The best way to stay out of student loan debt and boost your resume

August 30, 2011

Despite the mind-numbing mantra we constantly hear from our political leaders and central bankers that inflation does not exist, there are certain parts of our lives where even a freeze-dried coffee bean can see that prices are clearly rising: At the grocery store. At the doctor’s office. At the gas pump.

One of these places is also our hallowed institutions of higher learning. It’s no secret that the cost of university education, especially in the United States, is staggering. Tuition at private schools in the US averages $30,000 annually, and students often graduate over $50,000 in debt.

This leads to a fancy form of indentured servitude; students with this kind of debt load are forced to take the first paid work they can find, and they’ll work for the next 14-years of their life just to start back at zero.

Graduate schooling can be even more painful. Top MBA programs can charge $50,000 per year or more, and for those who still cling to the idea of working their way up the corporate ladder, this has become a necessary step.

Especially now in the midst of a severe recession, it has become a new trend for people to head back to school, firm up their credentials, and wait out the economic downturn.

I have a better solution for you to consider: head overseas.

Going to a school overseas ticks a lot of boxes– for one, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper, and you don’t emerge deep in debt like you would back home.

Second, the quality of the education is as good if not better than what you would otherwise receive.

Third, and most importantly, it’s just more interesting. The experience abroad will be much more fulfilling, and it will distinguish you from the pool of other candidates who all have generic resumes.

Let’s say you’re an Ivy League type. Why pay Harvard $52,000 per year when you can go to the University of Cambridge in England for around $19,000 per year? Cambridge is consistently rated as one of the top universities in the world: same quality education, a fraction of the price.

If that sounds like too much, consider a place like Hong Kong University. Tuition at Asia’s top school is around $15,000 per year, and there are plenty of scholarships and financial aid packages available. Not to mention you’d be networking with future movers and shakers in the region.

Still too much? Look at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, whose Rotterdam School of Management is one of the top business schools in Europe. Tuition in the all-English program is around $11,500 per year, 73% less than Notre Dame’s Mendoza School, and 26% less than Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Still too much? Try Qatar University, where there are numerous English-language programs in disciplines such as business and engineering. Tuition for foreign undergraduates is just $4,000 annually, and you’d be spending formative years in one of the world’s most thriving, opportunity-rich economies.

Still too much? Try Albert Einstein’s Alma Mater, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. If you make the cut, ETH’s tuition fee is a whopping $750 per semester for both undergraduate and graduate programs, and the school is typically ranked among Europe’s top 5 universities.

Here’s the bottom line– if you’re facing an uphill battle for prospects and opportunities, get creative; don’t simply follow the same path that everyone else is taking. The world is a big place– stop limiting yourself by geography and start looking overseas for solutions.