Attending College for Free Overseas

Last Updated Sep 26, 2009 4:57 PM EDT

How good is your German?

If you'd like to earn a free college degree, Germany is eager to help. Tuition at German universities is routinely a freebie and remarkably Germans are happy to extend this deal to foreigners including Americans.

And it gets better than that. About one out of four American students who apply for German scholarships to cover their living expenses snag one. Scholarships are available for intrepid students who want to study in Germany for four years, but awards also exist for Americans who want to change addresses for a year or just a summer.

I stumbled upon this educational bargain this week during the annual conference of the National Association for College Admission Counseling in Baltimore. While it's hard to beat Germany's higher ed offer, other foreign countries also offer attractive tuitions that can beat the sticker price of some state universities.

Let's take a look at Canada -- a less exotic locale -- where 90 primarily public universities are located. At plenty of Canadian schools, Americans will pay tuition of no more than $9,000. That's less than Penn State and some other selective public universities here. When the exchange rate is favorable -- as it is now -- American parents can shrink the tab further. Americans, by the way, are eligible to compete for Canadian merit scholarships and students can work in the country.

The prices are also reasonable in Australia. Down under, American students will pay between $9,000 and $13,000 to attend one of the country's 39 universities of which all but two are public institutions. There is no dawdling here since Australian schools graduate students in three years, which is another cost savings. American students can work in Australia and many of them are thrilled to discover that they can earn $18 to $20 an hour.

While the prices are attractive -- or hard to fathom in the case of Germany -- Americans are largely oblivious to foreign opportunities. Only 1,500 Americans are pursuing bachelor degrees in Australia and just next door, a mere 10,000 Americans are enrolled at Canadian universities.

For adventurous students, here are resources to explore educational opportunities in all three countries:

Australian Education International
Council of Ministers of Education, Canada
German Academic Exchange Service
German university image by beatbull. CC 2.0

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