Where In The World Is College Most Expensive?

Students at New Hampshire’s Paul College of Business. Paul College photo

The cost of tuition for a public school in the U.S. is expensive, but not as bad as it could be. According to data from Student Loan Hero, the cost of annual tuition at a public school in the U.S. is $8,202, which is less than across the Atlantic in the U.K., where a year at a public university costs the equivalent of $12,414. For private schools, however, the U.S. has the highest rate, with an average annual tuition of $21,189.

Student Loan Hero looked at the U.S. and 10 other countries and compared the average annual cost of tuition at public and private schools, as well as a few other data points. The data confirms what most already know: College degree seekers in the U.S. pay a lot more than pretty much anywhere else in the world. Student Loan Hero focused on countries in Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific. At the cheap end of the list is Germany, where public universities are free for all German citizens and international students. There are slight fees for student services, which equate to less than $300 each year. Not surprisingly, the Germans don’t carry much student loan debt burden. As of 2016, just 18% of Germans graduated with student loans. Of those, 50% owe less than €4,000.

Up next is France, which had an average annual cost at $217 for the 2016-2017 academic year for French nationals and international students. Health insurance is also covered in France for all students from European Union nations. Next is Switzerland, where the tuition jumps to $1,168 a year for public universities. At the other end, besides the U.S. and the U.K., Japan has the next most expensive cost of tuition with an average of $5,228 for public universities. Private universities in Japan are much cheaper than the U.S. with an average of $8,428.


Of course, the U.S. data — and possibly the data across all countries — should be taken with a grain of salt. The $8,202 annual cost of public tuition is likely in-state only. Many of students go beyond their home states and have to front the cost of out-of-state tuition at least till the gain different residency. Same goes for international students. Where many European countries have the same cost of tuition for their own students as well as international ones, the U.S. does not. And many prestigious schools like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, among others are very attractive to international students and their families.

According to data from the College Board, the average annual cost of tuition and fees at private colleges in the U.S. for the 2017-2018 year was $34,740. Schools like Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California all have annual tuition and fee rates at higher than $54,000. At public universities, the average cost of tuition and fees was $9,970 for in-state students and $25,620 for out-of-state students. These costs have translated into soaring student loan debt. Some 44 million Americans currently are repaying student loans. The combined cost of those loans is $1.5 trillion and the average student graduating in 2016 had $37,172 in student loan debt. The debt is often cited as the culprit for millennials delaying many life accomplishments like buying a house and having children compared to previous generations.

Among our top-ranked business schools, Drexel University had the highest average debt for 2017 graduates at $43,894. Ithaca College was next with $42,016. Following was Sacred Heart University, which had an average debt of $40,033 for 2017 graduates.