How to Use the GI Bill for College in Europe

Josh is a former US Marine from Florida who now studies International Relations at the University of Warsaw in Poland.  His first international exposure came during his years of overseas duty. His posting to the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group  really increased his interest in higher education and stoked a desire for continued international experiences.  He also met his now-wife while serving at the US Embassy in Warsaw.  Josh’s studies are financed through the GI Bill which, until recently, I didn’t realize could be used to fund college in Europe (more info here)!

GI Bill college in europeWhy Are Veterans So Well Suited for College or Grad School in Europe?

  • Through their service, they’ve gained international exposure.
  • They tend to be older and more mature than typical college students in the US.
  • Their benefits really are confined to state schools in which they live or have residency,, since $23,672 won’t go very far for towards out of state or private school tuition.
  • They also tend to know what they want to study, so Gen Ed requirements may seem like a waste of time.
  • Their experience in the military has taught the skills needed to deal with bureaucratic processes that are often involved in studying abroad.

What Are the Benefits Under the GI Bill?

Post 9/11 bill-varies based on the amount of time served after 9/11. Those who had active duty for 3 months get 40% of benefits up to those who served for 3 years who get 100% of benefits.

100% of benefits include:

  • Full tuition for in state and up to $23,672 for out of state or private or international (vets can get in state tuition where they live or have official residence).
  • $1,000 per year for books.
  • $1,650 monthly living allowance.

Here are examples of programs that might be interesting to vets that are covered by the GI Bill:

Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia

Program: Cyber Security Engineering

The curriculum is designed to provide higher education in the extremely hot field of Cyber Security, integrating software development and IT systems administration. Graduates of this curriculum will be able to independently design, operate and manage secure IT systems. Cyber security personnel are in high demand right now. The unemployment rate in the field is 0% and there are estimates that there will be 3.5 million unfilled positions in 2021.

Tuition: 2,400 EUR per year

Duration: 3 years

Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands 

Program: Management of International Social Challenges

How can you help local, national and international governing bodies in addressing contemporary thorny problems such as youth unemployment, care for the elderly, sustainable water management, crime and delinquency, early school leaving? In this  program, you will learn how to research, analyse and contribute to solutions for these kind of challenges.

Tuition: 6,600 EUR per year

Duration: 3 years

Riga Technical University, Riga, Latvia

Program: Medical Engineering and Physics

This diverse and exciting program covers the research and analysis of many of the latest advances in medicine. Graduates work with the design, development, testing, control and maintenance of medical equipment, devices and instruments. In addition, they work at service, certification, monitoring, production, design and research companies.

Tuition: 2,970 EUR per year

Duration: 4.5 years

Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark

Program: Business, Asian Language and Culture – International Business in Asia.

This unique program combines business expertise with Asian political, economic and cultural understanding and Chinese language skills. Mandarin is increasingly becoming the principal Asian business language along with English.

Tuition: 9,500 EUR per year

Duration: 4 years

How Can Beyond the States Help?

Currently, 214 of the 743 schools in our database accept the GI Bill and we are learning about more schools that do all the time, so this number will only continue to increase. That’s over 850 bachelor’s programs to choose from that take the GI Bill today in our database, along with all the information to make the process of getting to college in Europe much more manageable.

Join now to learn more


Does College In State Cost Less than Studying in Europe?


The first benefit of college in Europe that caught my attention was the dramatic cost difference! Some of our Facebook ads and posts are about these savings and people sometimes comment along the lines of “In-state is still less expensive”. First of all, I find it interesting that people express this as a fact. Certainly, there are some in-state options that are less expensive than some options in Europe, but how about more generally speaking? 

I’ve done a tuition cost comparison for public universities in the past, using tuition information from one of our members who is studying in Prague. Her tuition in Prague is right around the average in Europe, at $6,700 per year, but her in-state tuition at public University of Connecticut is quite high at $12,848 (which does not even include the almost $3,000 of mandatory fees). Since the program in Europe takes just three years to achieve a bachelor’s, she will pay a total of $20,100 in tuition.  At UConn, she would pay $38,544 in tuition alone for the four year program. That’s a savings of $18,444, which does not even consider how much less expensive her housing and meals are in Prague.  According to Expatistan, the cost of living is 59% lower in Prague, so the savings will still be significant, even after factoring in airfare.

