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America is suffering from a severe student loan debt crisis. And it’s getting more overwhelming every year. Close to 44 million Americans are currently strapped with student debt. And the total of that debt has exceeded $1.7 trillion.
One of the ways policy-makers and advocates have suggested we solve this crisis is by implementing a free college program. The majority of voters seem to support free college programs. But solving the problems brought on by the rising cost of college can seem impossible.
Did you know that there are many countries with free college? This short guide will look at countries with free education and explain how free college works for them.
What Countries Offer Free College?
When searching for which countries have free college, we consulted several sources. According to our research, there are 22 countries with free college worldwide. Some of the free education countries even provide free college to international students. Additionally, in 11 other countries, students can attend college at very affordable rates.
So Where Is College Free? Countries That Offer Free College or Low Tuition Rates
|Country||Tuition/Resident Students||Tuition/International Students/USD||Avg. Cost of Living/USD Including Rent per Month|
|Andora||Starts at €750/Year||$823 – $4,058/Year||$1,109 – $1,393|
|Argentina||FREE||FREE||$1,000 – $1,300|
|Austria||FREE||Starts at $835/Semester||$1,150 – $1,430|
|Belarus||FREE||$1,100 – $6,589/Year||$557 – $654|
|Belgium||Starts at €979/Year||$1,075 – $8,784/Year||$1,057 – $1,424|
|Brazil||FREE||FREE||$784 – $2,416|
|Bulgaria||Starts at €300/Year||Starts at $1,921/Year||$595 – $655|
|Cyprus||FREE for Undergraduates||Starts at $7,500/Year||$1,129 – $1,383|
|Czech Republic||FREE||FREE||$903 – $1,176|
|Denmark||FREE||Starts at $6,000/Year||$1,333 – $1,629|
|Estonia||€1,660/Year||$1,822 – $8,563/Year||$903 – $1,110|
|Finland||FREE||Starts at $4,391/Year||$1,073 – $1,423|
|France||About €200/Year||About $3,041/Year||$1,140 – $1,371|
|Germany||FREE||FREE||$1,142 – $1,402|
|Greece||FREE||About $1,650/Year||$836 – $982|
|Hungary||€1950 – €2950/Year||$2,850 – $4,172/Year||$672 – $815|
|Iceland||FREE||FREE||$3,000 and up|
|India||FREE or Nominal Fees||$1,175 – $5,800/Year||$182 – $245|
|Italy||Starts at €900/Year||$1,100 – $2,746/Year||$982 – $1,211|
|Lithuania||FREE||Starts at $1,400/Year||$807-$998|
|Luxembourg||€200 – €500/Year||$32,000 – $43,000/Year||$1,550 – $2,236|
|Malta||FREE||Starts at $1,186/Year||$1,041 – $1,395|
|Netherlands||Starts at €2,314/Year||Starts at $6,600/Year||$1,300 – $1807|
|Norway||FREE||About $13,000/Year||$1,330 – $1,733|
|Panama||FREE||FREE||$900 – $2,000|
|Poland||FREE||Starts at $2,000/Year||$725 – $925|
|Portugal||Starts at €550/Year||$3,840 – $8,238||$826 – $1,127|
|Scotland||FREE||$13,000 – $33,000||$1,900 – $3,150|
|Slovakia||FREE||Starting at $2,195/Year||$763 – $976|
|Slovenia||FREE||Starting at $2,195/Year||$886 – $1,081|
|Spain||FREE||Starting at $1,975/Year||$883 – $1.205|
|Sweden||FREE||Starts at $8238/Year||$1,015 – $1,337|
|Turkey||3,500 – 12,000 TL/Year||$240 – $1,500/Year||$550 – $824|
Countries With Free College or Low-Cost Tuition: More Details
Below, we’ll take a closer look at all the countries that have free college or low tuition rates. Some offer totally free tuition, while others charge nominal fees.
Andorra is a small country located in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. It has one public university, the University of Andorra. There is no free tuition, but costs to attend are minimal for citizens. And there are scholarships available. International students pay between €750 – €3,700 a year. The country provides a high quality of life with excellent healthcare and a low crime rate. The mountainous landscape also offers many opportunities for hiking and skiing.
Argentina: Free College
Argentina offers free undergraduate tuition fees for citizens and foreigners at its public universities. The country is known for its strong emphasis on academic excellence and research. Students can expect a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere both on and off campus. The country’s diverse geography also offers a range of landscapes and climates. International students will need a study visa if they are staying longer than three months. The cost of living in Argentina is 58% lower than in the US.
