What's 'tuition and fees' in Portuguese?

President Obama's recent visit to Michigan -- and this magazine -- have been shining a light on the depressing subject of college costs, and their seemingly out-of-control upward spiral. Tales of recent college graduates with few job prospects and mortgage-size debt have parents and students sitting down for serious discussions of bills and the future.

Maybe more should begin, "Son, have you ever wanted to see the world?"

Charles Kenny, writing in his Foreign Policy column appropriately called "The Optimist," says there are higher-ed bargains galore if only you're willing to spend a little more on a plane ticket:

Tuition costs for foreign students at some of the best universities in Asia, Europe, and Africa can be as low as $4,000, well below half the median cost of college in the United States.

Kerry hastens to add that not every overseas college is as good as the ones in this country; seven of the top 10 universities in various respected global rankings are in the U.S. But he offers some intriguing comparisons from further down on the list:

Canada's McGill University is ahead of America's Duke University, for example, and charges about half the fees. And the Shanghai top 500 includes about 37 universities from low- and middle-income economies. Institutions like the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and Fudan University in China both rank above renowned U.S. establishments like George Washington University in Washington, D.C. or Notre Dame in Indiana.

...South Africa's University of Cape Town beats out Georgetown University on the QS rankings. But Georgetown's fees are $40,000-plus, compared to an upper end of $8,000 for foreign students attending Cape Town. And only one of the two comes with quality local wine and views of Table Mountain. Or what about the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi -- ranked a little above Notre Dame in the QS rankings, but with annual fees somewhere between a fifth and a seventh of the price? Again, on the same rankings, the American University of Beirut beats out Brandeis -- for one-fifth the price.

Even when you throw in regular round-trip airfare and a phrase book or two -- and McGill, in Montreal, is a long day's drive from much of Michigan -- we're still talking clearance-sale prices on prestige diplomas. Junior, grab your passport.

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Andrea Schroeder
Thu, 02/02/2012 - 9:40am
When our daughter graduated from her public high school last year, she was one of those young adults Michigan would like to keep: top scholar, ACT scores in the 30’s, IB diploma, NHS, community servant, etc. But she didn’t apply to a single college in Michigan in part because the value proposition is weak when you consider total cost of attendance. She chose to earn her undergraduate degree at the University of London. The reality is that is will cost us less to send her across the Atlantic to get her education in a major world capital –- with all of the cultural and experiential benefits that entails –- than it would cost us to send her across the state to Western Michigan University. She received no scholarship money, but is able to take her federal loans overseas.