We recently had dinner with some family friends and their daughter, Nicole, who is a freshman at North Carolina State in Raleigh. We talked a lot about her college experience and the various costs involved.  I decided to do a more in-depth comparison using the numbers she provided as well as the budget we have for Sam’s first year to see if the savings hold up. 

Sam will attend Leiden University, in the Hague. The first thing to note is that the tuition at Leiden is on the higher side of the tuition range in Europe.  The average tuition for the English-taught bachelor’s programs in Europe is right around $7,000.  We will pay $12,010 per year for Sam’s tuition as an international student. Nicole pays $2,910 less for in-state tuition at NC State.  The cost of books is comparable.

Food and housing is where we start seeing a big difference!  In much of Europe student residences aren’t owned by the school. This creates choices for students in addition to market college in europe costcompetition.  Though students can often find housing for under $500 per month, I put the housing budget for Sam at $680. This is on the higher side of the range in order to show that the cost difference is significant even if a student can’t find the least expensive option.  So, for $6,800 per school year (10 months), Sam will have a private room that is larger than the room Nicole shares with a roommate.  He will either have a private bathroom or will share with one other student.  He will share a common space and kitchen with other students as well.  Nicole shares a bathroom with seven other students and does not have access to a kitchen, which brings me to the cost of meals….

Nicole has a meal plan through her sorority that provides 10 meals per week for $2,000 per year.  Of course, there are more meals in a week than that, so she has a meal plan on campus that provides $1,500 worth of food per year and then she gets take out or delivery about 5 times per month. Her overall food total is then $4,000 (or $400 per month).

There aren’t meal plans in Europe.  Larger universities have cafes and cafeterias on campus, but they aren’t meant to feed students for every meal.  The norm is that students cook for themselves.  This is often an adjustment for American students, but so many of the students I have talked to love how meals in their student residences become a multicultural event!  I’m not sure whether $200 a month, as in the budget for Sam, seems high or low to me at this point.  It’s a number that seems reasonable, given what I saw on many different Dutch university websites about student budget. Certainly, $200 per month could buy a lot of ramen noodles, but I am hopeful that he expands his repertoire!

One benefit to living in many European cities is the ability to use public transportation! Students in the Netherlands can take public transportation for free at certain points of the day and have discounted rates at others.  The $600 total transportation budget includes local travel, travel within the country, as well as the purchase of a second-hand bike.  In Raleigh, Nicole does not have access to many public transportation options.  She spends about $50 per month on Uber and another $15 a month on the party bus her sorority rents to take to events.

The $2,000 sorority dues are the reason that Nicole’s social budget is so much higher than Sam’s, as well as the personal care budget since the sorority events usually involve things like getting her nails and hair done and such.  Sam has expenses that Nicole won’t have, with his student residence permit and costs for traveling home.  Of course, there will be other expenses for both that this budget doesn’t account for, but those should be comparable enough that they would be close to a wash.

So where does that leave us? Each year, Nicole pays a total of $29,150.  Sam will pay $25,860.

You might think that Nicole’s number is higher than it needs to be, since she is in a sorority.  That would only take $2,000 per year off though, which is still higher than Sam’s yearly number.

You might say to yourself that a savings of $3,290 per year is not that significant.  I totally agree. Where we get to the real savings is when you look at the fact that many European bachelor’s degree programs, including Leiden, take just 3 years to complete.  That make our overall savings $39,020!  Also consider that Sam will be earning an income (and off our bankroll…) one year earlier which increases the savings even further.