Austria: Free College
Austria offers citizens and EU/EEA nationals free tuition at its public universities. This extends for two semesters past the length of the degree. International students pay around €727 per semester. This comes to a little over $800. The country is known for its strong emphasis on research and innovation. And many of its universities rank high internationally. There is a strong focus on critical thinking, problem-solving, and independent research. As in many European countries, living expenses can be relatively high. However, the country provides a high quality of life with excellent healthcare and a low crime rate.
Belarus: Free College
Public universities in Belarus are free for nationals who pass the entrance exam. Students from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan can also get free tuition. Private universities have varying costs. International students must pay tuition costs between $1,100 – $6,589 per year. Belarus has a well-established higher education system. And there is a strong focus on practical skills and hands-on experience. The cost of living in Belarus is relatively affordable, too. It is important to note that Belarus has a strict political climate. There is limited freedom of speech and expression. This can impact the college experience for some students.
Belgium is a small and densely populated country in Western Europe. It is known for its rich cultural heritage, beautiful architecture, and delicious food. In Belgium, tuition is very reasonable for nationals. Most Belgian and EEA students pay about €979.60 per year. The cost for international students ranges from €979.60 – €8,000, depending on the program. Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German.
Brazil: Free College
Brazil is a large and diverse country in South America. And it is home to some of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders. Brazil’s public universities offer free tuition for citizens and foreigners. These schools are considered very prestigious. They have highly competitive admissions standards and limited spots available. Classes are generally taught in Portuguese. Brazil faces some challenges, including social inequality, crime, and political instability. These issues can impact daily life for some students.
Bulgaria is a small but beautiful country located in southeastern Europe. Bulgaria has many ancient ruins, museums, and art galleries. It also has relatively low living expenses compared to other European countries. This makes it an attractive destination for college students looking to study abroad. Bulgarian and EU students pay nominal fees to attend public universities, typically starting at about €300 per year. The tuition fees for international students starts at €1,750 per year. However, it is possible to attend college in Bulgaria for free with the help of scholarships. Private universities have varying costs.
Cyprus: Free College
Cyprus is a small island country located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It is known for its beautiful beaches and warm climate. And its residents live a relaxed and laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle. Undergraduate college students in Cyprus and EU students pay no tuition fees at public universities. However, they do pay tuition fees for their graduate studies. For international students, tuition starts at around €6,834 per year. The languages spoken in Cyprus are primarily Greek and Turkish, with classes taught in one of these languages. Private universities are typically more.
Czech Republic: Free College
The Czech Republic is a beautiful country located in the heart of Europe. It is central to many other European cities, including Berlin, Vienna, and Prague. So it’s an ideal destination for college students who want to travel. The country has a rich culture and history, with ancient castles, traditional music, and diverse cuisine. The Czech Republic provides free college education for its citizens. International students can also attend one of this country’s excellent public universities for free. However, they must take classes in the Czech language. Courses taught in other languages are not free. And private universities are typically more money.
Denmark: Free College
Denmark is known for its stunning landscapes, modern architecture, and progressive social policies. It consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world. Citizens enjoy a high standard of living, excellent healthcare, and a strong social welfare system. Danish citizens qualify for free college tuition. Students from Switzerland and the EU/EEA can also attend public universities in Denmark for free. For International students, tuition starts at $6,000 a year. Private universities are typically not free.
When searching for what countries have free college, we came across Estonia. It is not one of the countries that offer free college to their citizens. But it is ideal for students pursuing a low-cost college degree. Estonia is an e-society that ranks 2nd place for internet freedom worldwide. Everything in Estonia is digital. This includes e-government, e-health, e-school, e-parking, electronic ID cards, and more. Students in Estonia pay minimal costs to attend public universities. And international students pay between $1,822 – $8,563 a year. You can live comfortably in Estonia for $900 to $1,000 a month as a student.
Finland: Free College
Finland is home to stunning natural landscapes, including the Northern Lights. Like Denmark, it has a high standard of living and progressive social policies. There is also a strong focus on sustainability and renewable energy. Public universities in Finland are free for all citizens and EU students. International students who want to study in Finland will need to pay tuition. However, scholarships are available. And all students (regardless of nationality) can attend doctoral programs at no cost.
France is a gorgeous country and one of the most popular destinations for international students. Located in Western Europe, it features stunning architecture and fantastic cuisine. In addition, this multicultural country is known for its safety, low crime rate, and social welfare system. In France, college costs about €200 a year for citizens. This extends to residents of the EEA/EU and Switzerland. If you are from another region, you will need to pay tuition. However, tuition fees at public universities in France are reasonably affordable.
