Choosing the right University for your graduate studies is not an easy task. Not only will your decision follow you for the rest of your life, shape your career path and future success, it may also put you in serious debt. Saying that a Masters Degree in the United States is expensive is an understatement. Student loan debt now tops credit card debt among Americans!  In 2009, spending by Americans for post-secondary education totaled $461 billion, an amount 42% greater than in 2000, after accounting for inflation. This $461 billion is the equivalent of 3.3% of total U.S. gross domestic product and an amount greater than the total GDP of countries such as Portugal, Norway and Sweden. Unlike American universities, a majority of universities in Western Europe are subsidized by the state and students are offered financial support, either with grants or soft loans. These grants/loans are mostly spent on food and living costs, as a majority of the universities are tuition-free. So before you narrow down your list of graduate schools, make sure you take a good look at what Europe has to offer. It might be the smartest decision you ever make (says the European who moved to America to get her degrees). Below is a list of the highest ranked universities in Europe:

1. University of Oxford
United Kingdom

As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford University has won eight Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher Education, more than any other university. Graduate students make up around 44% of the total student body at Oxford, and 61% of them come from outside the UK.

Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk/

Tuition: http://www.ox.ac.uk/feesandfunding/fees/information/universityrates/201314feerates/

2. University of Cambridge
United Kingdom

The University of Cambridge has grown to around 17,500 students, 7,000 of whom are graduate students. Of the graduate students, 50% come from overseas, and well over a third are women. The University and its colleges are now spread throughout the city of Cambridge.

Website: http://www.cam.ac.uk/

Tuition: http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/students/gradadmissions/prospec/studying/feecost/index.html

3. Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
Switzerland

Website: http://www.ethz.ch/index_EN

Tuition: http://www.rektorat.ethz.ch/students/finance/fees/index_EN

4. The University of Edinburgh
United Kingdom

Website: http://www.ed.ac.uk/home

Tuition: http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/student-funding/tuition-fees/postgraduate/postgraduate

5. University College London
United Kingdom

Website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/

Tuition: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate-study/fees-costs/tuition-fees

6. Universität Wien
Austria

Currently, about 91,000 students are enrolled at the University of Vienna, and the academic facilities occupy more than sixty locations throughout the city of Vienna.  In addition, the University maintains facilities outside of Vienna in the Austrian provinces of Lower and Upper Austria, as well as in Salzburg. These are mainly research and experimental departments for Biology, Astrophysics and Sports.

Website: http://www.univie.ac.at/en/

Tution: http://www.postgraduatecenter.at/en/eiblaw/tuition/

7. Technische Universität Berlin
Germany

Website: http://www.tu-berlin.de/menue/home/parameter/en/

Tuition: There are no tuition fees at the TU Berlin. The university only charges a semester fee of approximately 270 €.

8. Università degli Studi di Bologna
Italy

Website: http://www.eng.unibo.it/PortaleEn/default.htm

Tuition: http://www.eng.unibo.it/PortaleEn/Students/Administrative+procedures/Tuition+fees+and+exemptions/Tuition+fees/Tuition_fees_for_Second_Cycle_Degree_Programmes.htm

9. Universidad de Granada
Spain

Website: http://www.ugr.es/en/

Tuition: Ranges from 800-1,800 EU (USD 1,000-2,500)

Also, if you are interested in further exploring your options for attending graduate school in Europe, check out this link that lists several countries where universities are free of charge: http://www.scholars4dev.com/4031/list-of-european-countries-with-tuition-freelow-tuition-universities-colleges/