5 Countries That Offer Free College—and How They Got It | Herald Community Newspapers

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In Europe, the collective commitment to make public education universal and government-funded grew out of the resilience needed to overcome the trauma of the Second World War. Many European countries offer their citizens free post-secondary studies in public institutions, a benefit extended, in some cases, also to future international students.

Study.com compiled a list of five countries that offer free college education and researched how they do it and how their policies apply to international students.

Nations such as the Netherlands have built a tradition of hosting international students and, to meet their needs, have expanded the academic catalogs of their various universities to include English-only classes. Israel and several Asian countries have implemented a similar policy.

Spanish-speaking nations have signed multinational agreements to officially accept each other’s university degrees. In addition, they created visas to extend university graduates’ time in the host country, allowing them to look for job opportunities in their field of study.

As tuition costs in the United States have skyrocketed, some students have chosen to study abroad, which can offer relative financial stability and a high-level education while enriching understanding of global culture.


Humboldt University in Berlin.

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For Germans, education is not a commercial product, but a path to growth and development. After years of public protests following the Communist bloc’s appeal and a social turn toward social democratic and green party politics, in 2014 the German government abolished all tuition fees at public universities.

The schools are now publicly funded through the country’s ministry of education, which provides each with an annual budget. Germany facilitates the inclusion of foreign nationals in its higher education system, as it believes that immigration brings economic and social well-being to society.

German universities rank remarkably well in European and world rankings. Along with a relatively high standard of living, the educational quality offered by German institutions is among the main attractions for international students. The government estimates the average cost of living for an international student to be around €867 per month (just over US$900). All students have an administrative fee ranging from $110 to $380 per semester. If the person is not a European citizen, they must have medical insurance with international coverage, which costs about US$ 120 per month.


Aerial view of Reykavik skyline.

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Public schools – from preschool to college – are state-funded in Iceland. Although most students choose to attend public universities, Iceland also has some private colleges, which charge tuition.

Thanks to an aggressive campaign launched at the turn of the century aimed at increasing the number of university graduates, Iceland’s post-secondary student body now numbers around 18,000 students, 5% of whom are international students. None of them pay tuition fees, although they must pay a modest annual registration fee (approximately $600).

Iceland is a highly developed country with unrivaled natural scenery; however, being an island nation, the cost of living is above average compared to other European countries.


Student holding books on university campus with flags in background.

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The Kenyan government has subsidized 80% of college tuition costs for all students for over 30 years. However, in late 2022, the African country’s policymakers announced their intention to drastically cut college funding – a decision that economists say would hit low-income families the hardest. However, if such cuts happen, the flow of international students will likely remain unchanged or even increase, as fees would still be significantly lower than in the US or other countries that charge full tuition.

The vibrant mix of cultures found in Nairobi, the nation’s capital, and the unrivaled wilderness around it, make for a unique university experience. The University of Nairobi offers very low tuition and living costs compared to most countries in Europe, Asia or the Americas, with equal fees for Kenyan and international students.


Students walking on the campus of the University of Oslo.

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Staying true to its social welfare policies, Norway has kept higher education free for decades, even for international students. However, in 2022, following an increase in the arrival of refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine in Western Europe, the Norwegian government found it necessary to review its budget for social programs. In the last quarter of 2022, the Ministry of Higher Education announced that the country was abolishing free university fees for non-European citizens.

Consequently, each university will determine the costs, which must be implemented by 2024. Furthermore, the Norwegian government does not award scholarships to international students; each exchange student is responsible for paying living expenses such as housing, utility bills and food, which can amount to around US$13,000 per year.


Panama City skyline on clear day.

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Citing the Constitution of Panama – which states that education is a right that the government must guarantee – students and professors took to the streets in 2013 to demand free tuition at public universities. A month later, then-president Ricardo Martinelli announced that public higher education would be free from 2014.

Panama’s appeal as an offshore destination for undergraduate and graduate studies has increased in recent years as the country moves beyond its past of political chaos and social unrest. Although the cost of living exceeds that of neighboring countries in Central America and the Caribbean, it remains lower than in many countries in South America. Another plus: the official currency is the US dollar and it is within walking distance of most US states.

This story originally appeared on Study.com and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

5 Countries That Offer Free College—and How They Got It | Herald Community Newspapers

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