Germany: Free College
Germany is a breathtaking country with a high standard of living. It boasts excellent healthcare, education, and infrastructure. And it features many free universities. Germany’s public universities are free for everyone, regardless of nationality. However, international students still need to pay semester fees. They amount to around 300 or 400 euros. And they cover many incidental costs. This includes things like student organizations and public transportation tickets. However, if you are an international student, you must demonstrate you have sufficient funds to cover your living expenses.
Greece: Free College
Greece has a laid-back and relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle. And there is a strong focus on family, food, and enjoying life. The country’s warm climate and beautiful scenery make it an ideal destination for those who love the outdoors. Students in Greece can attend public universities at no cost. Students from Switzerland, the EU, and the EEA and Switzerland can also complete a bachelor’s degree for free. Non-EU international students typically pay around €1500 to attend a Greek public university. Private universities are generally more expensive in Greece.
Hungarian and EU students pay between €1950 – €2950 per semester for college in Hungary. Non-EU students will pay more, typically between €2600 – €3800 per semester. The cost of living in Budapest is reasonable at around €500 – €700. This includes housing and living costs. Most public universities offer accommodations for their students. Public transportation is affordable and efficient. And there are plenty of opportunities to explore the country’s rich culture and history. Private colleges are generally not tuition-free.
Iceland: Free College
Iceland has a highly respected education system. College is free for both citizens and international students. However, all students must pay annual administrative fees of around ISK 75,000 (roughly $575.00) The official language is Icelandic. However, most public universities offer courses taught in English. The cost of living comfortably in Iceland is estimated to be ISK 410,475, or a little over $3,000 a month. However, there are scholarships available to both domestic and international students.
India: Free College
India is a vibrant and fascinating country with strong traditions. As an international student, you can explore the many unique aspects of Indian culture. India has the third-largest publicly funded higher education system in the world. And it’s one of the countries with free university costs, especially for those who demonstrate financial need. Indian students can attend public universities for minimal fees. But very poor students generally pay no tuition. International students pay between $1,175 – $5,800 to attend college. Additionally, the cost of living in India is 68% lower on average than in the United States.
Italy is home to some of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities. Moreover, the country offers affordable college tuition to citizens and international students alike. For example, tuition for residents starts at about €900 a year at many public universities. And international students will typically pay between $1,100 and $2,746 per year. In addition, students can take advantage of many government-based scholarships. Some of these can make college in Italy almost entirely free.
Lithuania: Free College
Citizens of Lithuania and the EU can attend public universities for free. International students will pay $1,400 and up, depending on the program. However, those who wish to earn their Ph.D. in Lithuania can apply for free placements in doctoral programs. The education system is well-developed. However, many classes are taught in Lithuanian. The cost of living is generally lower than in Western Europe.
Luxembourg has a diverse and welcoming community. It is known for its high standard of living and variety of cultural and social events. The country has one public university that was founded in 2003. Citizens can attend the University of Luxembourg for less than €500 for their first year and €200 after that. International students, however, will pay full tuition fees that start at around $32,000 a year. The high cost of living in Luxembourg can be challenging for students on a budget.
Malta: Free College
Malta is a small island nation in the Mediterranean. It has a high-quality education system, with several universities and colleges. The warm climate and beautiful beaches make it a popular destination for international students. Malta offers free college tuition at public universities for citizens and EU students. And international students can expect to pay tuition starting at just $1,186 a year. It’s also relatively affordable to live in this welcoming and friendly country.
The Netherlands is a social country, and it has a bustling student community. There are many clubs, activities, and events. In the Netherlands, college isn’t free. However, higher education is subsidized by the Dutch government. So citizens and those from the EU/EEA, Switzerland, or Surinam pay reasonable tuition starting at €2,000. For international students, the cost of tuition starts at around €6,000. In addition, most public universities in the Netherlands provide on or off-campus housing for students.
Norway: Free College
Students in Norway, the EU/EEA, and Switzerland get free college tuition. However, as of 2023, International students are expected to pay full tuition fees. There are exceptions for exchange students, and scholarship opportunities are available. Norway has some of the best universities in the world, and its students have access to a top-notch education. Most of the courses are taught in English, so language barriers are minimal. Norway’s natural beauty during winter is breathtaking and can be enjoyed through many winter sports.
Panama: Free College
Panama is known for its tropical climate, beautiful beaches, and rich biodiversity. It is a melting pot of different cultures, with influences from Spain, Africa, and the Caribbean. And international students can experience this unique blend of cultures firsthand. Spanish is the official language of Panama. However, many universities offer classes in English. In Panama, both citizens and international students are entitled to free college tuition. The cost of living in Panama is about 34.8% less than in the United States.
