10 Cheapest European Countries for Study Abroad

Cheapest European Countries to Study Abroad In - featured image

Most American students studying abroad chose European countries, with Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, France and Denmark being the most popular. Indeed, the number of students studying in European universities steadily increased through the years, according to Nafsa.org, from 54.4% in the 2016-2017 academic year to 66.3% in the 2020-2021 academic year! 

Cheapest European Countries to Study Abroad In - fact

This isn’t surprising considering that studying in Europe has numerous benefits, including enjoying low to no tuition for international students seeking world-class education in diverse education systems. Many of the prestigious universities known for their rigorous academic standards, impactful research, and employability for graduates are in Europe, too. Examples include the University of Munich, Ruprecht Karls University Heidelberg, and Humboldt University of Berlin. 

Note that affordability is a relative term, but with the costs of a college education in the United States, studying in Europe can be an excellent alternative for U.S. students. US News states that the tuition costs for the 2023-2024 academic year range from $10,662 in in-state public universities to $42,162 in private universities. The European countries featured here offer more affordable college education for international students.

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Germany

With the exception of Baden-Württemberg, all the federal states offer general tuition-free college education for international students studying at public schools. Examples of universities with free tuition are Technical University of Munich, the University of Bonn, and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. 

Note that the colleges and universities in Baden-Württemberg charge about $1,650 per semester for non-German and non-EU citizens, but it’s still more affordable than in other European countries. Even in federal states with compulsory payments, such as for students pursuing a secondary degree, these are still affordable – between $550 and $715 per semester. In universities where the so-called semester ticket is paid, students still save money because it covers traveling expenses for local transportation for six months. 

International students in private universities also pay tuition fees and other charges, which are at par with those in the United Kingdom. The cost of education can be defrayed through scholarships – check out the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) website for its scholarship database. 

As for the cost of living, students are well-advised to allocate at least $1,100 per month for their living expenses, including rent, transportation, food, and incidental expenses.

Iceland

There’s no age limit for students pursuing undergraduate degrees in Iceland that, when combined with its world-class quality, makes it among the most popular countries for U.S. international students. Iceland only has two intakes – autumn and spring semesters – and has minimum application requirements.

While most universities conduct classes in Icelandic, English classes are present at the University of Iceland, Reykjavík University, and the University of Akureyri. Scholarships for international students are also available at the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture of Iceland, the Icelandic Student Innovation Fund, and Erasmus+ and Nordplus Programs. 

But tuition fees aren’t an issue for U.S. citizens pursuing academic degrees in Iceland either! Public universities don’t charge tuition fees for international students, but there’s a compulsory annual registration fee of around $700. 

As for the cost of living, Iceland’s international students can spend $1,500 upwards per month depending on their lifestyle. International students also enjoy the perks of a 2-year permanent residency status after graduation.

France

There are plenty of reasons for France being among the top destinations for international students, from the ultra-low tuition in its public universities to the enjoyable quality of life. While higher education isn’t free here, the tuition fees at its public universities are among the most affordable in Europe for international students. 

If you’re a U.S. citizen, you must pay differentiated registration fees if you fall into one of these categories: 

  • You’re enrolling for the first time in an undergraduate or graduate degree program or an engineering program in the 2023-2024 academic year or 
  • Your choice of a college or university is within the Ministry of Higher Education and Research of France’s scope
  • You’re not yet permanently settled in France 

Since the French government subsidizes your education, you will only pay about $3,050 per year if you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree or $4,150 for a master’s degree every year. Doctoral degree students pay only about $420 per year until their degree completion. 

The cost of living in France varies depending on your geographical location, accommodations and preferred lifestyle. Living in Paris and other large cities obviously comes with higher costs, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy life without getting into debt. Conservative estimates for students range between $700 and $900 per month for housing, food and transportation expenses.

Finland

Non-European Union citizens must pay tuition fees for their respective undergraduate and graduate degree programs that are taught in the English language. While the tuition fees vary between universities and degree programs, U.S. citizens can pay between $5,500 and $20,000 per year. Postgraduate (doctoral degree) students don’t have to pay tuition fees regardless of their nationality. 

Exceptions to the payment of tuition fees include: (Note that Finnish citizens, as well as citizens of EU and EEA countries, don’t pay tuition fees) 

  • You have a fixed-term continuous or permanent residence permit; 
  • You have an EU Blue Card, or 
  • You’re studying in an academic degree program taught in either the Finnish or Swedish language.
  • You’re part of an official study-abroad program (i.e., exchange student) with registration as a student in your home country. 

Among the more affordable universities in Finland are University of Eastern Finland ($8,800 and up/year), University of Turku (starting at $8,800 per year), and Tampere University ($6,600 to $13,200 per year). Scholarship opportunities are available for eligible students in most universities, too. 

International students are well-advised to budget at least $1,100 per month for necessities, including rent. Living in a student residence hall or a dormitory will result in significant savings.

