Is it Cheaper to Earn a Degree Abroad?

By Catherine Groux
Posted November 08, 2012 03:00 PM

Sometimes it is cheaper for students to earn a degree abroad.
Sometimes it is cheaper for students to earn a degree abroad.
Given the rising cost of earning a bachelor's or master's degree in the U.S., a growing number of American students are opting to attend colleges abroad, The Seattle Times reports. Today, more than 10,000 Americans are pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in Canada, while 15,000 are attending school in the U.K.

These students say that, in many cases, earning a degree abroad is less expensive than doing so in the U.S., even when extra international student fees are taken into account. In Canada, for example, the average annual tuition price for foreign students is between $14,000 and $26,000, the Times states. In the U.S., out-of-state students could expect to spend about $21,000 at a public school and almost $28,000 at a private college. 

Looking at the Whole Financial Picture

Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, stated that while it can, in many situations, be cheaper for students to earn a bachelor's or master's degree abroad, they must look at their entire financial situation before making a decision. For example, individuals should consider the cost of living in a foreign country, as even items like transportation, groceries and housing can be much more expensive abroad than they are in the U.S. Still, this is only part of what contributes to the overall net price of higher education.

"Consumer prices [in the U.K.] are almost 30% higher, and groceries are nearly 16% more expensive," Schrage said. "But on the other hand, there are many U.K. undergraduate programs that can be completed in just three years, which is something else to be factored in when determining the net cost of studying in a foreign country."

In addition to the cost of living, tuition rates and the time it will take them to earn a degree, Schrage said students should also consider less obvious costs, such as airfare, passport and visa expenses, health insurance and foreign transaction fees on credit cards. 

Analyzing Job Opportunities, Graduate School Prospects

Another thing students must consider when earning a degree abroad is how their education will be viewed if they decide to look for a job or apply to graduate school in the U.S. Lee Weiss, director of graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep, said that students' post-graduate job prospects often vary, depending on the type of degree they received and which nation they earned it in. However, in his experience, students who completed degrees abroad must often do more work than other graduates if they want to find a job in the U.S.

"What I hear from those students is that the options available to them are, by and large, in the area in which they studied," Weiss said. "Very often students are more limited in their options to come back to the United States afterward. Does it mean it's impossible? Certainly not, but you will probably have to do more leg work."

While earning a degree abroad may lead to a slight disadvantage in the American job market, Weiss said it can often be beneficial for those hoping to apply to graduate school after completing an international bachelor's degree.

"I think that if you go to a school that is certified and has a good reputation in another country, as long as you complete all the prerequisites, have a good GPA and do well on your standardized tests, you have a very good chance of getting into a U.S. graduate program," he said. "In that case, the odds may even be in your favor because you're bringing diversity and international experience to a graduate program."

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