Is There Value in Studying at a “Cheap” Country?


This is a collaborative post.

Being a foreign student in the US or the UK, the two most popular destinations for foreign students can be incredibly expensive. Not even counting tuition, the most recent figures put the estimated living expenses of a foreign student in the US at around $700-$1,000 a month.  This includes accommodations, food, transportation, clothing, textbooks, and entertainment. Figures in the UK average a similar amount, about ‎£989 per month, slightly more than the US after accounting for exchange rates.

And that’s just living expenses. Matriculation fees in the US typically run around $25,620 a year for foreign students at state colleges and universities, to as much as $45,000-$50,000 a year in Harvard or Dartmouth. Given the state of incomes in the countries of origin of foreign students, this usually means that only the children of these countries’ elites and a very minute number of scholars are able to study abroad as foreign students at the most desired colleges and universities.

Given that Harvard, Dartmouth, and Oxbridge are way out of the budget for most foreign students who would otherwise qualify for them, this has led to an explosion of foreign student programs from other more-affordable positioned universities and colleges that may not be in the top spots.

However, in most cases, it can be argued that that one can get as much value, if not more value for their money by taking higher education in a country with a lower cost of living, lower cost of education, or a country where both apply.


Countries with free tuition for international students

Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Slovenia, and France are popular destinations for American and British international students as these countries offer free or virtually free college education while having a cost of living similar or perhaps lower to their home countries. Many of the schools in these countries that offer free or low-cost tuition are also among the top-ranked universities from all over the world.

If you can speak the languages of those countries at a native or proficient level, you’ll have pretty much the same advantages as foreign students that pick a more expensive country to study in. Unless all your prospective employers demand that you got your education from the top 10 private universities in the US or UK, it’s doubtful that spending more for more expensive American or British universities will get you further.

Countries with a low cost of living and quality low-cost education

Additionally, outside of some technical fields, many employers will be impressed enough to see that you went to a university overseas. Some countries that are quite advanced in terms of their economy, living standards, and educational standards but offer low costs of living include Taiwan, Malaysia, and Mexico.  India and South Africa are also popular destinations for certain sets of foreign students due to the low cost of living and quality of education offered compared to the tuition fees.

Expensive universities are not just about education

However, one overlooked advantage of going to a more expensive university is that it can put you in direct contact with the people who are likely to shape and control our futures. This is an advantage that goes beyond simply getting a degree with honors at Harvard or Yale. The connections that you gain in college can ultimately be a bigger predictor of success more than the type of education you are able to receive.

Regardless of whether you decide to go with a more expensive university or go with a cheaper option for college, if you’re studying overseas, it’s important to be up-to-date with your international health insurance policy, as foreign students are a particularly high-risk group for accidents and illness.

Getting a policy targeted specifically for students and other long-term foreign residents from a specialised insurance company such as Now Health International allows you to stretch your budget for higher learning even further while expanding your coverage at the same time.

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