Hungary

Colleges and universities charge tuition fees regardless of nationality, but when compared to other European countries, these are among the most affordable for international students. Tuition fees vary widely among universities, but the average range is between $700 and $4,700 per semester; public universities usually charge lower tuition fees than private colleges. Note that STEM programs, particularly in engineering, dentistry and medicine, charge higher tuition fees ranging from $6,000 to $8,000 per year. 

Furthermore, tuition fees can be significantly reduced by scholarships for international students. Notable scholarship programs are the Stipendium Hungaricum and Tempus Public Foundation. Students under 45 years old with either an immigration card or permanent residency status can also apply for student loans. 

Hungary also has an affordable cost of living, with students getting by on $700 per month in Budapest and less in smaller cities and rural areas.

Greece

International students from non-EU and non-EEA countries must pay tuition fees, but these are also among the most affordable in Europe. While tuition fees vary among universities, the average is about $1,700 per year for bachelor’s degrees in public universities. The tuition fees are significantly higher at private universities and in master’s degree programs in both public and private institutions. Many universities also include the cost of materials in their tuition fees, but be sure to check for specifics. 

Greece is comparatively cheaper when it comes to the cost of living, too. International students can get by on $700 per month for their accommodations, including utilities, food and transportation. You can also work for up to 20 hours per week if you’re a U.S. citizen in Greece, as well as look for other funding opportunities like scholarships.

Austria

Students who aren’t from EU and EEA countries, such as U.S. citizens, must apply for a Residence Permit-Student to pay only $800 per semester in most Austrian public colleges and universities. International students must also pay the compulsory student accident insurance and student union membership fee of about $23 per semester. Check for exemptions to the tuition fee payments in the university where you will be studying, and examples include exemptions for exchange students and certain scholarship beneficiaries. 

The cost of living for international students in Austria is also among the cheapest in Europe, not to mention that it’s a beautiful country with a high quality of living. You can expect to spend about $1,500 per month to live the good life here, and it includes your accommodations, food and personal requirements. Recreation can be free, too, with plenty of outdoor spaces, including the parks and hills.

Denmark

Getting a college education in Denmark as an international student can be free if you are: 

  • A citizen of a country in the EU/EEA and Switzerland; or  
  • An individual with the same status as a Danish citizen according to EU law; or 
  • An exchange student from another country (i.e., you will pay tuition fees in your home country/campus) 
  • A permanent resident of Denmark 
  • A holder of a temporary resident permit with the possibility of securing permanent residency status 
  • A holder of a residence permit according to the provisions of Section 1 §9 m of the Aliens Act (i.e., you’re an accompanying child of a holder of a residence permit issued for employment and other reasons) 

If you don’t fall under any of these categories, then you’re required to pay tuition fees. But these are fairly affordable in public universities that charge between $6,600 and $9,900 per year, depending on the academic program. Tuition fees in master’s degree programs and private universities are significantly higher. 

Students can live a comfortable life with about $1,500 per month in their budget. International students can also work to finance their studies. 

Poland

International students engaged in full-time studies in academic programs delivered in the Polish language and at state-sponsored higher education institutions don’t pay tuition fees, but terms and conditions apply. If you’re a U.S. citizen, however, you will be required to pay the tuition fees in the Polish university you will be enrolling in, except if you are a holder of a Polish Charter or Polish Card. 

Poland makes it possible for international students to earn a well-respected degree at an affordable cost, with the average costs being: 

  • $2,200 every year for the first, second and long cycle studies 
  • $3,300 every year for postgraduate students as well as for postgraduate internships, including science and arts and specialist internships 
  • $2,200 every year for an annual preparatory course in the Polish language 

Public and private institutions can establish their own tuition structure. But at $2,200 to $6,6000 per year for undergraduate programs, these institutions still offer affordable yet quality education. With about $1,500 per year, you can live a comfortable life as an international student, too.

Norway

In autumn 2023, Norway stopped giving international students from outside the European Union and EEA countries the privilege of getting free education at its public universities. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you must pay tuition fees to pursue your bachelor’s degree in a Norwegian public institution in addition to a semester fee (i.e., about $110). Private universities usually require tuition fee payments regardless of nationality. 

While tuition fees in public universities vary, non-EU and EEA international students can expect to pay tuition fees starting at $12,100, but it can be as high as $26,000 per year. But there are two notable exceptions to the rule, namely: 

  • You’re an exchange student. 
  • You’re already in your second year of studies (past autumn 2023). 

Note that bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in information technology and engineering, among other STEM-related disciplines, usually charge the highest tuition fees. Norwegian colleges and universities usually don’t offer scholarships and grants for international students, but there are other ways of saving money on your education. 

American students considering study-abroad opportunities consider European universities among their best choices because of the combination of affordable tuition and cost of living, abundance of immersion opportunities, and excellent employability. But it’s also crucial to be thorough in your research and thoughtful in your decisions! Just as with studying in the United States, there are pros and cons to studying in Europe as an international student.

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Sources: 

Statista 

NAFSA 

US News & World Report 

LinkedIn 

Campus France 

Study in Finland 

ICEF Monitor

Study in Austria 

Study in Denmark 

Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange