According to the Institute of International Education’s most recent data, more than 304,000 Americans attended college abroad for academic credit.
Of those students, 46,500 did not just participate in an exchange or study abroad program but instead worked towards earning degrees entirely from an international university.
From wanting to immerse themselves in a new language and culture to building an overseas resume, students are drawn to international education for a variety of reasons. But for many, the bottom line is the opportunity to receive a degree faster and for less.
Going to college abroad: big savings, little time
In 2011, Heather Geyer applied for a graduate program in Biodiversity and Conservation from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. As a STEM major (one of the most popular majors obtained by US students studying overseas), Geyer could have received funding from her university of choice in the form of grants and assistantships, but the breakdown was more revealing.
“I had done some light research comparing costs,” Geyer explains. “I did find that those programs whose costs were not covered [in the US] were comparable to what I would pay to complete the degree abroad… The difference, however, was that I obtained my degree in a year whereas most graduate degrees in the natural sciences (depending on whether it’s an MSc or a PhD) can take anywhere from 2 to 5+ years.”
As Geyer points out, many graduate degrees in Europe are actually shorter than in the US. For example, a graduate program in the UK is typically a one-year course but may range from as little as nine months to up to two years depending on the program.
Comparatively, it may take two to five years in the US to graduate. This means significantly fewer student loans taken out, less money spent on room and board, and less time outside the job market.
Even better, some countries are now fully funding education for qualified international students. Germany, where over 4,500 US students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs, covers the cost of tuition and offers classes in both English and German, making it appealing to just about any student willing to go to college in Europe.
Comparing costs of graduate programs
The UK is, according to the Institute of International Education, the most popular destination for US students — and it’s easy to see why. College tuition ranges between $14,900 to $19,380 (more for medical or laboratory degrees) for the program duration.
In comparison, a student in the US taking two years to earn their degree would pay $60,000, based on the $30,000 average yearly tuition cost of a graduate program at a public school.
Other specific graduate programs have an even more substantial impact. Medical school is a third of the price (roughly $60-90,000 for a six-year program) when studied at a college in Europe versus the United States, according to Student Doctor Network.
MBA programs, usually one of the most costly non-medical degree out there, can be obtained much more cheaply at schools in Central and South America. In Mexico, for example, the top business schools have tuition costs of only $20,000.
Funding an international education
Unless the student studies in a country that covers the entire cost of going to college abroad, funding international education can be a bit trickier than studying in the US. Luckily, there are many resources available to potential students.
Because of the low cost of a Master’s in Agricultural Studies from the University of Buenos Aires and the reduced cost of living, Sarah Brown was able to plan a year in advance to save up for the entire cost of her graduate program.
“Researching potential programs and tuition costs gave me a great idea of how much I would need to save,” Brown says.
“That’s why I honed in on Argentina. The low cost just made sense for my plans. It was awesome knowing I wouldn’t have to graduate with any loans, and that I got my degree from a top university in South America!”
Another option is to work while in college abroad. Many countries allow students to apply and receive work and study visas, enabling them to get a job while they are enrolled. This could be a big factor in paying off college costs as you go.
Public and private loans
Many international programs, including some medical schools, work with the United States on federal student loans. The U.S. Department of Education keeps a list that is updated quarterly, so it’s important to continue checking to see if your intended university is eligible.
Just as if you were studying in the States, you will have to fill out the FAFSA before the deadline. International graduate students are eligible to receive Direct Unsubsidized, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct PLUS Loans for parents. The amount of the loan may vary but can go as high as $20,500 per year, typically enough to cover an international education.
Private loans are an alternative if you are unable to cover the tuition and living costs with federal assistance. Finding the best private student loan doesn’t have to be complicated or terribly costly if you know what features to look for.
Scholarships, grants, and other private funding
Finally, like undergraduate programs, it’s important to be on the lookout for any type of scholarship funding you can apply for.
While rare in the graduate world, there are fellowships and grants out there for the most worthy students. For example, the Fulbright Program has been awarding tuition money to some of the top minds willing to study overseas.
Other options are to find money within your workplace or a future work opportunity. While not specific to international study, many current businesses with an overseas presence such as Boeing (see more in this list by Business Insider) provide tuition assistance to help you go back to school.
The payoff of college abroad
Since the cost of tuition is so high in the United States, it’s no wonder that so many students are turning to international programs as a more affordable option. But outside the lowered tuition and reduced living expenses, there’s the desire to have the experience of a lifetime.
As Brown says, “Going abroad for my degree meant seeing the world in a whole new way. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
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|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 4/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
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5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
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6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
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|4.24% – 13.24%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.07% – 11.32%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 11.35%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|6.08% – 7.22%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|