While the savings are certainly a tangible and significant benefit, we would still have pursued these options if the price was comparable.  Certainly, there are other benefits like a transparent admissions process and those related to educational outcomes.  Just as important to us, though, is what this experience can do for the overall perspective of the student.  He will make friends from around the world, which helps cultivate his identity as a global citizen. He will gain great confidence from learning to successfully navigate unfamiliar situations. According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, this international experience will help his career, too. One of our members-the one who is studying in Prague-described it incredibly well.  She told me that when she first went to school in Europe it felt like a really big deal.  After being there for almost two years and developing the traits noted above, she feels like the world is within her reach.  I can’t tell you how much I love that!




Affordable College in Estonia

Episode 6: Affordable College in Estonia

Show Notes


In this episode, Jenn interviews Crystal LaGrone about her experience attending the Master’s program in e-Governance Technologies at Tallinn University of Technology in Tallinn, Estonia. Crystal’s tuition and living expenses were quite reasonable, especially since this program was exactly what she wanted to study.

Affordable college in Estonia


Best fit list

Estonia wiki page

Is Estonia the Next Silicon Valley? 

Firsthand: Estonia

Tallinn University of Tech sample page

House Hunters International episode on Estonia

What is Cyber hygiene?


Documentary: The Singing Revolution

NATO cyber security center in Tallinn

Freedom Square

Study Medicine in Europe: the Fast Track to Health Sciences Careers

Are you considering a career in health sciences? Have you thought about the option to study medicine in Europe? Europe offers many programs that combine a bachelor’s degree with an advanced degree in areas like medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy.  In 5-6 years (depending on the type of program), students can obtain their bachelor’s and also an advanced degree like a PharmD, DVM, DDS or MD.  In the programs we’re talking about, you’ll be able to study medicine in Europe in English. Here’s the crazy thing – the average tuition for these programs is just under $10,500 per year.

Let’s go through some of the details and obstacles to study medicine in Europe. For each of these fields of study, we will look at what would need to occur for a student to practice in the US after graduating from a combined program in Europe. It’s important to note that the student would be able to practice in Europe (and other countries as well) with fewer hoops to jump through. Regardless, as you will see below the incredible financial benefits of the option to study medicine in Europe make the bureaucratic obstacles look small.

Pharmacy: Take a Test and Pick Up $400k

This field of study has the fewest obstacles.  If you want to practice in the states, you will take the Foreign It's a no brainer to study medicine in EuropePharmacy Graduate Equivalency Exam and then take the NAPLEX test which is the test all graduates must pass to become licensed pharmacists. Europe offers 8 English conducted integrated (meaning combined bachelor’s and master’s degree) pharmacy programs and the average is just $8,125 per year which means the total tuition cost to get a PharmD is $40,625 for the 5-year program.

How does this compare to a student in the US?  Let’s look at the costs for a student paying in-state tuition at UNC Chapel Hill  The tuition cost of their bachelor’s degree alone (IF he graduates in 4 years, as only 36% of undergrads do today) is already at $35,592. The four-year PharmD tuition adds another $95,088 total.  It will take this student eight years and cost $130,680 total for in-state tuition.  It would cost an out of state student a staggering sum of $331,107.

This means the student studying in Europe saves $90,055-$290,482 in tuition and starts earning money three years earlier! Since the average pharmacist makes $115,000 per year, those three years of “lost earnings” equate to $345,000. Combining tuition savings and lost earnings, the total comes to $435,055 – $635,482.

Veterinary Medicine: Another Easy Choice

This is a good one to look at since there are only 30 vet programs in the US and getting accepted into one is known to be quite difficult (in some ways more difficult than getting into medical school). To become a licensed vet in the US, graduates from a foreign degree program must first get their credentials certified. The Education Commission for Foreign Graduates (ECFVG) certification program is accepted in all states and involves a written test as well as a hands-on Clinical Proficiency Examination. After earning an ECFVG, graduates then must pass the national licensure exam as well as any exams required by the state in which they would practice.

Europe offers seven English conducted veterinary programs that take usually take 6 years (though some take 5.5).  The average tuition of these programs is just $6,400 per year.  Nope, that’s not a typo!  That means that the total tuition over the entire 6 years is $38,400.

