ranking for Business & Management Studies.

Bocconi University
Tuition fees and required documents:

On average, tuition in Italy will cost about $1,700 on average, with some universities charging even less. (Private Universities meanwhile can charge €3,000-€35,000.)

As mentioned, the University of Bologna costs about $3,114 per year. Quite a bargain compared to its U.S. counterparts nearing $50,000.

Tuition and fees at the Bocconi meanwhile are about $16,675, which is still relatively low tuition compared to the U.S. This makes the university attractive for aspiring finance and business majors.

Student life and living expenses:

Student life in Milano does not come cheap. Total monthly living expenses range from $743-$1,524.

With an average temperature of 73.4 degrees, Italy has a comfortable climate. However, the climate is seasonal and it differs in the north and the south of the country, so students should take that into account.

Milan has a very active nightlife due to its large population of young people. The city is also a great choice for fashion enthusiasts.

Work opportunities:

All foreign students can work up to 1040 hours per year and up to 20 hours per week.

The minimum hourly wage is €7, which translates to €560 a month (or about $700.) That won’t get you far in Milan, but salaries in Milan are higher than average.

Foreign language skills:

The language barrier in Italy can be challenging, as only 29% of the population speaks English to some extent. However, big cities and especially university campuses will have a greater share of English speakers. For students that want to learn Italian, Italy is the place to go. And, numerous degree programs are offered in English.

Studying in Switzerland 

Switzerland may be expensive to live in, but education is cheap. The country has some of the greatest universities in the world that charge very low tuition fees.

Due to generous funding from both public and private sources, Switzerland is the leading center for education and scientific research.

Some of the top Swiss universities include the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, the International University in Geneva, the University of Bern, and the University of Lausanne. But, at these schools – be prepared to study in German or French.

Tuition and other requirements

Tuition in Switzerland is not nearly as high as people might think. The cost of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in public universities ranges from $470 to $4354 per year. Private universities are more expensive, with some reaching up to $50,597 per year.

For example, tuition at the University of Geneva and the University of Lausanne is around $1000.

Incredible – again – compared to what the tuition rates are in the U.S.

American students will need to apply for a long-stay visa (Visa D) from the Swiss embassy and wait around three months for the visa process. Students will also have to apply for a residence permit within 14 days of their arrival in the country.

Work opportunities 

Non-Eu students in Switzerland can only start work after staying in the country for six months and obtaining a work permit. After getting the permit, they can work up to 15 hours a week while taking their classes. During seasonal holidays these limits are removed.

Switzerland has no minimum wage. However, living standards are high, and international students will experience that as well.

Student life

The flip side to high wages is the high cost of living. Switzerland is not cheap. Average student expenses will come at $2268 monthly.

Student ratings of life in Switzerland are very high, except in the “cost of living” category. Accommodation and food make the lion’s share of that budget.

Luckily, there’s much to do in Switzerland that’s free, especially for nature lovers and history buffs.

The climate in the country is temperate. Switzerland is known for its mountains, but most of the population lives in the plains, with much more forgiving weather.

Foreign language skills

Around 61% of the Swiss population speaks English. What’s more, nearly a quarter of all students in Switzerland are international, and they are also likely to speak English.

Due to Switzerland’s decentralized nature, international students can opt for relocating in places where the native population speaks German, French or Italian. However, knowledge of Swiss German will probably be an advantage.

Studying in Ireland 

Ireland has a well-earned reputation as a country that respects learning and education. As such, it is home to some world-class universities.

Ireland has the advantage of being the only other country in Europe where the majority of the population speaks English as its mother tongue – other than the United Kingdom.

With England being the most expensive option for higher education in Europe, U.S. students might want to look into Ireland.

Ireland has quite a wide selection of universities. The most prestigious university in Ireland is the Trinity College Dublin, established all the way back in 1592. Trinity ranks 101st in the Q2 global university ranking.

The Long Room in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin
Tuition and other requirements

Irish universities are on the expensive side. Average tuition fees depend on the program and the type of degree. American students can expect to pay from $10,600-$53,000 for an undergraduate program. The cost of tuition at the prestigious Trinity University, for example, is $23,069 for foreigners. Keep in mind, that’s still roughly half the cost of private college tuition in the U.S.

Meanwhile, there are some less expensive options in Ireland that enable Americans to boost their resume with foreign education.

Smaller cities like Limerick offer lower-cost living expenses. The University of Limerick estimates the yearly costs of living (campus accommodation included!) would come out at about $13,000.

International students in Ireland have to get a student visa or else report to the immigration officer at the port of entry as well as register at the local immigration office after arrival.

Ireland is definitely not the cheapest option in Europe. However, some of that cost can be recouped by working in Ireland.

Work opportunities 

Students in Ireland can legally work up to 20 hours per week. During vacation periods (June to September) they can work full time; 40 hours per week.

Most students work in restaurants, bars, entertainment and customer service. The minimum wage in Ireland is €9.80 ($11.58).

Student life

Ireland is known for its many pubs, beautiful countryside, and rich social life. Cork is attractive for its large youth population, including some 30,000 international students. Limerick is known for its music festivals and nightlife.

Trinity College, Dublin Ireland
Foreign language skills

English and Gaelic are the official languages in Ireland, but English is more widely spoken. That means that U.S. students wouldn’t need to learn any foreign languages to study in Ireland.

Still, those that want to learn a different language can make friends with many international students that study in Ireland.

Studying in Estonia

Estonia might not be the first destination most Americans would think about, but it definitely is worth looking into.

Situated on the Baltic coast, the country offers affordable tuition, a tech-attuned way of life, and great universities. This small country offers over 150 degrees in English.

While Estonian universities may not have have the history and prestige of other European universities, they make up for it with the technical expertise of their staff. Estonia is considered a massive source of IT talent and the colleges there are helping to cultivate that reputation.

Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) is one such university. Among the top three universities in Estonia, TalTech offers 17 master’s degrees, including engineering & technology, business management, and computer science.

Tuition and living expenses

Tuition in Estonia ranges from $1,140-$8,500 per year. Monthly living expenses usually amount to around €300-€550.

Student dormitories cost about €80-€150 per month. Private housing is a bit more expensive, from €200-€550 per month.

Tallinn Student Campus offers everything students would need, from 2300 accommodations units to laundry washers and parking.

Food in Estonia is inexpensive. Groceries are about 40% less expensive than in the U.S. Transportation is 50-60% less expensive.

Student life and leisure

As a land proud of its reputation as one of the most connected societies in Europe, American students can expect wireless internet almost everywhere as well as many other modern solutions for everyday living such as:

Estonia prides itself on being a globally connected society. Free wireless internet is everywhere, residents can order groceries online, pay for their parking by phone and even register a company in less than an hour. The country is also one of the leaders in environmentalism.

With its average temperature of 43.5 degrees, Estonia is a comfortable place to live, most of the time. However, American students should be prepared for cold Estonian winters.

Students won’t be lacking in social life. Estonian universities host special events at the beginning of each academic year to help out new-coming students meet their new peers and accommodate to life on campus.

Work opportunities 

International students can work however they like and do not need additional permits. That is, as long as the work does not affect their studies, which means that they need to get passing grades and complete their studies in time.

International students can find work in Estonia online, or seek help at university career centers. The minimum wage of €584 should cover most if not all monthly expenses.

Foreign language skills

Most Estonians speak a foreign language, with English and Russian being most widely spoken. Americans won’t have trouble finding their way in Estonia.

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