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International universities where US students can study for free

BRB, packing our bags for Europe.

American universities are notoriously expensive — but many international schools aren’t. If you want to graduate debt-free, one option might be to look abroad. Many schools that offer free tuition to European citizens extend the same discount to nationals outside of the EU. But you might run into some language barriers since not all international schools offer courses in English.

Free colleges in Europe for US students

There are only a few select colleges abroad that offer free tuition to students from the US. And even then, these schools aren’t totally free — you often have to pay fees and cover your own cost-of-living expenses.

University of Bergen

  • Country: Norway
  • Language of instruction: English, Norwegian

All state-funded Norwegian universities are tuition free, though students are required to pay a $67 registration fee. It offers a wide range of courses in English, so you don’t necessarily need to know Norwegian to be accepted. And American graduate students are also eligible for a scholarship through the Norway-America Association (NORAM). Norway is expensive, though, even with heavily subsidized living expenses. Expect to pay at least $1,380 a month for room, board and transportation costs.

University of Oslo

  • Country: Norway
  • Language of instruction: Norwegian

Another public Norwegian university, the University of Oslo offers the same tuition and fees as the University of Bergen. However, US students must prove they have access to at least $1,310 a month to get a student visa — though students can partly cover this cost by working up to the legal limit of 20 hours per week. Courses are also in Norwegian, which could be a setback for students who don’t speak the language.

University of Iceland

  • Country: Iceland
  • Language of instruction: English

The University of Iceland is free for all students — even those outside of the EU. All you have to pay is a $615 registration fee and a $65 handling and processing fee when you apply. It’s one of the only free options that offers a course catalogue entirely in English, so you won’t be restricted to what you can study. The downside is the cost of living — expect to pay at least $1,669 a month to cover basic expenses.

Free University of Berlin

  • Country: Germany
  • Language of instruction: German, English

This university doesn’t charge tuition for almost all of its programs, regardless of your nationality. However,you’ll have to pay some fees. The school estimates that students spend $667 to $779 per semester, and you’re required to prove that you can pay that amount in order to get a visa. But you can earn this by finding a job both inside and outside of the school.

The downside is the language requirement. Unless you’re fluent in German, this option is a better choice for graduate students — the only bachelor’s program available in English is North American Studies.

Low-cost international schools for US students

These universities might not be entirely free for US students, but they’re significantly less expensive than going to school in America.

University of Vienna

  • Country: Austria
  • Language of instruction: English, German
  • Annual tuition: $1,663

The University of Vienna is one of the lowest-cost universities available to American students. It’s also one of the largest universities in Austria, with over 178 degree programs and 92,000 students.

Some programs are available in English, though students are required to pass a proficiency test in German before being admitted to most programs. Can’t pass? You can level up your language skills by registering in the University Preparation Programme of the Vienna Universities, which costs around $1,340 a semester — still a steal compared to US schools.

University of Warsaw

  • Country: Poland
  • Language of instruction: English, Polish
  • Annual tuition: $2,226 to $5,509

Founded in 1815, the University of Warsaw is the top-ranked university in Poland. Its 45,500-strong student body boasts nearly 5,000 international students through academic exchanges. Tuition fees vary depending on your program of study. Degree programs are available in both Polish and English, so there’s no need to sign up for Polish lessons first.

University of Freiburg

  • Country: Germany
  • Language of instruction: German, English
  • Annual tuition: $3,339

This west-German university is ideal for students who want to travel around Europe — it’s an hour drive from Strasbourg, France and Basel in Switzerland, and two hours from Zurich. All programs are taught in German, with the exception of the Liberal Arts and Sciences program. If you plan on studying in German, you need to pass a certification test or submit proof that you’ve passed a high-enough level language class.

Anglo-American University

  • Country: Czech Republic
  • Language of instruction: English
  • Annual tuition: $7,020

This relatively new university opened its doors in 1990 to offer English-language instruction in Prague. It’s a small school — classes rarely top 15 students, unlike many European universities. And it’s highly international, with a student body from 70 countries. Plus, it’s accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, an American accrediting agency recognized by the US Department of Education. This means you’ll have less trouble getting your degree recognized if you come back home.

Can I get financial aid for a non-US degree?

You can, though scholarships and grants for international students are generally limited on the university’s end. Some US-based scholarship programs offer funding for degrees abroad. Organizations like NAFSA: Association of International Educators work to provide information and support for American students looking to study outside of the country.

Don’t have any scholarship options? Some international schools still allow US students to apply for federal student aid, including loans and grants. You can check with the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website to find out if your university is eligible. If it is, reach out to your school’s financial aid department for details on how to apply.

Are there tuition-free schools in the US?

While European schools might be cheaper overall, you can still find a free education without leaving the country. These schools offer full tuition to students — though you might be required to be an in-state student to qualify for a full ride:

  • Deep Springs College
  • College of the Ozarks
  • Alice Lloyd College
  • Curtis Institute of Music
  • Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York
  • Berea College
  • Webb Institute
  • Barclay College

10 colleges that offer tuition-free scholarships to most students

New York and New Mexico residents can attend school for free

If you’re from New York or New Mexico, your state also offers free tuition programs. New Mexico recently announced a plan to make all state schools free to residents, regardless of income. And New York residents can get free tuition at a SUNY or CUNY school if their family earns less than $125,000 a year through the Excelsior program — including DACA recipients.

Bottom line

Studying abroad comes with several benefits, from learning a new language to gaining a unique perspective on the world. It’s also often cheaper than most American schools, if not totally free. But if cost is the only reason you’re looking abroad, you might want to also check out the handful of schools closer to home that offer free tuition to all students.

You can learn more about funding your education with our guide to student loans.

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