Poland: Free College
Poland is a striking, historic country located in central Europe. It has a relatively low cost of living compared to other European countries. This makes it an attractive destination for students looking for an affordable place to study. In Poland, citizens and those from the EU/EEA and Switzerland can attend public colleges for free. However, all classes are taught in Polish. Other students must pay full tuition costs, which start at $2,000 per year. However, doctoral students from anywhere can study in Poland for free.
Portugal is a gorgeous country with friendly people and a warm climate. The country has several prestigious universities that attract students from all over the world. Portuguese is the official language. But most universities offer courses to help students learn the language. In Portugal, residents can attend a public university or polytechnic school free of tuition. However, there are administrative fees starting at about €550 a year. The average tuition cost for international students is between $3,840 – $8,238 a year.
Scotland: Free College
Scotland is a charming and picturesque country located in the northern part of the United Kingdom. It is home to stunning natural landscapes, including mountains, lochs, and islands. The country’s natural beauty offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. Scottish nationals get free college tuition in Scotland as long as they have lived there for at least three years. However, international students must pay full tuition, which can be anywhere between $13,000 – $33,000 a year.
Slovakia: Free College
Slovakia is known for its breathtaking nature, including the Tatra Mountains and numerous hiking trails. The education system is rigorous and demanding. However, the quality of education is high, and the cost of living is relatively low. Slovakia is also well-connected to other European countries. So it’s easy to travel and explore the rest of the continent during your free time. In Slovakia, public universities are free for residents and students from the EU. For international students, tuition starts at about €2000 a year.
Slovenia: Free College
Slovenia is a small country in Central Europe known for its striking natural beauty and friendly people. The country has a strong tradition of higher education, and its universities are highly regarded in Europe. Slovenia offers free tuition for its citizens. Additionally, students from the EU, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, the Republics of Macedonia, and Serbia, can also attend for free. Students must attend full-time to qualify. All other students must pay full tuition fees. These start at $2,195 a year, depending on the program.
Spain: Free College
Spain is a popular destination for students because of its vibrant culture, including food, music, art, and festivals. Spanish is the official language of Spain, and many universities teach in Spanish. However, some universities offer programs in English or bilingual programs. Spanish students and those from the EU can attend public colleges for free in Spain. International students will need to pay modest tuition fees. The cost of living in Spain is also about 20 percent lower than other European countries.
Sweden: Free College
Sweden offers world-class universities, a high standard of living, and beautiful natural surroundings. The focus is on independent study, with students expected to take a proactive role in their own learning. Higher education in Sweden is free for citizens of Sweden, Switzerland, and the EU/EEA. Students from outside these countries will need to pay tuition fees. However, there are many scholarships available. All Swedish and international students can get their Ph.D. at no cost in Sweden.
In Turkey, citizens and international students can attend college very cheaply. For example, the average annual tuition for Turkish Citizens is $80 to $500 a year. For international students, it ranges from $240 – $1,500 a year. Courses are taught in English or Turkish. The cost of living is low; students can typically stay in student housing for less than $300 a month. Turkey has a unique culture. It may take some time to adjust to new customs, food, and ways of life. Obtaining a student visa can be a lengthy process, so starting early is essential.
Who Really Pays for Free College?
The way that free college is funded differs from country to country. For example, some countries with free college require students to pay back their education in different ways. This may be through social or military service. So, as is true in many cases, free college is a relative term.
See Also: Are Free Online Courses Worth It?
The truth is that in countries with free college, the costs usually fall back on taxpayers. Many countries that offer low-cost or free tuition have significantly higher taxes than we do here in America. In America, the basic personal income tax rate is 20 percent. And although that rate rises the more you make, consider the income tax in some countries with free college or extremely affordable rates:
|Country||Personal Income Tax Rate|
Is Free College Really Free?
When you look at the tax rate in countries that offer low-cost or free college programs, it is considerably higher than what you see here in America. This is what allows these countries to extend their social services. And those services often include things like free education and healthcare. Eventually, students who live in countries with free college will end up getting jobs. And a large portion of their income tax will go toward free universities and other services.
Related: A Brief History of Free Education
In the US, the Federal government does not regulate tuition prices at colleges or universities. Therefore, colleges are free to charge whatever they like. However, higher tuition does not always mean a better education. Some of the top universities in the nation offer extremely affordable tuition rates. Coupled with Federal financial aid, scholarships, and grants, many US citizens can attend college cheaply or even tuition-free.
So, is free college really free? It all depends on how you look at it.
This concludes our article on countries where college is free.
OCP Staff June 2023