By Hannah Schultz, Features Editor

“Here at the University of Helsinki tuition is free, but every year I pay roughly a $100 fee that covers student discounts, health care and various other student benefits,” said Haley Grant, an American graduate student who chose to leave the U.S. and attend the University of Helinski in Finland for her master’s degree.

Grant’s story is one of countless others who are a part of the exodus of students looking to Europe for college in a time of soaring tuition costs and recession. The average cost of tuition for a private university in the U.S. last year was $31,231, according to CollegeBoard. Meanwhile, tuition costs can be substantially lower or even nonexistent abroad.

“I originally went to college for my bachelor’s degree in German Studies in Lexington at Transylvania University,” said Grant. “Without financial aid, Transylvania University costs roughly $45,000 per year. If I chose to go to a public school like the University of Kentucky, the cost without financial aid would have been $33,000. Even with bills, rent and food, it was drastically cheaper per year to live here in Finland.”

With the financial strain of tuition becoming worse every year, many Americans have decided to follow this path, and overseas universities have seen sharp increases in enrollment from American students. Britain, the top choice for U.S. students studying abroad, has seen an 8 percent annual increase in 2012 to 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal. In Germany, where universities receive so much money in government subsidies that tuition is free to all students, including those studying internationally, universities have seen a 33 percent increase between 2010 and 2013, according to the German Academic Exchange Service.

Along with the cost of tuition, travel is also an essential component of the college experience for many students—one that is much more accessible abroad.

“As for experience, I find that it is much easier to travel here, and it is cheaper than if I was traveling throughout the U.S,” said Grant. “Just last January, I took a trip to Poland [from Finland] because airfare was just $25 roundtrip. I am also traveling to places like Estonia, Sweden and Russia because it is cheap and easy to do. I enjoy experiencing these other cultures, and it might have been difficult to do if I had spent all of my money on tuition.”

“Suddenly the Old World is becoming a pretty interesting place,” Allan Goodman, president and chief executive of the Institute of International Education, told the Wall Street Journal. “Many degree programs have courses taught in English, many of them have very robust scholarships or are tuition-free, and the subjects are very relevant to the world in which we live.”