How Much Does College Cost: Breakdown for the US and Other Countries

How Much Does College Cost: Breakdown for the US and Other Countries
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Skyrocketing tuition and other college fees in the United States are a major concern for many students and their families. Although some countries offer public education for free or under subsidized fees, other fees such as books and accommodations should be taken into account as well. This means that answering the question “how much does college cost?” goes beyond tuition fees.

Moreover, college costs differ in various regions and countries around the world. For example, tuition fees in flagship colleges in the United States can reach up to $52,200.This article will explore these costs and related expenses. Additionally, it will also discuss prices in countries that are most popular with international students. The reader should have an idea of the average tuition and an estimate of other expenses at the end of the article.

How Much Does College Cost: Table of Contents

  1. The United States and Canada
  2. Latin America
  3. The United Kingdom and the British Isles
  4. Europe
  5. Asia
  6. Australia and New Zealand

Overview of Tuition Fees Around the World

Tuition fees around the world depend heavily on the country’s living costs and economy. Additionally, some countries subsidize tuition fees in their public colleges. Here’s a quick comparison:

Source: College Data, 2020

Cost of College Tuition: Selected Countries

Education in most countries has become more accessible due to favorable political and economic conditions as well as technological advancements. This has led many high school students to pursue college education. However, the same factors have prompted businesses to make their hiring practices more stringent, such as requiring proof of education, experience, and specialization from job applicants.

This trend began mostly during the 1970s. For instance, in the U.S., that period saw a continuous increase in the number of undergraduate students. Consequently, the increase in demand for a college education has also led to rising tuition and other fees.


Here’s a quick look at how much college education costs across the world.

The United States and Canada

The United States

Public in-state: $10,560 per annum
Public out-of-state: $27,020 per annum
Private: $37,650 per annum

The United States, along with the United Kingdom, has some of the most expensive college tuition fees around the world. This has led to the worsening student debt problem with many American students accumulating at least $50,000 in loans after they graduate (Warren, 2018). While the differences vary, tuition fees can be categorized under three types, namely, fees for in-state public colleges, out-of-state public colleges, and private colleges. State and public colleges often subsidize tuition fees for residents, thus in-state tuition fees tend to be the most inexpensive among the three types.

According to the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report, the average published (sticker) price for a four-year program in a private university is $37,650. On the other hand, students attending a public college in-state are expected to spend $10,560, while out-of-state students will have to spend $27,020 for a four-year major (College Data, 2020).


Public: $5,000 per annum
Private: $23,000 per annum

College tuition and expenses in Canada significantly vary by location, type of institution, and program. For instance, universities in Newfoundland have lower tuition fees compared to institutes in Ontario, which has the most expensive tuition in the country.

According to Statistics Canada, undergraduate students are expected to pay about CA$6,463 ($5,055.50) in 2019-2020. That sums up to about CA$25,852 ($20,222) for a four-year program. Interestingly, unlike in the U.S., this is a 5.8% decrease from the previous year’s tuition fee rates (Statistics Canada, 2019).

Graduate programs in the country are decreasing as well with students having to pay CA$7,056 ($5,519.36) during their 2020 term.

Latin America

Studying in South America is relatively much cheaper compared to its northern counterparts. However, it should be noted that locals still experience significant gaps in access to quality tertiary education. In recent years, education in the region has been improving. Some universities in Latin America are now competitive compared to their counterparts around the globe.

Due to differences in location, economy, and other factors, various South American countries have distinct quality in education and tuition and other fees. On average, students pay between $4,000 to $5,000 on annual tuition fees (Study Ingram, 2020). There are even institutions that provide free tuition.

Brazil, Chile, and Mexico are the three most highly rated Latin American countries based on higher education world rankings.


Public: Free for local and foreign students
Private: $1,500 to $7,800 per annum

Brazil offers free education in public institutions for domestic and foreign students from undergraduate to postgraduate programs. Typically, these state colleges will only charge registration fees. On the other hand, private education costs anywhere from R$7,800 ($1,512.55) to R$40,200 ($7,795.47).


Public: Free for qualified students through gratuidad, $500 matriculation fee + tuition fee based on price per credit
Private: $5,000 per annum

Chile has experienced some of the most recent changes in college tuition fees due to the increasing student loan debt and fees in the past years. The country’s deep socioeconomic divide has led to the gratuidad system, which provides free education for the poorest students (Nadworny et al., 2019).

Those who do not qualify for free education are required to pay the specific tuition fee set by the university. Typically, a matriculation fee of about $250 per semester is required. The tuition fee depends on the number of credits and the program. For example, foreign students at the Universidad de Chile pay about $5,000 annually in tuition and other fees.


