Highly regarded American universities would have welcomed Nicoletta Knoble as a student next fall, but she has her sights set on King’s College at Cambridge University in England.
The chance to study against a backdrop of elegant, Old World buildings amid a storied history was attractive to the senior from Benet Academy in Lisle, but saving many thousands of dollars off her tuition bills was no small factor.
Attending school in England, where she will study anthropology and archaeology, means Knoble will spend about $26,000 on tuition and living expenses, about half the cost of some other schools she was considering — which included the University of Chicago, the University of California at Berkeley, Syracuse University, New York University and Washington University.
“It’s not that schools in Europe aren’t expensive,” she said. “But I will be getting a Cambridge University education for the same cost of going to (the University of Illinois). I’m getting so much more bang for my buck.”
And there’s a good chance Knoble will see peers from back home in her overseas classrooms. The number of Americans pursuing four-year degrees on foreign soil is on the rise, as students increasingly look to other countries for a relatively inexpensive alternative to U.S. schools while offering the same, if not more, prestige.
The interest in Americans attending foreign universities is mutual. More and more, schools abroad are coming to the United States to recruit.
Universities from the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Malaysia and China are among those working to woo Americans. A recently formed consortium of seven Irish universities, Education in Ireland, will recruit April 28 at an Oak Brook hotel, where prospective students will learn about the schools, dorm life, the social scene and finances.
Their parents may be interested to hear that some U.S. college savings and financial aid programs can be used to fund overseas education at schools with a federal Title IV code.
A U.S. clientele accustomed to footing college costs and declining birthrates in some European countries are, at least in part, fueling the recruiting efforts, said Patti McGill Peterson, presidential adviser for global initiatives at the American Council on Education, which represents the interests of college presidents and chancellors.
“With the population shift, they may have space in their classrooms,” she said. And unlike some Europeans, “Americans are used to paying for education.”
Though costs vary by country, McGill Peterson said many nations subsidize education significantly. European Union students pay no tuition at Irish colleges and universities. But they pay a student fee that covers registration and other services and tops out at $2,616.
Though Josephine Knoble will miss her daughter, she’s excited about her opportunity to travel, the cultural advantages and the relatively low cost.
“American schools were all in the $50,000 and $60,000 range,” she said. “She’ll be in Europe, and you can’t put a price on that. She will have access to travel to all those other countries. Paris is three hours away.”
Michelle Dervan, manager of Education in Ireland-USA, said its prospective students tend to be those who feel comfortable going off the beaten track.
“It’s not for every student, to go abroad for three or four years,” she said. “They’re (typically) an adventurous student and they want to go overseas or they have a family link or a fascination with Ireland.”
Such was the case for Maggie O’Donoghue, of Chicago, a graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep who got her degree at Trinity College Dublin. She wasn’t worried about being far from home because she had visited Ireland before. Her father, who is from Ireland, is a general contractor. Her mother is a nurse.
For O’Donoghue, cost played a role. She considered Boston College but said it would have cost $50,000 a year versus $35,000 to attend Trinity. O’Donoghue graduated from Trinity with a bachelor’s degree in European studies, Spanish and Italian. Now in law school at Loyola University Chicago, she already sees an advantage to her European degree.
When employers view her resume, she said, “It’s always a point they bring up. They think it’s interesting. They think this person must be independent and must be able to think out of the box a little bit.”
Conor Dowdall 21, a Loyola Academy graduate studying computer science at University College Dublin, acknowledges having been a bit homesick when he first arrived in Ireland. But he got over it.