Let’s look at our UNC student again.  We already know that the cost of the entire vet program in Europe is almost the same than the in-state tuition alone for the bachelor’s degree at UNC Chapel Hill (which is $35,592).  The nearby 4-year veterinary medicine program at North Carolina State is $18.516 per year for in-state students putting the 8 year total at $109,656. Our poor, out of state students will pay $310,680 over the eight years.

The student in Europe is saving between $71,256- $272,280 and is earning money 2 years before his counterpart graduating from North Carolina!

Dentistry: Wrinkles Included

This is another good option, but does have more obstacles than veterinary medicine and pharmacy.  To practice as a dentist in the US, you need to have graduated from a school that has been accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).  However, these schools are only in the US and Canada!  Dentists who have been trained and educated in other countries can do an advanced standing 2-year program with a CODA school.   Some of the advanced standing tuition rates are higher than even the regular dental school tuition, which seems like a bit of a racket.  I saw many in the $75,000-$90,000 a year range.

Europe offers 18 English conducted integrated bachelor and DDS degrees. Most of these are five-year programs and the average tuition is $13,250 for a total average of $66,250.The question is whether this is still a good deal given that you need the two extra years of study to practice in the US.

UNC does not have an advanced standing program, so for this example, we will look at Boston University.  A student who has a degree from Europe and then completes the 2 year Advanced Standing program at Boston University will end up paying an additional $144,000, so their total tuition over 7 years is $210,250.  How crazy is it that two years of study here is almost double of the cost of entire five years in Europe — much of which will likely be redundant learning. Sigh.

A student at Boston University pays $196,000 for their bachelor’s and then another $288,000 for their DDS, bringing their total to $484,000. The student in Europe is still saving $273,750 and entering the workforce a year earlier. According to Money magazine, that year is worth $149,540. This brings the total benefit to $423,290.

Study Medicine in Europe: How Much is Playing It Safe Worth?

study medicine in EuropeIf your plan is to find work as a doctor in the EU, this is a great route to take! Here’s a fun fact: physicians in the Netherlands earn more on average than MDs in the US.   If, however, your ultimate plan is to return to the US to work, you will encounter a few obstacles. Most of the obstacles are just hassles and not insurmountable. These include things like taking the US Medical Licensing exam and getting your transcripts verified.  The most significant challenge is that, unless you have completed a residency in Canada, you are required to do a medical residency in the US-even if you completed a residency in a country with an advanced medical system! Obtaining a residency in the US is extremely competitive and odds of getting into a program are lower for those who graduate from foreign schools, though the number is increasing. On average, 75% of applicants get a residency or “match”. Most recently 53.9% of US citizens with international medical degrees (IMG) were matched to first-year programs and the number of U.S. citizen IMGs matching to first-year positions has increased in 12 of the last 13 matches.

There are 35 English conducted integrated bachelor’s/MD programs in Europe.  They take six years to complete and the average annual tuition is $10,400.  That number is actually higher than the true average.  There are a number of these programs in Italy.  Tuition to study medicine in Italy at public universities is based on family income, so the numbers used for the average are the maximum a student would pay, not what the students actually pay to study medicine in Italy.   Nonetheless, using those numbers, our student in Europe would pay an average of $62,400 in tuition over the duration of the six-year program.

Let’s look again at our UNC student.  The in-state student is paying $35,592 for a bachelor’s degree program and then $70, 148 for their MD, bringing their 8 year total to $105,740.  The out of state student would pay $313,328.

Our student studying medicine in Europe will save between $43,084- 250,928, but with significant potential residency headaches if coming back to the US.

Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

When looking at the costs, it is important to note that many of these programs are offered in countries like Hungary, the Czech Republic, and other central European countries. The cost of living is much lower there than in the States. Avoiding student loan interest is also a significant benefit that we haven’t touched on.

