College costs drive US students to British universities

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As the cost of attending college in the U.S. continues to rise, more American students are enrolling at British universities, which can be significantly cheaper than private colleges stateside.

Tuition for a non-European Union student ranges from 7,000 to 25,000 pounds, says Stephanie Blochinger, who represents education affairs at the British Council in the District of Columbia. That converts to roughly $8,600 to $31,000.

Annual tuition and fees to attend a private, four-year college in the U.S. averaged $33,635 for the 2016-2017 school year, according to data submitted to U.S. News in an annual survey. The cost is less for out-of-state students attending a public, four-year institution in 2016-2017: $21,303 on average.

With U.K. universities, "even though the tuition can be similar to out of state, instead of paying for four years, you're paying for three," Blochinger says.

Most bachelor's degree programs at universities in England and Wales are three years compared with four in Scotland. U.K. university recruiters say that the one year less of school is a financial incentive for some U.S. applicants.

[Prepare for the hidden costs of earning a degree overseas.]

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Top 10 most expensive colleges (2016-2017)
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Top 10 most expensive colleges (2016-2017)

University of Southern California, $52,217

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Franklin and Marshall College, $52,290

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Tufts University, $52,430

(Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Amherst College, $52,476

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University of Chicago, $52,491

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Sarah Lawrence College, $52,550

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Trinity College, $52,760

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Harvey Mudd College, $52,916

 (Photo by Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images)

Vassar College, $53,090

Columbia University, $55,056

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William Lucht, who attended Centreville High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, says he applied to both U.K. and U.S. universities in fall 2012. The now-21-year-old filled out The Common Application for U.S. schools and completed the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service application, called UCAS, for British universities.

The Virginia native chose to attend University College London in England for a bachelor's degree in history despite receiving offers from several U.S. universities.

"I got into a couple schools and the choice was between UVA, William & Mary, UCL and Michigan. I saw that it was only three years and thought that might help in terms of cost," Lucht says.

Undergraduate tuition at UCL for international students costs about $20,000 per year for most arts- and social-science-based programs in 2016-2017.

Alexander Craik, a U.S. recruitment officer at UCL, where more than 900 U.S. students are enrolled in undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, says tuition and living costs at a U.K. university can be lower compared with the cost of attendance at some U.S. schools – "even in a more expensive city such as London."

[See photos of the top 20 Best Global Universities.]

Lucht says it seems like more from his hometown are coming to study at London universities or elsewhere in the U.K.

The number of U.S. applicants submitting a UCAS application to attend a British university for an undergraduate degree has risen by more than 7 percent over the last five years, according to the British Council.

Last year, UCAS received its highest number of U.S. applicants seeking bachelor's degrees in 2015-2016, with approximately 3,985 American students applying.

The British Council in the U.S. collaborates with many British universities to foster relationships with U.S. high school counselors.

British universities, such as the University of Birmingham and Northumbria University in England, attribute the recent spurt to U.S. recruiting efforts, which includes setting up trade show stands at local college fairs.

Another large part of the recent interest stems from California where some prospective students, frustrated by the University of California system, are looking to attend a college out of state or abroad, experts say.

"UC schools have so many people. I went to visit UC—Santa Barbara, and it seemed like I couldn't get the classes I wanted because the classes were filling up," says Anneclaire Marley, 20, of San Jose, California, who is now in her third year at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Marley decided to attend the Scottish institution because she wanted the feel of a small, private school.

"My parents would have to take out loan if I wanted to go Boston College or NYU," Marley says, who was also accepted at the University of Washington. "I compared UW with the cost of St Andrews, and the cost came out to be the same. But I would get more of private-school-like education."

The California transplant says the Scottish higher education system is closer to the U.S. system.

"It's less of a jump," she says. "I'm going to get a completely different experience at the same cost as an out-of-state institution."

[See global universities where tuition is low or free.]

11 PHOTOS
Top 10 least expensive colleges (2016-2017)
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Top 10 least expensive colleges (2016-2017)

10. Park University, Missouri - $12,130

(Photo via Wikipedia)

9. Jarvis Christian College, Texas - $11,720

(Photo via Facebook)

8. William Carey University, Mississippi - $11,700

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7. Our Lady of Holy Cross, Louisiana - $11,632

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6. Alice Lloyd College, Kentucky - $11,550

(Photo via Wikipedia)

5. Blue Mountain College, Mississippi - $11,212

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4. LeMoyne-Owen College, Tennessee - $10,900

(AP Photo/Greg Campbell)

3. Tougaloo College, Mississippi - $10,600

(AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

2. Rust College, Mississippi - $9,500

1. Brigham Young University-Provo, Utah - $5,300

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U.S. parents are also looking to the U.K. as a cost-saving option for sending their child overseas for college – especially with Brexit, the British exit from the European Union. Since the Brexit vote, the British pound has dipped and hovered slightly above a 1.2 exchange rate with the dollar.

"We are saving tons thanks to Brexit," said Patricia Buchanan in an email. Her daughter Aimee is attending the University of Glasgow in Scotland for a bachelor's program in film and theater studies.

The University of Glasgow charged international students 16,000 pounds in tuition and fees, roughly $19,600 per year, for most subjects in 2016-2017.

Buchanan estimates the total cost for sending her daughter to Glasgow to be $33,800 per year, which includes tuition, living expenses and trips back to the States.

"We have been very impressed with how well the university accommodates Americans," the New Jersey mother said.

See the complete rankings of the Best Global Universities.

21 PHOTOS
U.S. News 20 Best Global Universities for 2017
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U.S. News 20 Best Global Universities for 2017

19. (tie) Imperial College London

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19. (tie) Duke University

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17. (tie) University of Pennsylvania 

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17. (tie) University of Michigan - Ann Arbor 

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16. University of California - San Francisco 

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15. University of California - San Diego 

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14. Yale University 

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13. University of Chicago

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12. University of Washington

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11. Johns Hopkins University

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10.University of California - Los Angeles

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9. Columbia University

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8. Princeton University

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7. Cambridge University

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6. Oxford University. 

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5. California Institute of Technology 

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4. University of California - Berkeley 

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3. Stanford University

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2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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1. Harvard University

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