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5 Reasons Why There Are No Scholarships for Studying Abroad in France

By Allisonlounes @parisunraveled
Students at Climate Change Downscaling Program

Photo Credit: Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation Research University Network, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0 Licence

Every week, I get the same email in my inbox from a new student.

“Hi Allison,

I really want to come to France to study French / philosophy / literature, but I have no money and I need a scholarship. Can you help me?”

Unfortunately, the answer is usually no.

Scholarships for study abroad in France are few and far between. If you want to study the French language, or humanities, you have basically no chance of getting a scholarship to come.

Here are five reasons why there are no scholarships for studying abroad in France:

1) Lots of people want to study abroad in France.

Let’s face it. Lots of students want to come to Paris. In fact, the Guardian, a UK newspaper, recently rated Paris as the number 1 city for students in the world. So it’s no surprise that coming here is tough.

2) Every student is already getting a scholarship – in government subsidies for universities.

The reason why universities are so inexpensive in France is because they’re almost completely funded by the government. Professors are fonctionnaires de l’Etat, and taxpayer money keeps tuition under €300 per year, while the cost of a university education per student is just under €10.000 per year. So in a sense, all students who attend French university are getting a public scholarship.

Now, the French government does offer scholarships to its own students, in the form of stipends for rent for the lowest income university students, and tax credits for parents who support their college-age students. While some of these credits are under fire from the Hollande government, these generous measures do a lot towards subsidizing French students.

If your parents were French residents, you’d have a shot of getting some of these additional scholarships. But you’ll have to just accept that you’re already getting a sizeable scholarship from the French state.

3) Americans aren’t needy.

Or at least, not as needy as students from other countries.

France DOES offer some scholarships, but they’re typically offered to students with historically disadvantaged nationalities. In other words, students from developing countries.

Because tuition is less than €300 per year, it’s hard to imagine an American student willing to travel to Europe who wouldn’t be able to pay this paltry amount. For a Senegalese or Nigerian student, though, whose family income could be less that that in a year, it would be a lot more difficult to scrape the money together. And the opportunities such a student would receive by being able to come to France are significantly greater than they would be for an American student, who could likely have a good standard of living in the U.S.

(Disclaimer: I have no idea what the cost of living or average salary is in any African countries. But I know that it’s a heck of a lot lower than it is in the U.S.)

For an American, it’s not expensive to go to do a master’s in France. The cost of living in Paris is comparable to that in many American cities. And while the up-front costs aren’t negligible, they’re reasonable.

A plane ticket. Tuition of €452 with a year of health insurance included. And the first month’s rent and security deposit for a small studio. $3,000, max. A frugal student with a job can save that in a few months, or less with some help from their parents.

And once you arrive in France, it’s relatively simple to find a job earning enough to pay the rent and a bit of pocket money.

4) The French government wants to promote scientific fields.

France doesn’t need any more people who can speak French. They have quite a few already.

Which is why it always surprises me when students are annoyed that there are no scholarships to study French in France.

They don’t need us.

And they certainly don’t need us if we specialize in philosophy or art history or any other field with a not-obvious career path.

What they do need – what the world needs – is scientists and engineers, like any developed country. And because it’s a job that can’t be outsourced to a cheaper land, the French government does a lot to promote scientific fields, including subsidizing students. And in most cases, the French don’t WANT to keep the students who come. The idea is that providing science and engineering students from developing nations with a solid French education, those students will go back and work towards developing their home countries.

5) The scholarships that do exist aren’t that great.

Most of the scholarships for going to France that do exist aren’t that great to begin with. While students would typically expect a grant that would help cover the cost of living in Paris, that’s simply not the case.

The Eiffel Scholarship for master’s students in Engineering is a mere €1500, which may cover tuition and two months’ of rent. And French students who meet the social criteria for government scholarships get a maximum of €4000 during the year. Not enough to cover living expenses by a long shot.

Perhaps we’re so used to getting thousands of dollars in federal financial aid in the U.S. that we’ve lost sight of the true cost of an education, and we fail to appreciate how generous the French system already is.

It’s possible to save $40,000 by doing a master’s degree in France. Why are we constantly begging for more?

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