Each of the programs we list in our database is fully accredited and many are very reputable.  For pharmacy school, it’s clearly very attractive, given the 3 years of income gained and the high earnings for the field. Whether a student intends to seek employment in the US or abroad after graduation, I think the benefits outweigh the obstacles for programs in dentistry and veterinary medicine, as well. Medical programs are not as clear cut.  I think it is definitely worth considering by students who plan to practice outside of the US, students who do not want to attend in-state school in the US, or live in one of the six states that don’t have an in-state school option, or students who are comfortable working outside of their field for a year, if the residency placement ends up taking more than a year.

Want to Study Medicine in Europe? Take the Next Step and Join Now

If you want to learn more about these programs to study medicine in Europe, gratification is just a few clicks away. We’ve added them to our online database with 1,500 other English-taught bachelor’s programs across Europe. When you sign up as a member, you’ll gain immediate access to all the information we’ve gathered over the past 18 months from our research, our on-campus visits, plus our own impressions gathered from working with other candidates like you. We offer a range of packages from self-guided to fully supported, to help students understand and qualify their choices. If you’re planning to get an advanced degree in the health sciences field, you owe it to yourself to investigate the option to study medicine in Europe. The cost is as little as $89, and the impact could easily be over $500,000. Here’s the membership link again.

Nursing Study Abroad: Get Your BSN without Going Broke

nursing study abroadWhen the instructor asked the class on the first day of nursing school “Why do you want to become a nurse?” Hannah’s answer was different from her classmates. The other students talked about caring for the sick, helping to deliver babies, and saving lives. While those aspects also mattered to Hannah, she said she needed a career where she could find a job easily, one that would pay well upon graduation and would support her wherever she went. Hannah’s answers were different from her classmates because she had seen her own family struggle since her father’s computer programming job was sent offshore.

For a person with the right temperament, nursing is an excellent career choice.

  1. You’ll always be able to find a job. There has been an ongoing nursing shortage for decades. It is expected to worsen, due to the increasing incidence of chronic diseases, aging of the “baby boomer” generation and the constrained output of nursing schools. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 1,052,000 additional nurses are needed by 2022 to meet the demand, a 19% increase over today.
  2. Nursing is a high paying field. According to the same BLS study, nurses have the second highest median income at $65,470 (2012). Did you know nurses make more than accountants?
  3. Excellent long-term prospects: The current nursing workforce is nearing retirement age. The average age of a nurse increased from to 44.7 in 2010 from 40.2 in 2000. As these older nurses retire over the next 1-2 decades, opportunities for advancement will continue to open up. Wages will remain high, since the demand will exceed the supply. Additionally, nurses will find opportunities in other areas of the hospital like IT and management, as well as with vendors.

How does one become a Registered Nurse (RN)?

  1. Education: obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) Note: While you can become a registered nursehc-tabletpc with an Associate’s degree, a BSN is the preferred credential. It will improve earning power over your career.
  2. Exam: Pass the standardized test for nursing, the NCLEX-RN
  3. License: Complete the licensing requirements for your state. Each state (and DC) has a state board of nursing. License requirements vary, so you’ll have to research this.

How much does Nursing school cost in the US?

There are a number of options for nursing school depending on your goals and current education level. Let’s look at schools in Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania is one of the top nursing schools in the country (Others top schools are Duke, Johns Hopkins, and UCSF.). Each program below is 4 years in duration.

Tuition at University of Pennsylvania (UPenn): $51,464

Tuition at University of Pittsburgh: $23,270-$37,642 (in-state/out of state)

Tuition at Temple University: $19,130-$31,610 (in-state/out of state)

Nursing school in the US seems to be pretty expensive. Are there any other nursing study abroad options?

Yes! The good news is you don’t have to fork over $80,000-$200,000 in tuition over 4 years to get a BSN degree if you get your degree overseas. In addition to 1,500 other programs, the Beyond the States database contains 14 English-taught, BSN programs ranging in cost from $2,500 per year to $12,000 per year. One program even takes just 3 years, but most are 3.5 to 4 years in duration. The total program tuition costs (tuition x duration) range from $10,800 to $43,632. Assuming cost of living is comparable (in some Eastern European countries it’s a lot lower) and a $2,000 annual travel budget, getting a nursing degree can be 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of getting a BSN in the US and you’ll get to see the world!