Public: $400 to $850 per annum
Private: $1,600 to $16,000 per annum

Similarly, the average tuition fee per academic year in Mexico is about $5,000. However, there is a significant difference between expenses in public and private institutions. Students pay between $400 to $850 per year in public universities, while those in private universities are charged between $1,600 to $16,000 (Edarabia, 2020). It should be noted that living expenses in the country are much more affordable compared to other countries in the West.

The United Kingdom and the British Isles

The United Kingdom

Public: $8,000 per annum
Private: up to $12,400 per annum

Tuition fees in the U.K. are within the same range as in the U.S., Australia, and some parts of the European Union. The government caps the overall cost of education in the U.K. As such, students may pay up to £9,250 ($12,431.54) per year. Just like in other countries, fees vary depending on the institution, programs, and the student’s country of origin (local, within Europe, or foreign). On average, the tuition fee is around £6,000 ($8,063.70) per annum. (Besart, 2018)


Public: Free for local and EU students (additional $3,600 in other fees)
Private: $12,000 per annum

In Ireland, local students enjoy free tuition fees as these are paid by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). Students who are residents of E.U. countries for at least three of the five years prior to entering college do not need to pay tuition fees as well. Additionally, HEA subsidies only apply to those who are taking their first undergraduate programs. However, these students still need to pay €3,000 ($3,636.92) to cover non-tuition expenses (Education in Ireland, n.d.).

On the other hand, the non-E.U. students pay the regular tuition rates depending on the program. Most majors, including science and technology, engineering, business, and humanities start at around €9,850 ($11,941.20).


Public: Free for local, UK, and EU students (additional $2,400 in other fees)
Private: $13,500 to $35,000 per annum

Similarly, in Scotland, students from U.K. or E.U. countries who are already living in Scotland enjoy free tuition subsidized by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. They still have to pay £1,820 ($2,445.99) to cover non-tuition fees.

Students from the U.K. who want to study in Scotland usually pay around £9,250 ($12,431.54) for their first three years. On the other hand, international students will pay anywhere between £10,000 ($13,439.50) to £26,000 ($34,942.70).


European higher education is one of the most diverse and innovative in the world. Aside from the U.S., many of the leading higher education institutions globally are on the continent, especially some of the oldest in the world. As such, it attracts students who wish to study abroad. Furthermore, aside from the United Kingdom, many students within the region are considering attending tertiary education in neighboring countries.



Public: Free for all students (additional $34 to $68 per semester in other fees)
Private: $8,600 to $11,000 per annum

Many universities in Scandinavia are considered among the leading institutions in various fields of study, with many of them doing well in international rankings. The region is also known to have some of the most innovative academic systems around the world. They are also among the first countries to introduce free college education worldwide.

For example, Norway provides free attendance to any of its public universities regardless of the students’ nationality. However, they need to pay around NOK 300 to NOK 600 ($34 to $68) every semester. Most countries in the region also offer free higher education for local and E.U. students.


Public: Free for local, EU, EEA, and Swedish students
Private: $4,900 to $24,200 per annum

Finland has just recently introduced tuition fees for non-E.U. students. Those from the E.U., the European Economic Area, and Switzerland also enjoy free education. However, non-E.U. students pay at least €1,500 ($1,818.46) per annum. Depending on the program, students pay between €4,000 and €20,000 ($4,849.22 to $24,246.10) per year.


Public: Free for local and EU students
Private: $7,300 to $19,300 per annum

Non-E.U. students in Denmark pay anywhere between €6,000 to 16,000 ($7,273.83 to $19,396.88) per annum. Just like other countries, tuition fees will depend on the university and the program. For example, fees at the University of Southern Denmark are only about €6,500 ($7,879.98), one of the lowest in the country.


Public: Free for local and EU students
Private: $9,400 to $16,500 per annum

Swedish universities charge non-E.U. students around SEK 80,000 to SEK 140,000 ($9,460.21 to $16,555.36) depending on the course.


Public: Free for all students (additional $600 in other fees)
Private: $5,400 to $19,800 per annum

Iceland provides free education for students even from non-E.U. countries in one of its four public universities: the University of Akureyri, Hólar University College, the Agricultural University of Iceland, and the University of Iceland. However, there is an annual registration fee of around ISK 75,000 ($600).

