For many reasons, the debate over whether college is a “good investment” or not has come into sharp focus recently, and one of the primary causes is staggering tuition costs, forcing kids to look into other options once they graduate high school.

There are plenty of jobs out there for people who do not have college degrees like construction workers, plumbers and secretaries, but a recent study performed by the Center on Education and the Workforce, Georgetown University shows that people with these jobs, among others, are making significantly more with a college degree than workers without one. Therefore, even if you do not know what you might do after college, consider that your chances of receiving a job spike with a college degree, along with your salary potential.

Read: 8 Costs to Cut When Sending Your Child to College

In terms of whether the money can be invested better elsewhere, another study found that college tuition recently has delivered an annual return of more than 15 percent, compared to stocks which have a historical return of seven percent, and real estate with less than one percent.

The cost of higher education

The cost of college is not limited to tuition as you still have to live somewhere, eat and do your laundry. However, living expenses vary so drastically in America depending on the city you live in when going to school, so make sure to consider all of those expenses when you make your decision.

Nevertheless, when you knock tuition out of the cost you remove the largest expense, which some European countries, mainly Nordic countries, still offer. American public four-year colleges cost, on average, $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students and $11,990 for out-of-state students, and private four-year colleges cost, on average, $27,293 per year (estimates from CollegeBoard).

The above estimates do not include accommodation, books or transportation costs, so you will have to add that into your totals, and it would seem that the following international options would be comparable to or even cheaper than attending an out-of-state public college. If you are looking to save money, by all means attend a public college in your state, but here are some affordable international options, especially if you are already considering leaving home.


The tuition in Finland is covered by the State through the Ministry of Education even for American students, so all you need to pay for is living expenses, accommodation and books. The total monthly living expenses comes out to around 750 euros depending on how close to the city you live, which is a little more than $1,000, so approximately $10,000 per year.


Norway offers free tuition as well, but the cost of living there can add up quickly. Don’t be fooled by the exchange rate because although they use the Norwegian Kroner which is much cheaper than the dollar, ordinary items will add up. Nevertheless, monthly living expenses are around 9,000 NOK (about $1,650) coming out to around $8,100 per semester including food, housing, transportation and other expenses.


If you have a working knowledge of German, then this country is a great and affordable option. Germany has offered free tuition for quite some time and in most cases still does, but they have recently introduced what they refer to as administration fees and cost of enrollment. Depending on the school “general tuition fees” can cost up to 500 euros, but most universities remain free such as Berlin and Brandenburg. However, the cost of enrollment is 50 euro ($70) per semester.

According to the Studentenwerk the cost of living comes out to around 725 euro ($1,030) per month including the factors mentioned plus others like clothing and health insurance for a total of approximately $6,500 per semester.

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  • tim

    so you mean to say my kid intead of aiming for MIT , Stanford or CMU shud go to some univ in finland so that i can save money !!

    • Anonymous

      Hey Tim,

      The 3 schools you mentioned are all phenomenal universities… with some of the highest tuition costs in the country (a year at MIT will cost you roughly $52,000), but of course your child should aim for the best.

      With student loans what they are and people recently questioning the value of receiving a college degree, this article is merely illustrating other options that most people do not consider when applying to college. For just the cost of living, college students can get a unique experience living in a different continent and attending a tuition-free school should they desire it.