Courses take place in specially equipped labs where students practice nursing procedures in simulated conditions. The skills are then transferred to real-life situations during work placements in various healthcare institutions. In Finland in order to complete the work placements, you’ll learn Finnish during your course of study.

Special Note about Finland:

Half of these nursing programs are in Finland. In 2016, the Finns began phasing in tuition fees to international students for the first time. As part of the transition, schools are offering extremely generous benefits. One school is offering a 50% tuition discount for year one. While at another, if you graduate in three years, the third year is free.

Are these non-US degrees readily accepted?

Yes! Due to the ongoing nursing shortage, nurses have been hired from outside the US for years, so non-US degrees are a lot more common in nursing than in other fields. The three major qualifications employers use to screen candidates with international degrees are:

  1. Accreditation: Does the BSN come from an accredited institution? Beyond the States only lists schools that are accredited.
  2. English proficiency
  3. Ability to Get a Work Visa: a non-issue for US citizens

Fast forward to today, Hannah manages an operating room at a hospital in Philadelphia. Given the ongoing demand for nurses, the positive outlook, and the ability to help others, nursing is one best career paths for today’s students to explore and getting a BSN via nursing study abroad is a great place to start! Join now to see how Beyond the States can help!

Want to learn about more? Sign up for the Beyond the States newsletter for the latest information about English-taught college in Europe.

Podcast: Affordable Tuition

college in europeThis episode of the Beyond the States podcast focuses on tuition cost. Jenn presents information on the astronomical tuition in the US and related problems. She then demonstrates how tuition for the English-taught bachelor’s and master’s degree options in Europe allow an international student to pay less for her entire degree program-including travel costs- than one year of tuition alone at many schools in the US.
Peter Kumble, an American professor at Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic joins the discussion. They explore how it is possible for international student tuition to be so reasonably priced and dig into information about the continued savings students have for other related costs like housing, fees, books, and health insurance.


Peter Kumble, PhD

Czech University of Life Sciences

Middlebury College in Vermont

UNC Tuition Link Roadblock

34% of students earn a bachelor’s in 4 years

Why is tuition continuing to go up?

Perk Wars

Sticker Price vs Actual

College with “Lazy River

Leiden University

Myth: College sports are a cash cow

Harsh Truth: US Universities are Big Businesses and Student Loans Pay the Bills

Peter’s Department page

College in Europe Cost Comparison, Jared

College in Europe Cost Comparison, Theo

Next Episode

Save your Sanity with Transparent Admissions Processes

Theo’s Cost Comparison

We’ve already written one cost comparison post showing how college in Europe with low tuition is much more affordable than a public university or venice a private university in the US. This caused us to ask another question: does it still make financial sense when the tuition is not the incredibly low €1000 per year that Jared will be paying? We think the answer is “Yes” for a number of reasons, but let’s look at the numbers.

Theo is a strong student from a good high school in Venice, California. His grades and 6 AP classes were more than enough to get him into a good school of his choosing in the US or in Europe. He’d wanted to go to college in Europe since middle school.  When it was time to get serious about applying, he didn’t know where to start.

After finding Beyond the States, he applied to a number of university colleges in the Netherlands. Theo chose the liberal arts program at Leiden University College in The Hague. Let’s see how Theo’s costs compare to a public university and a private university in his home state of California.

