A European Country Is Now Offering Free College Education for Americans

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The news: Heading off to college? Consider Germany.

Last month, the country abolished tuition fees for university students, but it's not limited just to Germans. Access to tuition-free education is now available to American and other international students, CBS News reports.

In explaining Germany's move, a government official called tuition fees "unjust," adding that "they discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany."

Why it matters: Germany's free tuition for international students may prove attractive to American students worried about the nation's exploding college debt crisis. A recent College Board report pegged tuition for the average in-state public college at around $22,826 a year, with tuition at private colleges, around a whopping $44,750. 

As tuition rates have exploded, college costs have outpaced the growth of the median family income, making college less and less affordable to the average family. As a result, student debt has exploded: It's estimated that students are collectively saddled with $1 trillion in debt.

Buyer beware. Considering the sky-rocketing costs of attending college in America, moving to Germany sounds like an attractive alternative. After all, no one wants to deal with being in thousands of dollars of debt from loans.

It's not a totally free ride, since you'll be stuck with a semester fee of around $1,200 a year. Don't forget your flights home, an apartment, food and other costs that normal college students rack up. However, some of those costs can be offset by the number of discounts and reduced public transportation that is given to students.

The other problem? Getting in isn't as easy as you might think. The application process isn't nearly as streamlined as simply submitting a Common Application. "Warning: If you expect this process to be easy, you're absolutely wrong," wrote on Redditor before detailing his experience applying to German universities as an international student:

Step 1: Find a German University that offers a program you're interested in. Germany, unlike the United States, requires you to choose your degree program before enrolling. You do not just take a little of this and a little of that until you decide what to do. Most undergraduate degree programs in Germany are taught in German, not in English.

Step 2: Organize your needed materials to apply. Ex: High school diploma, SAT scores, ACT scores. If you did not graduate with at least a 3.5 GPA, and get high scores on your SAT or ACT with writing, turn back now. German universities only let in a fraction of international students for each German student, because they want to educate their citizens first.

Step 3: Submit a uni-assist. International students wishing to study in Germany must submit their applications via Uni-Assist. It costs 75euro for the first university application, and 15euro for each additional one for the same semester. If you wish to apply to another program for a later semester you must pay 75euro again. (75EUR is roughly $95.) From my experience uni-assist takes a loooooooooong time. My process was streamlined because I lived in Germany and was able to drop off my applications in person at the office.

Step 4: Wait. Now you wait to find out if you were accepted. Unlike the United States, you will NOT find out months before the semester begins. Most likely you'll find out 1 month or so before. This will make moving to Germany a bit rushed.

Still, with the costs of college here, taking the plunge and heading to Germany sounds very, very tempting.

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Jordan Valinsky

Jordan is a writer at the Live News desk. He's previously written for The Week, Betabeat, The Daily Dot and CNN.com.

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