Higher education costs are met almost entirely by the French government and tuition fees are very affordable.
The fees are determined by the government and not the institution itself.
A basic fee for an undergraduate course in 2013/14 is €183 per year; for a masters course it is €254 per year; for a doctorat it is €388 per year.
In addition, you will be expected to pay a charge of €211 per year (2013/14) for health cover.
Those who are eligible for a student grant receive exoneration from the payment of tuition fees and exemption or reduction in health cover.
There is limited discretion granted to universities to impose specific additional charges for certain services, but they are very prescribed by the government, despite attempts by a number of universities to find their way around them!
However, you need to enquire about the totality of the charges that may be imposed, not just the basic tuition fee, as some of them can be high, and of dubious legal validity.
There are signs that the universities are being given greater discretion to impose their own charges, as the government struggles to find a way to fund higher education, and the universities are granted greater autonomy. Some universities have been granted new powers over their budget, and it is likely this will lead to an increase in fees.
Beyond the main university sector fees shoot up at the grandes écoles. Fees for a classic business school costs between €5,000 and €10,000 a year, whilst an engineering school can cost up to €15,000. Some public schools are cheaper.
The high cost of attending a grande école is compensated by the fact that student loans to enter these schools can often be obtained with a 0% rate, and by the higher salaries once you graduate.