Cost Comparison-Theo

 Leiden University CollegeUCLA Occidental College
Tuition $11,674$12,816$50,492
Housing$7,471$15,069 (with Board)$14,460 (with Board)
Living Expenses (incl. food)$3,945$1,677 ("Personal")$1,628 ("Personal")
Health Insurance$500$2,265$2,150
Travel & Transportation$2,000$600$1,034
Annual Total$27,177$34,062$71,592
Years to Complete344

Sources: Leiden University College  UCLA  Occidental

The cost of living is 13% less in Leiden than it is in Los Angeles where both other schools are located, according to Expatistan. Food, housing and entertainment costs are all significantly less in The Hague.

img_3685Housing at Leiden University College is upscale and unique. Students are required to live on campus the first two years of study, so housing is guaranteed.  The students live in studio apartments on the upper floors of the 21 story LUC building, which is just five years old and in great condition. Most units are large single rooms with their own kitchenette and bathroom and large floor to ceiling windows with wonderful views of The HaLUCgue. Each floor has a shared lounge/eating area, quiet areas for study and resident assistant. The building also contains 15 classrooms, along with an auditorium for 200 students, self-study areas, a grand café and a student lounge with performing arts room, a student-run bar and office space for LUC’s student association. The highest standard of nature friendly materials were used for the interior, expressing the importance of sustainability to all and echoed by the large vertical garden behind the reception desk. For more about housing, visit this link.

When all is said and done, Leiden University College is $6,885 less per year than UCLA, which equates to a total savings of $54,717 over Theo’s college career. Further, just one year at Occidental isn’t much less than all three years at Leiden University College!

The real bottom line though takes into account the experience and fit. When Theo sat in on a class at LUC, he noted that the class was how he imagined college should be – students engaging in interesting, intelligent discussions with a teacher facilitating discussion without dominating it. He felt like he’d found his place. For Theo, being able to get his degree at Leiden University College doesn’t just make financial sense, it’s the fulfillment of a dream.




College in Europe Cost Comparison

I often encounter disbelief when I tell parents about the savings opportunities by sending their student to Europe for college. I think a lot of Americans think that Europe will be much more expensive because they associate Europe with expensive vacations, designer clothes, etc. The reality is different, though. To be sure, cities like London, Zurich, and Tokyo are among the world’s most expensive, but they’re right up there with New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco. I found an interesting list at Expatistan which shows the cost of living for different cities around the world. Did you know that it costs more to live in Boston than in Paris or Stockholm? Or that the cost of living in Dallas was greater than in Munich or Milan? Overall, how does the cost of college in Europe really compare to well known schools in the US?

jaredLet’s preform a real-world comparison. Let’s look at one of our clients, Jared D. When we met with him, he was a high school senior from Chapel Hill, NC. He did well in high school (4 AP courses, strong SATs, a weighted GPA of 4.3), but wasn’t sure of his direction afterwards. After a consultation with Beyond the States, he will attend KU Leuven in Brussels, Belgium. This school is rated the 44th best global university by US News. He was accepted into their Business Administration program, which is conducted entirely in English, and is 3 years in duration.

Jared looked at other colleges, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s compare two nationally known schools. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University in Durham, NC. Most of the costs are clear. For the Leuven example, I’ve given him a very generous $4,000 annual travel budget to fly home twice and to travel on his breaks.

College Cost Comparison

 KU LeuvenUNC Chapel HillDuke University
Living Expenses (incl. food)$4,050$4,926$6,830
Health Insurance$130$1,088$1000
Fees$150$58included in tuition
Annual Total$14,940$22,640$70,902
Years to Complete344

Sources: KU Leuven, UNC, Duke

Big Take-Away

If he would have chosen one of the US schools and graduates in 4 years (which less than 50% of students do) then his total cost at the public university would be $90,560 and $283,608 at the private university. The difference is staggering – his entire cost at the end of his Bachelor’s in Belgium will be less than the cost for 1 year at Duke and less than 2 years at UNC!

Other Take-Aways

Health insurance in Belgium is much less than the US and the national health plan in Belgium is among Europe’s best

According to Expatistan, the cost of living is about the same between Durham where Duke is and Brussels.

We’ve left financial aid out of this equation, because it varies from family to family, based on income.



