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How Other Countries Manage Paying for College

Mar 3, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 3 Comments

America has the most expensive college education in the world—and the system doesn’t bat an eye at letting new graduates into the world with an average of $20,000—often more—in student debt. Tuition averages about $30,367 for public schools and $5,836 for private universities as of 2006-2007 studies—and costs are only going up, with tuition increasing at about % on an annual basis. It’s increasing faster than the economy as a whole, and has been since before the recession.

In America, people afford college through a mishmash of private and federal loans, grants and scholarships. In other countries, fees tend to be much less overall—and in some countries, college is free. Here’s an overview of how much you can expect to pay in several other countries throughout the world.


England once used to allow all native UK students to attend college for free. However, prices have gone up and since September 2006, universities and colleges have charged what they call “top-up fees” of up to £3,000 per year. 

The costliness of college in England depends on the college and the course of study you’re applying for. And the cost is the same whether you live in the UK or come from continental Europe, although more is charged for students from the States and other countries. While tuition is low compared with American schools, scholarships are also comparatively rare.


In France, you’ll find over 82 universities and over 1 million postsecondary students across the country. All colleges in France are publicly funded, and none charge significant amounts of yearly tuition compared with American universities. Colleges do charge a yearly enrollment fee of about €165 to €700, depending on the school. Low-income students can apply for scholarships and allowances to help defray costs. 


German colleges charge fees that are set on a state-by-state basis, and the national government has very little control over how much colleges charge. Depending on the state where your school is located, you could pay as little as €30 or as much as €600 in tuition fees. Students in Germany must pay additional fees for their student unions and other programs. There’s a surcharge added for students who spend longer than 5-7 years (depending on the field of study) in school, as well as extra charges for those who don’t live in the region.


The average domestic tuition for students who want to go to Canada is about $9,000. They charge about $25,500 to students who are coming to Canada from outside countries. Schools in Canada set their tuition on an individual basis, as they do in the United States, so costs of schools can vary widely although a Canadian education does tend to be less expensive than an American one.


Southern Ireland only charges €900 up front for a registration fee to students located within the European Union. The two main universities in Northern Ireland, which is still a part of the UK, charge up to £3,000 per year—similar to what you’d expect to pay for a university education in England.


In Sweden, college is free of charge up to a point for both Swedes and people from other countries. Every student is entitled to access 12 semesters worth of tuition money from the Swedish National Board of Student Aid, which amounts to about €200 per week. The rest of tuition can be financed through loans.

America is an expensive place to go to school—likely the most expensive in the world. If you are in college or have graduated, it’s likely you’ll have upwards of $20,000 in debt—and many students graduate with much more. In other countries, college is sometimes publicly funded and completely free of charge—but even in places where it isn’t, costs are usually lower than what you’d find in an American institution.

It’s not likely American colleges will become free or affordable across the board any time soon. But other countries do manage to keep tuition costs down—and hopefully American colleges can do the same someday.


Daren Ferreira Over a year ago

Get rid of the Federal Loans to college students and force colleges to offer competitive prices that people can afford and you'll see the cost of tuition come down dramatically.
Ever since the government started giving out student loans the rate of tuition increased much faster than that of inflation. Prior to this the rate of tuition rose with inflation.
In reality Congressman Ron Paul is correct in saying the Dept. of Education hinders the American People by creating inflated tuition costs.. We see this trend in every market the government gets involved in.
The cost of a Washer and dry has gone up substantially ever since the washer and dryer lobbyists started pressing the government for Energy Star compliance standards that force all companies to meet these requirements. This was done because they produced these expensive Energy efficient washers and dryers that people just weren't buying.. now you have no choice..
Housing Market is another fine example of what the government loans do to the economy. People were afforded easy money for cheap/free to buy a house. They were able to outbid the guy with cash in pocket. This guy with cash had to get a loan just to afford a house, the had to outbid others with loans or cash, those people had to start outbidding everyone else.. The market bubbled began to inflate and we eventually saw the outcome of that...
In a socialist country something like free college will work for as long as the government can stay afloat. (not long given the current economic condition of Europe).. In a free society that is based on free market capitalism it would cause colleges to raise their costs until the government forces them to stop, which won't happen because they're all corrupt...
Let's take a look at the example of health care.
Health care regulations are what caused the insurance agencies to raise their prices to levels so high that they're crippling American's budgets. So, the government got involved and said All people MUST purchase health insurance.. (highly unconstitutional by the way). This tells the insurance companies, hey.. if you raise your prices to crazy new highs people can't really leave, because they HAVE to have it.. So, that's what they did.. My insurance went up 33% in one year.. If, instead, the government removed the regulations that the health insurance industry had them put in place they'd have to compete for people's money, which would force them to lower prices.
The government shouldn't be involved and the free market should dictate the price for our products/services. Instead the lobbyists are able to get the government to write regulations that prevent competition..
For every Regulation that does something good there is probably a regulation that it was written to counteract.

Just me $.02

slocomment Over a year ago

I'm not seeing anything in this article that explains the portion of taxpayer money that goes to funding the colleges...?

NineOneFour Over a year ago

I'm not seeing anything in any article that explains the portion of taxpayer money that goes to fund American colleges either, or did you forget that most American colleges are state funded?

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