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Student looks abroad for affordable education

Larry Knoble (left) shakes hands with Johnny Castle during a graduation party for his daughter Nicoletta Knoble on May 26 in DeKalb. Nicoletta Knoble, who graduated from Benet Academy in Lisle, will be attending the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
Larry Knoble (left) shakes hands with Johnny Castle during a graduation party for his daughter Nicoletta Knoble on May 26 in DeKalb. Nicoletta Knoble, who graduated from Benet Academy in Lisle, will be attending the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Nicoletta Knoble expects her college funds to go a long way – literally.

Knoble, of DeKalb, will head overseas this fall to pursue a college degree at the centuries-old King’s College at the University of Cambridge in England. Her family was surprised to learn that pursuing a degree abroad would cost significantly less than studying at any one of the eight other universities in the United States where she was accepted.

Knoble, 18, graduated this spring from Benet Academy in Lisle.

In vetting colleges where she had been accepted, Knoble noticed it cost more than $50,000 a year to attend the University of California, Berkeley, and about $62,000 to attend the University of Chicago. She said generous scholarships from New York University almost tipped the balance. Syracuse University and Washington University also were among the domestic schools that accepted her.

The cost to attend Cambridge University totals 26,000 a year, which Knoble expects will translate to about $40,000 a year. Another reason it costs less to attend the University of Cambridge is the three-year undergraduate degree program, as opposed to the traditional four-year degree programs at universities in the United States.

Cost and location ultimately steered her decision to study archaeology and anthropology overseas.

“That’s partially why I started looking abroad,” Knoble said.

Not only is college in Europe cheaper for U.S. students to attend, it’s only a couple hundred dollars – as opposed to thousands of dollars – for Europeans to attend them.

While overseas colleges cost less for students to attend from the United States, that’s usually not the case for international students who come to study at American schools.

Philipp Weber, an exchange student from Germany, has been studying at Northern Illinois University to pursue a doctorate in pharmacy. He ended up at NIU almost two years ago after meeting an NIU professor in Poland who persuaded him to study in DeKalb.

He and graduate student Kati Arndt, another student from Germany who has been studying biology at NIU since January, received scholarships to attend school here.

“Otherwise we couldn’t afford it,” Weber said.

School in Germany is much more affordable, Weber said. It cost about $500 a year to complete his undergraduate studies there. He said he was shocked when he learned how much higher education costs in the United States.

“You’re piling up debt,” he said. “I still haven’t figured everything out.”

Attending NIU costs an estimated $26,400 for an entire academic year, according to the Student Financial Aid Office’s budget worksheet for 2011-2012. The number includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, travel and other miscellaneous personal expenses.

The difference in cost keeps NIU from focusing its undergraduate recruitment efforts on students in European countries, said Deborah Pierce, associate provost for the Division of International Programs at NIU.

“Most of their universities have traditionally been free for undergraduate study,” she said. “There are no push or pull factors.”

College also is cheaper for Chinese students to attend in their home country, typically because they stay closer to home and live with their parents, Pierce said.

She said NIU has only stepped up its recruiting efforts for international undergraduate students within the past 10 years. Instead, NIU has focused on graduate student recruitment because the university’s graduate programs are of “outstanding” quality, she said.

International students are drawn to NIU because of professionally accredited programs in business and engineering, and a strong computer science program, Pierce said. Reasonable costs, proximity to Chicago and job opportunities are other reasons they end up at NIU, she said.

At the beginning of the Fall 2011 semester, 611 international students were enrolled at NIU.

Although it’s more expensive for Weber to attend postgraduate school abroad, other factors outweigh the extra cost.

“I stayed here because of my professor and because of the department,” he said. “People are all very nice.”

Knoble said the location of the University of Cambridge is perfect for studying northern European cultures. If she likes the school, she might also consider pursuing a graduate degree there, which she said would take one to two years to complete.

Getting accepted to a prestigious school that’s been around since the 1440s wasn’t easy. She was required to go through an in-person interview process at the university, and was asked to try her best at identifying some artifacts.

Knoble said she loved the people, the atmosphere of the “sleepy little town,” the year-round open-air markets and its proximity to other cultured European cities. Although it’s an ocean away, she said she still feels like a typical college freshman.

“I’m just as scared as everyone else,” she said. “I just got over it because I’m very ambitious.”

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