The Cost of College Around the World


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Education is the great equalizer, but the cost of what it takes to attain one is anything but equal from one country to the next. The United States is home to some of the most expensive college tuition rates on Earth — the average price of which increased by 63 percent in the decade between 2006 and 2016 — and the U.S. is in the middle of a $1.3 trillion student loan debt epidemic. Students in many other countries fare much better, with at least nine countries offering their students higher education at the low cost of free. Here's a look at the cost of college around the world, according to data from
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Denmark is a great place to live, work, and study. The average per capita income is in the high $50,000s, putting Denmark's employees on par with those in the U.S. as among the best compensated in the world. Unlike their American counterparts, however, students in Denmark go to college for free.
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Like their academic colleagues in Denmark, students in Brazil enjoy free tuition. The difference, however, is found in employee compensation. One of the industrialized world's poorer countries, the average per capita income in Brazil is less than $10,000.
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College is free in this Central European nation, and although graduates may not earn what they might in Denmark or the U.S., they'll certainly do better than they would in Brazil. The average per capita income in Germany is just shy of $45,000.
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In Finland, the average per capita income is just a bit higher than it is in Germany — almost exactly $45,000. That's not as much as the average American worker earns, but Finnish students spend a lot less on their education: There is no cost to attend college in Finland.
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Students in Greece enjoy the benefit of free college tuition. The problem, however, lies in the country's standard of living amid a lingering economic crisis. The country's average per capita income is less than $20,000 a year.
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Ireland is another European nation that students find appealing: Tuition there is free, and Irish workers earn more than their counterparts in all but a few countries. The average income per capita in Ireland is more than $50,000 a year.
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Mexico is one of the nine countries on this list that boasts college tuition that is absolutely free, but the country's per capita income would still make it difficult to drum up a decent livelihood. The average salary is roughly $9,000 a year, a paltry sum that puts Mexico on par with the poorest countries on this list.
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The Nordic countries are some of the wealthiest for workers and cheapest for students — and the best of the bunch is Norway. With an average per capita income of more than $80,000, its employees are the highest paid on this list. Its students go to college free of charge.
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The final country on this list that provides free college for its students is Poland. That benefit, however, is largely negated by the country's meager annual wage. The average per capita income in Poland is less than $15,000 a year, making its workers the lowest-paid of any European country listed here.
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College isn't free in France, but it's pretty close to free. The average annual cost of tuition there is less than $1,000. Not bad for a country with a respectable annual average per capita income of nearly $40,000.
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In Colombia, students can expect to pay only slightly more for annual tuition than they would in France, making it one of the cheapest countries in the world to attend college. But its workers are among the world's worst paid. The annual per capita income is well under $10,000.
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Austrian workers do comparatively well for themselves, earning an average per capita income in the mid-$40,000s. College there is cheap, too. The average annual tuition is less than $1,000 a year.
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Students pay about $1,000 a year to go to college in Switzerland, which is cheap compared to much of the world but expensive compared to the Nordic countries, where college is generally free. The average per capita income is higher than everywhere but Norway — the two countries are neck in neck in the low $80,000s.
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Tuition in Italy is nearly twice as expensive as it is in Switzerland and employees in the country can expect to earn less than half as much as their Swiss counterparts. The country's average per capita annual income barely breaks the $30,000 mark.
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In the Netherlands, workers earn a healthy average per capita income in the high $40,000s, putting the country on par with Austria and Finland. At roughly $2,500 a year, tuition in the Netherlands is more expensive than it is in those countries.
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In China, a year of tuition is only slightly more than it is in the Netherlands — sub-$3,000 annually. With an average per capita income of less than $9,000 a year, however, its workers are paid as little or less than even those who work in the poorer Latin American countries.
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An average year of tuition in Israel costs less than $3,000 a year. While low compared to the priciest countries, it's still fairly expensive — particularly when you consider the average per capita income in the country is in the mid- to high-$30,000s, which comparatively is just okay.
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The average New Zealander earns a moderately high per capita income nearing $40,000. But tuition in the country isn't cheap. The average cost for a year of college floats around $4,000 — roughly one-tenth the country's average annual income.
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Australians earn significantly more than their neighbors in New Zealand. The average per capita income in the country is roughly $55,000 a year — about on par with the United States. College there is slightly higher than it is in New Zealand: a little more than $4,000 a year.
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A year of tuition in South Africa costs roughly $5,000, which makes it one of the most expensive countries on the list. Making matters worse, no country examined here asks its workers to get by on less. The average per capita income in South Africa is roughly $6,000 a year — enough to cover tuition and little else.
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Japan, too, averages about $5,000 for a year of college tuition. Its employees, however, are far better compensated than those in South Africa. The average per capita income in the country is roughly $38,000 a year.
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Like Japan, America's neighbors to the North pay about $5,000 for an average year of tuition. The annual income there per capita, however, is a bit higher than in Japan. The average salary in Canada approaches the mid-$40,000s.
Kyung Hee University campus with students in South Korea
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A year of college in South Korea costs roughly the same per year on average as it does in the previous several countries — about $5,000 a year. That's not necessarily cheap, If you're considering studying there, however, keep in mind that's a high price to pay considering the average per capita annual salary is less than $30,000.
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Americans pay more for college than all but one other country — $8,700 a year on average, to be exact. Although Americans earn a comparatively high average per capita income of more than $55,000 a year, the country is the global leader in educational debt.
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Only the U.K. charges more for higher education than the United States, about $9,000 a year, on average. Their employees also earn much less than American workers. The average annual per capita salary in the U.K. is $42,000. participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.