5 Countries in Europe to Study Tuition Free for U.S. Students

Why be burdened by college debts in your home country when you can study in some of the best cities in Europe for free and have fun doing it?

In HSBC’s report for 2016 titled The Value of Education: Foundations for the future, the US emerged top as the most expensive place to earn a university education with the average annual cost of tuition fees to study estimated at $33,215. This number does not take into consideration the extra costs associated with a university education such as accommodation, study materials and living expenses. When you multiply that figure by four years, the prospect of attending a university for majority of prospective students in the US may seem about as realistic as…

These high fees are one of the reasons many U.S. students are opting for a university education in Europe, a continent renowned for it’s diverse culture and rich history and increasingly known for it’s tuition free degree. Here’s a list of 5 countries in Europe where American students can study for free.

1. Germany

Photo: Peter Dargatz | Bradenburg, Germany

Photo: Peter Dargatz | Bradenburg, Germany

Rightfully called the economic powerhouse of Europe, Germany is widely known for being open and welcoming to international visitors. Apart from having some of the best and cheapest student cities in the world, the high level of English spoken by the local population makes it an excellent choice for U.S. students.

By completely removing tuition fees for students of any nationality, Germany has moved up the table to become the fourth most popular country in the world for international students. The belief that education is a right rather than a privilege is the core motivation driving Germany to lead the way in making a university degree attainable for all. Over 4,600 U.S students were fully enrolled at German universities in June 2015, an increase of 20% compared to the previous three years.  There are over 1,000 English taught programmes in German universities, which mean language would not be an obstacle to getting your degree.

According to data from the German Academic Exchange Service, the monthly living expenses for students in Germany currently averages around $960. This includes accommodation, transport, food as well as leisure activities. However, depending on your lifestyle, you may need less or more than this amount. It is worth mentioning that although tuition is totally free at German public universities, a small semester fee is required to be paid to support the student union and related activities. The costs ranges from $50 - $300 each semester depending on the university.

The Technical University of Munich and Free University of Berlin are among the top-ranking German higher institutions that are tuition free for American students. You can also checkout a larger list of top free universities in Germany here.

2. Norway

Photo: Reinhard-Karl Üblacker | Oslo, Norway

Photo: Reinhard-Karl Üblacker | Oslo, Norway

The universities in Norway have always offered tuition free education as far back as can be remembered and American students can reap the benefits of paying no tuition fees at any of the country’s public universities. The University of Stavanger, University of Bergen, Norwegian University of Life Sciences and the University of Oslo are some of the colleges free for U.S students.

Nevertheless, the cost of living in Norway can be quite high. To cover the living expenses such as accommodation, food, transport and leisure activities, students will need around $1700 monthly. A small semester fee of $30 - $80 is usually charged too.

The Norwegian Universities and College Admission Service (NUCAS) is responsible for undergraduate admissions. According to the admissions guide GSU-list, U.S applicants are required to submit evidence of their high school graduation certificate plus one year of academic university / college studies in academic subjects or 3 Advanced Placement Tests with a minimum grade of 3. If you decide to study a course taught in Norwegian, a proof of proficiency in the language is also essential.

Although Oslo is a popular choice for many, the city of Tromso is also great for students. Home to the northernmost university in the world; Universitetet i Tromso, the ‘Paris of the North’ as it’s fondly called has all the quintessential Norwegian charms - reindeers, huskies and an icy coastline hosts to whales who are regular visitors.

A non-exhaustive list of top universities in Norway to choose from can be found here.

3. Sweden

Photo: Per Pixel Petersson | Lund, Sweden

Photo: Per Pixel Petersson | Lund, Sweden

Numerous Swedish universities provide free doctoral degrees to American citizens and many of these programmes are taught in English. Ph.D positions in Sweden are usually accompanied with paid positions by universities or external funding bodies, so you not only get to study free but you also get paid too. On the other hand, a range of scholarship options are available to apply for.

The application fee for U.S students to apply to study in Sweden as of February 2016 is $110. You’ll also require an average of $1,000 monthly to cover living expenses. To apply to a university, Americans can do so via Sweden’s central university admissions application portal: universityadmissions.se. You need a residence permit for your studies before you enter the country.

Sweden is home to a number of the world’s leading universities and you wouldn’t find it difficult to make a right choice. Notable examples include The KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Lund University with ranks in the world’s top 100 universities. 

A list of other top universities in Sweden can be found here.

4. Austria

Photo: Tookapic | Vienna, Austria

Photo: Tookapic | Vienna, Austria

When deciding on which country to choose to study in Europe, Austria might not immediately come to mind. However, this small country often in the shadows of its bigger neighbor Germany is a hidden gem amongst international students. Austria boasts over 68 public and private universities. Although not entirely free, the tuition fee is incredibly low for American students compared to other European countries and the lifestyle is very affordable for international students. Austria has one of the oldest medical schools in Europe and is home to some notable names such as Mozart, Strauss and Sigmund Freud. 

Austria’s capital and largest city by far, Vienna boasts one of the world’s highest standards of living, a large and diverse student population, and an incredibly rich cultural landscape. This combines with its strong universities and relatively low tuition fees to earn it a place among the world’s top 20 cities for students in the QS Best Student Cities index.

Although the main language of instruction at Austrian higher institutions is German, a few programmes are also taught in English. American students who want to study a degree programme in Austria will have to prove sufficient knowledge of the German language. A proficiency corresponding to level B2 or C1 is required depending on the university.

Applying to a university in Sweden requires you to contact the university of your choice before you submit your application. The university staff will inform you about all formal and academic requirements for American students. You’ll need between $850 - $1100 monthly to cover your living expenses. 

The University of Vienna is the highest-ranked Austrian university and is one of the top ranking universities in the world. A list of other top universities in Austria can be found here.

5. Estonia

Photo: Study in Estonia | Tallinn University of Technology

Photo: Study in Estonia | Tallinn University of Technology

You might be totally surprised by this final entry of top choices to study tuition free in Europe. Estonia is a relatively underrated country in the North of Europe sharing water border with Finland and land border with Russia and Latvia. With a population of 1.3 million, Estonia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe and as an American, it will feel quieter that the United States. The air is very fresh in Estonia and almost 50% the country is covered by forest.

Numerous university offer tuition free degree programs that are particularly geared towards American students especially in the science and technology aspect. Tallinn University of Technology, one of Estonia’s leading colleges offers a number of tuition free placements to study technology related courses such as systems engineering and cybersecurity. 

Application into a university in Estonia is through a centralized university admissions applications system; estonia.dreamapply.com. The cost of living is relatively low. You’ll need an average of $700 to cover all your living expenses including accommodation, feeding and entertainment. It’s worth noting that transportation in the capital city Tallinn and the second largest city Tartu is free for legal residents. This is of great advantage to students as it reduces the monthly expenses.

The University of Tartu a public research university is the oldest and biggest university in Estonia. It also ranks amongst the top 2% of the best universities in the world. 

All these countries are excellent choices for American students to obtain a university degree tuition free. 

Where will you study? Leave your comments below.