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The ever-rising costs of tuition in the United States is enough to make you want to turn abroad to receive your education. However, there are still ways to attend tuition free universities elsewhere.
Contrary to popular belief, there are many high-ranked universities throughout the world that offer free tuition, or tuition at a very affordable price. Not only do you get the chance to receive a degree from a high-ranked university, but the opportunity to learn a new language and experience a new culture. This will entice employers to hire you and also instill a sense of self-satisfaction.
In fact, a lot of these school outrank a lot of US schools and are more open to accepting foreigners to increase campus diversity (meaning higher chances of obtaining a scholarship). After my time in Taiwan, I highly recommend anyone to go abroad at least once. If you have a mission to get a degree in another language, even better.
I personally went through the list of highest-ranked universities in the world from QS World Rankings and researched their tuition costs. Here we’re going to list universities in order from highest to lowest that have free or really cheap tuition rates.
Only schools with a tuition of $1,000 or lower for international students per semester will be listed. Rankings listed to the right of the university is its overall ranking in the world based on quality of education.
If you see one on the list that isn’t here but you think should be, let us know in the comments below.
1. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – #12
Tuition: $600 USD per semester
If you want to study in Switzerland, this is the place to be. They are one of the leading universities in education and research for their Bachelor’s, Master’s and PHD programs. For undergraduate coursework, most language of instruction is in German, but there are some all-English programs. All graduate coursework is done in English. With excellent healthcare and Switzerland being the economic center of Europe, this is one university that you should be dying to attend.
2. EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) – #17
Tuition: $650 USD per semester
Just like ETH Zurich, this university also lies in Switzerland and is one of the top-ranked research universities in the world. The university ha nearly 15,000 people including students, professors and staff from over 120 different countries. Located in the heart of Geneva, you can find courses in both French and English. If you’re looking to do any postgraduate work, most of the journals and language of instruction is in English. This is an excellent school for those specializing in engineering and other sciences.
3. Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris – #24
Tuition: $330 USD per semester
France has a reputation for having some of the greatest schools in Europe. Founded in 1794, ENS in France is known as a legend and is one of the most prestigious universities that anyone can attend. If you’re interested in mathematics, you’ll be glad to know that all French Fields Medals have been awarded to those who have studied at ENS. Since it is so competitive, it wants to maintain the luxury of having a small student body of only 2,500 students admitted per year.
4. Ecole Polytechnique – #35
Tuition: $300 USD per semester
Another university from France comes in at #35. Ecole Polytechnique is known for its research in Science and Technology above any other field. Their mission is to train outstanding young men and women to become the leaders of tomorrow. Just like ENS, they claim to have the luxury of having a small student body of only 2,500 students to keep a personal feel within the campus. Located in Paris with its high-speed metro and incredible nightlife, you won’t be missing out if you attend this university.
5. Ruprecht-Karls-Universitaet Heidelberg – #49
As of 2014, Germany will provide tuition-free education to all students studying for a bachelor’s degree. If you’re looking to do postgraduate education, certain majors will require you to pay a fee, but it’s usually not very high and is mostly used to cover the cost of lab equipment. Heidelberg heavily relies on research-based teaching and offers over 160 different degrees. There are over 400 different universities in the world that partner with Heidelberg bringing a large range of diversity on campus. This is by far Germany’s top university.
6. KAIST – Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology – #51
Tuition: Free (dependent on GPA)
If you’re looking to study Korean or want to obtain a degree in English from Korea, KAIST is going to be your best bet. No tuition fees are given to Freshman students, and if you maintain a GPA of over 3.0 the tuition remains free. Otherwise, those with a GPA of between 2.0 and 3.0 have to pay $1,435 per semester. This school has been known to raise elites in Korea’s society, especially in the area of Science & Technology. They highly emphasize creativity and expanding your mind to a more global outlook.
7. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – #51
Another university from Germany pops up with tuition-free education. Ludwig has over 500 years of tuition and is one of Germany’s leading research institutions. They offer courses in over 150 different subjects and offers a wide spectrum of many different areas of knowledge. While they specialize in mostly research, they also offer many different courses in humanities, social sciences, economics, and law among others. This university has a reputation throughout all of Europe for producing great journals of research.
8. Technische Universität München – #54
Technische offers a wide range of options for study, but their main focus tends to be engineering, natural sciences, life sciences, economics, and medical sciences. They have also arranged many double-degree programs for those looking to expand their knowledge and have partnered-up with over 170 universities in the world. This university has fostered many students who have become leading executives in top-level companies throughout Germany and all of Europe. You won’t have trouble finding a degree program in either English or German.
9. University of Zurich – #57
Tuition: $700 USD or $150 USD for PHD students per semester
University of Zurich dates all the way back to 1833 with over 2,000 lecturers in over 140 different subjects. The school has over 19,000 students and they are considered part of the global network for the obtainment of knowledge. Most courses are taken in German at a Bachelor’s level and English for any postgraduate work. If you’re looking to study something outside of sciences in Europe, this might be the university for you as they also place a strong emphasis on anthropology and zoology.
10. University of Helsinki – #67
Most universities provide free tuition in Finland for both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The University of Helsinki places emphasis on supporting development in society, business and industry. They participate in over half of the Centers of Excellence in Research and has incredibly strong international connections. The only downside to this university is the extremely high-cost of living in Finland. However, the quality of life and levels of happiness are reported to be incredibly high.
Even though tuition may be cheap or free for these top-rated tuition free universities, make sure to factor in cost-of-living. It might be cheaper for you to go to another university with a little bit lower ranking just to save on costs. If you want to live in the capital Korea for example, it’s most likely going to be a lot more expensive than average- or smaller-sized cities in the US.
Fortunately, there are many scholarships for foreigners that will cover both living and tuition expenses. You have the upper-hand when applying from abroad, so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity while having the chance to go abroad. Want the convenience of earning a degree online absolutely free?
Now you can with the University of The People, allowing you to study anywhere in the world.
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If you have any tuition free universities you’d like to add to this list, let us know in the comments below!
My name is Jason Wuerch and I'm currently located in Madrid, Spain running a personal finance blog called Frugal For Less. My goal is to help everyone and anyone willing to make and save money through easy and simple ways that don't require much effort. Just because you're frugal doesn't mean you have to give up life's luxuries.