College in Europe Cost Comparison

I often encounter disbelief when I tell parents about the savings opportunities by sending their student to Europe for college. I think a lot of Americans think that Europe will be much more expensive because they associate Europe with expensive vacations, designer clothes, etc. The reality is different, though. To be sure, cities like London, Zurich, and Tokyo are among the world’s most expensive, but they’re right up there with New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco. I found an interesting list at Expatistan which shows the cost of living for different cities around the world. Did you know that it costs more to live in Boston than in Paris or Stockholm? Or that the cost of living in Dallas was greater than in Munich or Milan? Overall, how does the cost of college in Europe really compare to well known schools in the US?

jared Let’s preform a real-world comparison. Let’s look at one of our clients, Jared D. When we met with him, he was a high school senior from Chapel Hill, NC. He did well in high school (4 AP courses, strong SATs, a weighted GPA of 4.3), but wasn’t sure of his direction afterwards. After a consultation with Beyond the States, he will attend KU Leuven in Brussels, Belgium. This school is rated the 44th best global university by US News. He was accepted into their Business Administration program, which is conducted entirely in English, and is 3 years in duration.

Jared looked at other colleges, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s compare two nationally known schools. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University in Durham, NC. Most of the costs are clear. For the Leuven example, I’ve given him a very generous $4,000 annual travel budget to fly home twice and to travel on his breaks.

College Cost Comparison

 KU LeuvenUNC Chapel HillDuke University
Living Expenses (incl. food)$4,050$4,926$6,830
Health Insurance$130$1,088$1000
Fees$150$58included in tuition
Annual Total$14,940$22,640$70,902
Years to Complete344

Sources: KU Leuven, UNC, Duke

Big Take-Away

If he would have chosen one of the US schools and graduates in 4 years (which less than 50% of students do) then his total cost at the public university would be $90,560 and $283,608 at the private university. The difference is staggering – his entire cost at the end of his Bachelor’s in Belgium will be less than the cost for 1 year at Duke and less than 2 years at UNC!

Other Take-Aways

Health insurance in Belgium is much less than the US and the national health plan in Belgium is among Europe’s best

According to Expatistan, the cost of living is about the same between Durham where Duke is and Brussels.

We’ve left financial aid out of this equation, because it varies from family to family, based on income.



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