CHICAGO — Highly regarded American universities would have welcomed Nicoletta Knoble as a student next fall, but she has her sights set on King's College at Cambridge University in England.

CHICAGO — Highly regarded American universities would have welcomed Nicoletta Knoble as a student next fall, but she has her sights set on King's College at Cambridge University in England.

The chance to study against a backdrop of elegant, Old World buildings amid a storied history was attractive to the senior from Benet Academy in Lisle, but shaving many thousands of dollars off her tuition bills was no small factor.

Attending school in England, where she will study anthropology and archaeology, means Knoble will spend about $26,000 on tuition and living expenses, about half the cost of some other schools she was considering — which included the University of Chicago, the University of California at Berkeley, Syracuse University, New York University and Washington University.

"It's not that schools in Europe aren't expensive," she said. "But I will be getting a Cambridge University education for the same cost of going to (the University of Illinois). I'm getting so much more bang for my buck."

And there's a good chance Knoble will see peers from back home in her overseas classrooms. The number of Americans pursuing four-year degrees on foreign soil is on the rise, as students increasingly look to other countries for a relatively inexpensive alternative to U.S. schools while offering the same, if not more, prestige.

The interest in Americans attending foreign universities is mutual. More and more, schools abroad are coming to the United States to recruit.

Universities from the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Malaysia and China are among those working to woo Americans. A recently formed consortium of seven Irish universities, Education in Ireland, will recruit at an Oak Brook hotel, where prospective students will learn about the schools, dorm life, the social scene and finances.

Their parents may be interested to hear that some U.S. college savings and financial aid programs can be used to fund overseas education at schools with a federal Title IV code.

A U.S. clientele accustomed to footing college costs and declining birthrates in some European countries are, at least in part, fueling the recruiting efforts, said Patti McGill Peterson, presidential adviser for global initiatives at the American Council on Education, which represents the interests of college presidents and chancellors.

"With the population shift, they may have space in their classrooms," she said. And unlike some Europeans, "Americans are used to paying for education."

Though costs vary by country, McGill Peterson said many nations subsidize education significantly. Irish students pay no tuition at Irish colleges and universities. But they pay a student fee that covers registration and other services and tops out at $2,616.

Though Josephine Knoble will miss her daughter, she's excited about her opportunity to travel, the cultural advantages and the relatively low cost.

The Institute of International Education, which promotes educational exchange and training, reports that more than 43,000 American students are enrolled in academic degree programs in 13 countries it surveyed this year. Thirty-nine percent of those students are in undergraduate programs, 44 percent are in master's programs, and 17 percent are pursuing doctoral degrees.

The number of American students studying in Ireland over the past decade rose from 2,521 in the 2001-02 school year to 4,363 this year, Dervan said. That includes study-abroad, undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral students.

Other countries also report increases. At the Ecole Hoteliere Lausanne, which teaches hospitality management in Switzerland, there were three American students enrolled in 2006-07. Today there are 84.