Other European Countries

Tuition fees across Europe are as diverse as the countries in the continent. As such, students seeking information should check specific sources from the country where they desire to study. Better yet, they should check the financial information provided by the education institution. Here are some tuition rates from several European countries (Schleicher, 2020):

  • Austria – around $914 per annum
  • Estonia – free for locals; between $1,900 to $8,700 per year for programs in English
  • Germany – free tuition fee for both local and international students; administration fee per semester is between $175 to $300
  • Hungary – around $766 per annum
  • Italy – around $1,700 per annum
  • Luxembourg – between $454 to $907 per annum in public universities
  • The Netherlands – locals and E.U. students pay around $2,420 per year; international students pay about $7,000 per year
  • Poland – free tuition for Polish and E.U. students; at least $2,300 for international students
  • Spain – around $1,830 per year
  • Switzerland – around $1,168 per year


Asia has been an emerging region for the best education around the world. Many universities in the continent are regulars in various global rankings. For years, various Asian universities are sources of great talents in different industries, from engineering to social science.


Public: $2,200 per annum
Private: $9,900 per annum

China is becoming a popular destination for international students. Aside from opportunities to explore and experience another culture, the universities in the country also offer more affordable tuition fees compared to their counterparts in the West. The average tuition fee is around $3,300 to $9,900 per year, depending on the institution, program, and whether it is taught in Chinese or English.


Public: $8,200 per annum
Private: $9,700 to $14,400 per annum

Japan also offers relatively cheaper tuition fees compared to those in the U.S. or Europe. With numerous high ranking universities in the country, it also attracts international students, especially those who are interested in learning Nihongo and experiencing the Japanese culture. Freshmen undergraduate students spend about ¥820,000 ($7,200) if they are studying at a national university (Study in Japan, n.d.). Local universities charge around ¥930,000 ($8,200) per year. On the other hand, private institutions may require annual tuition fees between ¥1,100,000 ($9,700) to ¥1,640,000 ($14,400). Note that these do not cover medical, pharmaceutical, and dental schools.

South Korea

Public: $8,700 per annum
Private: $11,600 per annum

Similarly, South Korea attracts students who are interested in attending college while experiencing the local culture. Tuition fees vary per institution and program in the country. For example, an associate degree may cost between $1,500 to $6,200 per semester. The same major in undergraduate degree costs about $1,600 to $7,400 per semester (Study in Korea, 2020). Programs in science, technology, medicine, law, and other fields are slightly higher.


Public: $50 per annum
Private: $300 to $25,000 per annum

On the other hand, India is popular for producing the best talents in engineering and information technology. Just like its Asian neighbors, it has relatively more affordable tuition rates than those in the U.S. and the U.K. While universities in India set their own tuition rates, these usually fall between $3,400 to $8,000 per year for international students.

Meanwhile, Southeast Asia is an emerging region in terms of higher education. Southeast Asian universities are now ranking alongside their counterparts in the West and other parts of Asia. Furthermore, many cities and areas in these countries are English-speaking, which attracts international students.


Public: $6,500 per annum
Private: $20,000 to $60,000 per annum

Singapore is home to some of the top universities in the world, such as the National University of Singapore, the Nanyang Technological University, and the Singapore Management University. Due to their global prestige, these institutions have relatively higher tuition fees compared to those in neighboring countries. A typical three-year general course (excluding medicine, law, and other expensive majors) costs a total of $24,600 to $28,800 (Lim, 2020).


Public: $1,500 to $6,000 per annum
Private: $9,000 per annum

The rest of the region is popular due to the institutions’ affordable living costs and tuition fees. For example, a 3+0 engineering degree in Malaysia (the equivalent of a U.K. bachelor’s degree) is about RM 68,000 (about $16,700) for the entire duration of the program, which is three years (StudyMalaysia, 2020).


Public and Private: maximum of $6,000 per annum

Neighboring Indonesia has almost similar tuition rates to Malaysia, starting at $2,650 per semester (Excelajah, 2020). However, the government caps the maximum tuition fee rates for both public and private institutions at $6,000 per annum.


Public: $2,000 per annum
Private: $75 to $125 per credit hour

Almost similar rates can be found in leading universities in Thailand. For instance, tuition fees per semester in Chulalongkorn University is around 61,500 Baht (about $2,000) to 65,500 Baht (about $2,200).


Public: $200 per annum
Private: $2,000 to $10,000 per annum

On the other hand, Vietnam offers more affordable higher education. Most public universities are heavily subsidized by the government, which means free education for Vietnamese students. However, international students are expected to pay around $2,500 a year in tuition fees (Vietnam National University, Hanoi, 2020).


Public: $1,000 per annum
Private: $2,500 per annum

The Philippines is another destination for international students, especially those coming from China, South Korea, and Japan. Most programs are delivered in English, which also provides an opportunity for foreign students to learn the language. Additionally, public education in the country is relatively affordable. For example, tuition rates in the University of the Philippines range from ₱3,800 to ₱55,000 ($79 to $1,200) per year. Private universities charge much higher, between ₱100,000 up to ₱300,000 ($2,000 to $6,300) per year (eCompareMo, 2019).

