Tuition for international students at the University of Victoria in Canada in the 2016-2017 school year is $20,500, compared to $34,200 for California residents at UCLA.
Paying for college tuition in the US is an expensive endeavor and one that has saddled millennials (and soon centennials) with student-loan debt. The official CollegeBoard tuition calculator estimates the costs of attending a four-year in-state public university to be $21,447.
Many people fall into an income gap, where they make too much money to qualify for financial aid, but not quite enough to feel comfortable covering the full costs of going to college out of state — or even in-state in some cases.
Students in this case — or even those with financial-aid options — often take out student loans, and may end up graduating with debt. As of the end of 2016, student-loan debt topped $1.3 trillion, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) found 68% of graduating seniors had debts the year before.
An alternative: go abroad. Here's a snapshot of college tuition costs in Canada and England.
All fees are for the 2016-2017 school year. Exchange rates featured in this slideshow are as of March 14th, 2017.
At this reporter's undergraduate alma-mater, the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, these were the costs for a starting freshman in 2016:
One year at the University of Victoria:
Student Union Payment: $798
International Program Fee: $800
Books and Materials: $1000
Double room dorm and meal plan(cheaper options available): $8,354
Total: $27,645 CAD, or $20,505.88 USD
If you happen to be a dual US/Canadian citizen, you're in luck. Your tuition will be $5,250 CAD, with your total costs estimated at $7,048 CAD (not including housing), or $ 5,227 USD per year .
Tuition in Canada varies from province to province, so if you're looking for a school with cheaper tuition, give Quebec a try. Quebec has the second-cheapest tuition costs in Canada by province, as well as excellent universities to choose from.
International students at McGill University in Quebec, a top-ranked school, should expect to pay $15,942.90 CAD tuition, and $18,603.46 CAD total fees (not including housing) and materials, or $ 13,801.30 in US dollars.
Housing at McGill can range from $10,000 CAD ($ 7,420 USD) to $18,000 CAD ($13,347 USD) per year, including meals.
Accounting for the cheapest housing options, an international student could attend McGill University for $21,221.30 USD per year.
So how does this stack up against public, in-state universities? At the University of California, Los Angeles tuition for California residents break down to:
One year at UCLA:
Tuition: $13,254 USD
Room and board (dorms): $15,441
Books and supplies: $1,173
Health Insurance (Canada has free health care): $2,472
Total: $34,191 USD
For out of state students, your total costs will be $62,205 per year.
UCLA calculates its in-state tuition for a masters or doctorate degree to $16,325 per year for California students. Though the tuition is less than UK tuition, it will work out to $32,650 of tuition after two years of study.
Out of state students will pay $31,427 per year, or $62,854 total tuition.
Housing for postgraduate students runs between $1,100-$1,600 per month at UCLA, which works out to $9,900 on the cheapest plan for a nine-month school term, bringing total costs up to $26,225 per year with in-state tuition, or (if you choose housing both years) $52,450 for two years.
For out of state students on the least-expensive UCLA housing plan, a two-year masters degree program would cost: $82,654.
Canada is one option for lower college costs, but another might be the UK. This island country has one unique feature that Canada does not — shorter college terms. Instead of graduating in four years like in the US and Canada, in the UK a student can expect to finish their undergraduate studies in just three years.
If you're a dual UK citizen and can pay in-country costs, tuition in England are set by the government, meaning you won't need to shop around for the school with the cheapest prices. All English public universities (and most of them are public — even Oxford and Cambridge) have a tuition of £9,000 for UK students, with other costs varying.
Here's a look at the University of Sheffield, where this reporter earned her masters degree. Here, tuition varies based on the course of study you are completing, but is guaranteed not to change during your three years (unlike most US/Canadian schools where your tuition could increase at any time).
One year at the University of Sheffield:
Arts, Law, Social Sciences, Urban Studies & Planning: £16,000 per year ($19,445.36 USD)
Archaeology, Architecture, East Asian Studies, Geography, Journalism, Landscape, Maths, Music : £18,000 per year ($21,875.40 USD)
Science, Engineering, Non-clinical Medicine & Dentistry: £20,470 per year ($24,877.91 USD)
Housing will run you about £4,000 to £7,000, but you may have the unique ability to live there over the summer as well, depending what contract you choose.
So here are the t otal annual costs for Social Sciences student using the cheapest accommodation: £20,292, or $24,660.87 USD
You may have to spend a few hundred dollars getting a visa, but this rarely exceeds $300 to $400 and your university will help you select the right visa.
Masters programs in the UK last only one year, rather than two. So, while the GBP is worth more than the dollar (unlike the Canadian dollar, which is worth a bit less), that money is often made up by the fact that you'll be saving a year's worth of expenses.
You have the opportunity to take advantage of a one year (52 week) housing contract (£5,000- £8,000 depending which you select), and just one year of tuition. So while the postgraduate tuition for a Social Science student is £16,000 ($19,445.36 USD), on the cheapest housing contract, a student can receive a masters degree from the University of Sheffield for £21,122 or $25,669.57 USD.
Like Canada, the UK has free health care. Books and supplies are usually cheap, and some masters courses do not require any.