How to Pay for College in Europe?

money Jar Saving for college has always stressed me out. We put money away every month, but I’ve known for a while that it won’t be enough to make a dent in US tuition costs. I read an article that said, of families saving for college, the average amount saved is $15,346. Given that 4 years of tuition alone averages between $37,640 (public, in-state) and $129,620 (private), I’m not the only one who is falling short in the college savings department!  Financial advisors know that it’s farfetched to suggest that parents have enough saved for the full 4 years of college, but they recommend that families plan to have at least 1/3 of the total tuition saved, and fund the remaining 2/3 with current income, financial aid and loans.  Given that many of us are still paying off our own student loans, the thought of incurring more debt is not appealing.

Tuition costs in Europe are dramatically lower – even for international students, so you might be surprised at how close you are to having enough socked away already.  I know we were! The average cost of the English-taught programs we surveyed is $7,291 a year, with 533 programs coming in under  5,000€ ($5,762) per year. Further, most programs take just 3 years to complete! Even with housing and travel factored in, you will likely pay less than you would for a public, in-state school. However, it’s still more than most of us could write a check for, especially with other costs like proof of means to consider, so I thought it would be useful to look at different funding options.

College Savings in a 529 Plan

A question from a member parent spurred my research into this.  We have two college funds set up for both of our kids and one is a 529 plan.  This parent is in a similar situation and inquired about whether 529 funds could be used in for a school in Europe.  Funds inside a 529 plan can be used at any school that accepts US financial aid or loans.

We show this in our database by listing the FAFSA number, which is a number that will be written on the US financial aid application. Schools will have a FAFSA number if they accept US loans. Some schools in Europe, especially the more expensive American colleges, also accept Pell grants.

My son, Sam, is super excited about going to school in Europe (or as much as a 15pig_images-year-old boy will ever admit to being excited about anything…).  Though he is just 15, he already has his eye on a few schools.  I immediately signed onto the database to check the FAFSA status at those schools.  One accepts it and the other two don’t. So what happens if we can’t use our 529 money for an accepted school?  I read something about taxes and a 10% penalty and started to get nervous.  Then I saw that the taxes and penalty are only on the gain the original investment earned, not on the amount we’d put in. Since the earnings are not that impressive of an amount, I was able to relax.  For now we plan to start saving in a different account and figure out what to do about the 529 money when we learn where Sam will go to school. We’ll also discuss the tax ramifications with our tax advisor. There are choices like using it for another child/family member, using it to buy a computer (this a new use for 529 money this year) or using it for graduate school.  Shifting the 529 to another child can be a good option when there is a younger sibling, but then leaves you without the money you saved for the older child.

Good News about Scholarships

Many schools offer tuition waivers and scholarships for international students that are either need-based, merit-based, or a combination of the two.  These may be a small tuition reduction all the way up to a full scholarship that includes housing costs as well.  Sciences Po, for instance, offers the Emile Boutmy Scholarship for international students, which ranges from 3,000€ per year (for all 3 years) to 7300€ a year for tuition as well as 5000€ a year for part of housing (also for all three years).

upside down guySome of the American schools with American size tuition, may also be within reach by using scholarship options.  At the American University of Paris, IB diploma holders are automatically awarded  an IB scholarship of between 5000-20,000€ per year, based on their IB diploma score. They also offer merit and need-based opportunities to all students of up to 75% of tuition costs.

There are scholarship and aid options for international students outside of specific schools, as well. One example is the Holland Scholarship (5000€), which is available for international students studying in the Netherlands.  Students in France are eligible for CAF, which provides them with about 100€ per month to go towards housing.  Scholarships for Development has a comprehensive list of scholarship options for international students, though some effort in weeding through them is required.

I’ve felt more optimistic about paying for college ever since I discovered the option of college in Europe.  I feel even better knowing about the options to supplement, if needed.  Though ideally the lower tuition and scholarship options will be enough for many families, there is also the option of taking out federal students loans for the schools that participate with FAFSA.

How We Can Help You

You can engage Beyond the States to help you find a school that fits all of your needs, financial and otherwise, as part of our consulting services. These can be purchased stand-alone, if you’ve already selected a school or along with a membership. Visit our Services page to learn more.

Resource: IRS 529 FAQ