Australia and New Zealand


Public: $11,000 to $24,300 per annum
Private: $18,000 to $41,000 per annum

Australian universities have tuition rates that are similar to their counterparts in the U.S. and the U.K. Various factors affect the cost of education, from credits taken per year to the type of programs. Undergraduate students pay anywhere between AU$15,000 to AU$33,000 ($11,000 $24,300) per year for a bachelor’s degree (Studies in Australia, 2019).

New Zealand

Public: $14,900 to $21,700 per annum
Private: $22,000 and $32,000 per annum

Similarly, New Zealand reflects almost similar fees. A bachelor’s degree costs around NZ$22,000 to NZ$32,000 ($15,000 to $22,400) per year. Most bachelor programs can be completed in three years. Higher fees are expected for courses such as medicine and veterinary science (Education New Zealand, 2020).

What Goes Into Expenses in College?

After discussing tuition fees in different countries, it should be noted that they are just a part of the total cost of a college education. They are actually payments for the credits or instructions that colleges and universities provide. Aside from living allowance, college expenses include accommodation, books, supplies, and transportation. As such, these financial factors should be considered, as well.


Accommodations such as boarding houses, frat or sorority houses, apartments, or similar offerings will depend on the location of the college. Different countries have varying costs of living. Additionally, universities located in cities usually have more expensive accommodations compared to those located in residential or rural areas. Furthermore, off-campus living will cost a bit more compared to on-campus accommodation.

For example, public colleges in the U.S. charge around $11,600 in boarding for an average room per academic year. Private colleges’ boarding costs about $13,100 per year. On the other hand, on-campus accommodation in most Vietnamese universities would only cost from $2,400 to $3,200 per year, which already covers utilities and other services.

As such, students who are planning to study out of state or out of the country should thoroughly research the available accommodations and their relevant costs before selecting a college or university.

Books and Other Supplies

Books and other supplies will depend upon the major and the type of program. On average, students spend about $1,240 on these expenses per year. The rising cost of course materials is one of the pressing issues on top of increasing tuition fees. Some students skip certain courses or have to take extra jobs to afford course materials. Cost-cutting measures can be taken to save money, such as buying e-books instead of hardbound versions. Borrowing books from the library is also a viable saving solution, especially for students living on campus.

Additionally, incoming college students should also consider miscellaneous supplies depending on the programs they are in. For example, those studying biological sciences may require extra expenditure for laboratory supplies, among other additional learning materials.

Transportation and Other Expenses

Other universities and colleges may also help students estimate the total costs of attending their programs outside tuition fees. Transportation-related expenses such as gas, parking fees, train tickets, and bus tickets should be added as well. Furthermore, clothing, groceries, entertainment, and other personal expenses should be included in the college cost breakdown, too.

For example, students attending the Tisch School of the Arts will need to allot around $1,100 for transportation and an additional $2,800 for personal expenses for two semesters (New York University, 2020).

How Are Tuition Fees Calculated?

While it is easy to understand that tuition fees in different countries may vary due to economic and geopolitical reasons, why are these rates different even within the same university? How are tuition fees calculated by universities and colleges?

Tuition fees are usually computed based on the following factors:

  • Degree level – associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs have varying rates.
  • Subject and specialization being studied – i.e., medical programs are much more expensive than those in the humanities domain.
  • Student’s plan of attendance – part-time vs. full-time attendance
  • The number of units or credits taken per semester – colleges typically compute the tuition fee based on their rate per credit.
  • Type of institution – public universities and colleges often receive subsidies from the government that allow them to charge lower rates; private institutions may include various operational expenses in their tuition fees.

Aside from these factors, the students’ residence also determines their tuition fee. As mentioned earlier, in the U.S., out-of-state students pay much higher than in-state students. This is due to the different subsidies provided by the local government per state.

In Europe, most universities consider various fees for students living in the country, from E.U. countries, and non-E.U. countries. For example, Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Norway, and Iceland provide free education for local and E.U. students. International students usually pay the full tuition rates on top of other matriculation or registration fees.

Planning Ahead is Key

The cost of attending college may be overwhelming. However, tuition and other fees are available at different price levels. Furthermore, various organizations offer financial aids, scholarships, and student loans based on the students’ academic performance, economic capabilities, and even field of study.

Without any doubt, higher education is indeed an investment for any students’ future. As such, students and their families should consider making a careful examination of their financial capabilities and potential return-on-investment after graduation before choosing a course or a college. These preparations should be started as early as possible. In fact, students should begin consulting their families and career counselors as early as their first year of high school.



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