In the United States, stories about college and university are inevitably linked to the cost. Both tuition and student loan debt are rising in America, and many graduates find themselves in the unlucky position of having low starting salaries and high student loan payments. This raises the question of whether it is less expensive to attend university outside of the United States.

Some countries, such as France, offer free university tuition but incredibly high tax rates. In the United Kingdom, going to college is not free. However, in many cases, it is far less expensive than getting a degree in the United States. Read on to learn more about just how much it truly costs to go to college in the UK.

Three Year Degree Programs
When comparing the cost of college in the United States to the United Kingdom, it is important to note that most undergraduate degrees in England and Wales are three year programs. That means that the annual tuition cost only has to be paid for three years, rather than four (or more) in the United States. Scotland degree programs are typically four year programs. If tuition in the U.K. for a particular school or program is roughly comparable to that of a similar U.S. institution, the total cost may be lower for attending a school in the United Kingdom given the shorter time commitment.

Lower Tuition for E.U. and U.K. Students
Just like state colleges and universities offer lower tuition for residents of their state, publicly-funded institutions of higher education in the U.K. also offer discounted (or even free) tuition for their residents and for members of the European Union.

Tuition for home students in England (U.K. residents and E.U. students) is capped at approximately 11,000 per year (this cap was recently raised, as discussed below). In Northern Ireland, the cap is 4,830 for home students (residents of Northern Ireland and the E.U.). Tuition is effectively free in Scotland for Scottish residents and members of the E.U., while other members of the U.K. will pay up to 11, 370 per year. Welsh students need only pay 4,800 to study anywhere in the U.K.

International students pay higher rates for publicly-funded colleges and universities, which can range from 12, 300 to 43,060, depending on the course of study.

Comparing Like to Like
In the United States, stories of universities with 40,000, 50,000 and even 60,000 per year annual tuition costs are not uncommon. That can often make it seem as though going to college in the U.S. is insanely expensive and that all U.K. schools are a fantastic bargain in comparison.

However, these high tuition rates tend to be for private and elite institutions and do not represent the true cost of tuition across the U.S. Many American colleges offer far less expensive tuitions, particularly state-run universities that provide a discounted rate for students who are residents of the state. The UK has both private and public universities, with costs varying significantly between the two types of institutions.

If public universities in the U.S. are compared to public universities in the U.K., tuition costs are often roughly equivalent. They may even be cheaper than some schools in the U.K., with the average cost across all public colleges in the United States 9,410 a far cry from 60,000 per year. Public universities in the U.K. tend to have similar costs, such as an annual tuition of over 12,000 for the University of Wolverhampton or approximately 13,000 for the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.

Housing Costs
Another distinguishing factor between the U.K. and U.S. educational systems is that in the U.K. housing costs are typically not included in tuition. This means that the total cost of attending university in England, Wales and Scotland is often higher than what it may initially appear to be especially if a student is attending a school in an expensive locale, such as London. Families considering a college or university in the U.K. should be sure to factor housing costs into the decision.

The Future of College Costs in the U.K.
While pressure is on colleges and universities in the United States to reduce the cost of attending college for students, the opposite is happening in the United Kingdom. In 2016, government ministers announced that they would be raising fees by 2.8 percent for the 2017- 2018 academic year, lifting the previous cap on tuition costs for public colleges and universities. However, the government cautioned that only universities that have attained certain levels of quality standards will be able to raise tuition.

On top of this, the government recently announced it would begin selling its student loans to the private market. These announcements were met with protest from students, who are concerned about the affordability of higher education and the availability of grants to offset these higher costs.

While the cost of attending college in the U.K. is currently low particularly if you attend a publicly-funded university it appears that tuition will continue to rise in coming years to meet growing demand and expenses. If you are considering attending school in the U.K., be sure to fully consider all aspects of getting the degree from tuition to housing to travel before making a decision about whether to stay in the U.S. or go abroad.