Screw Student Loans. Go To College In Europe For Free


It’s a foregone conclusion that the cost of a college education is going to bankrupt most us. And our children. And maybe even the country, as the national student loan debt—$1.1 trillion, the second largest form of consumer debt behind mortgages—has long been considered the next bubble to burst. More than 70 percent of the 2014 graduating class has student loan debt, with an average load of $33,000—double that of 20 years ago (adjusting for inflation).

And it’s only going up: From 2005 to 2012, average student loan debt jumped 35 percent while the median salary dropped by 2.2 percent. Even worse, more than one-third of Americans between 18 and 31 live with their parents (according to the Current Population Survey). They’re simply too broke to leave the nest—white-collar job and all.

But enough with the bad news. Here’s the good news: College in Europe is free. Not all of Europe exactly—mostly Northern Europe and Scandinavia. And not entirely free—you still have to pay for room and board and an international student semester fee (less than $500). But compared to the U.S., where the average public four-year college costs $8,655 a year for in-state students, $21,706 for out-of state-students and up to $60,000 a year for private schools, dropping 700 euros a month on an apartment and unpronounceable Finnish delicacies like karjalanpiirakka (rice porridge pie) is a steal.

Like any amazing deal, there are tradeoffs. The biggest one is language. At the undergraduate level, classes are taught in the national language, so you’d better be proficient (or a fast learner) in German or Icelandic. (Graduate school is another matter: In Norway alone, more than 200 Master’s programs are taught in English). If prestige matters, school ranking also tends to be less impressive overseas, with only the Ruprect-Karls-Universitat Heidelberg in Germany making the top 50, squeaking by at 49th in the QS World University Rankings, one of the top 3 college ranking companies (irony alert). Finally, your network of friends and classmates will, most likely, be residents of that country. It’ll make working there after you graduate easier, but if you plan on looking for a job stateside, having your network overseas could be a temporary obstacle.

Then again, you just saved yourself up to $200,000. lf a prospective employer wants proof of your ingenuity and intelligence, throw that fact at them—in German.