Cost of Studying in the USA for International Students

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College students from around the world often decide to pursue higher education in the United States. To do that, they have to obtain the necessary paperwork and permissions. They also must make arrangements to pay for their college education. You generally have to prove that you can pay for your tuition, fees, books, and living expenses to obtain the student Visa you need.

Navigating the process of paying for your education in the US can be complicated. This article should help with much of the information you need. We'll cover the costs of education, how international students can receive help and some red flags to beware of.

Cost of University Studies in the US

Tuition rates in the United States can vary widely. An international student could pay between $25,000-$35,000 per year at a public university. That goes up to $30,000-$45,000 annually at private universities. Keep in mind that these are just averages. An elite, private university could charge as much as $55K . These numbers reflect tuition for undergraduate studies.

How much does it cost for an international student to attend graduate school in the United States? This also varies widely. Here you can expect to pay $20,000-$35,000 for graduate school at a public university, and up to $50,000 for a private university. Keep in mind that some professional studies are even more. For example, the cost of medical school can exceed six figures.

Some students choose to take some alternative actions to reduce their overall cost of education. One option is to obtain a year or two of education in your home country. You might even finish your undergraduate degree at home, then pursue graduate or professional studies here. You might also opt to attend a community college or junior college first. The tuition costs are much lower, and you will be able to transfer to a four-year university later.

Other Costs to Consider

It's important to have a full picture of your costs. There's more than just tuition and fees. You must be able to pay for Visa costs, food, transportation, health insurance, clothing, and incidentals. Some students may be able to work or qualify for assistance. However, you should expect to go out of pocket for many of these expenses. Research the area in which your university is located, and learn how much rent, groceries, and utilities cost.

Are there Free Studies for International Students?

There may be some circumstances where an international student may be able to study for free, or at a very low cost.

Community Colleges

To begin, Community Colleges are some of the most top-rated and affordable colleges that exist in the USA. Instead of a Bachelor's degree, you will get an Associate's degree (2 years instead of 3) but you can later use it as a qualification for the first part of a bachelor's degree.

A Community College costs only a tenth of a standard University (about $2500-$3000 per year). As of the 2014-15 school year, there were over 91,000 international students enrolled in U.S. community colleges, according to You can find a list of Community Colleges on this website.

Tuition-free universities

You will also find some tuition-free universities in the United States. Many of these have available slots for students. Of course, the courses of study they have may be limited. Here are the ten tuition-free colleges in universities offer universities:

  1. Alice Lloyd College
  2. College of The Ozarks
  3. City University of New York
  4. State of Washington Universities
  5. Deep Springs College
  6. Berea College
  7. Webb Institute
  8. Curtis Institute of Music
  9. United States Service Academies
  10. Frank W. Olin College of Engineering

Of course, international students should contact schools directly about the specifics of these offerings, and the space available.

Ideas for Financial Help

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While they don't generally qualify for federal financial aid programs, international students can get financial help. They may qualify for scholarships, grants, or assistantship. These help students pay for college and don't require repayment.

Students should remember that the help they receive may depend on the school they choose, and the degree they pursue. For the most part, there is more financial aid available to graduate students than undergraduate students.

Research and Teaching Assistantships

Graduate students can apply for teaching or research assistantships in the United States to help fund their education. Students who qualify carry out teaching duties, usually as a teaching assistant for a tenured professor. They may also work assistant with research projects. An assistantship usually means a student gets a tuition waiver and a small monthly stipend. Some may qualify for health insurance. Be aware that some awards may only be partial.


International students may apply for scholarships to help with the cost of their university education. However, it's important to understand that not all scholarships are open to students who aren't United States citizens. Students will have to research the qualifications for each scholarship. Other qualifications may include:

  1. GPA
  2. Major
  3. Degree Level
  4. Community Service
  5. Intention to pursue a specific career
  6. Membership in an organization

There are too many qualifications to make an exhaustive list. In some cases, the qualifications are subjective. For example, a scholarship may be based on a student's work ethic and determination. The recipients of many scholarships are chosen by a selection committee or judge.

International students who are interested in obtaining scholarships should be persistent. There is no limit to the number of scholarships to which one can apply. So, it's worthwhile to research and apply for anything you have a chance of getting.

Finally, build up a good history of extracurriculars, accomplishments, volunteer work, and activities. This can boost your chance of getting a scholarship.


You may not qualify for the same grants as students who are citizens. However, there are plenty of grants available to international students, and you don't have to repay these. Look into the Fulbright Program. Enquire with your local government, and other organizations as well.

There are many colleges in universities that offer grants specifically for international students. Many of these are quite large, and could potentially cover a large portion of your education.

Private Loans

You may qualify for loans from private lenders. Just be aware that these often come with high interest rates. Additionally, there are many unscrupulous lenders out there. Research carefully.

Is it Easier to get Financing as an International Student?

Unfortunately, there are harmful rumours that international students receive preferential treatment when it comes to getting financing to pay for college. This is untrue.

While financial help is available, international students must often seek out grants, loans, and scholarships with little to no assistance from the government or other organizations.

Red Flags for International Students

Sadly, some people and organizations will take advantage of students who wish to study in the United States. Here are some of the most common scams.

For-Profit Universities

These are corporate-owned schools that operate to generate a profit. They are often unaccredited or have accreditation from disreputable sources. Degrees from these schools are often not regarded as valid among professionals. Worse, public and private colleges and universities may not accept transfer credits from these schools. These are a concern because they often target foreign students.

Financial Aid Scams

Some organizations will promise to complete financial aid paperwork for international students in return for a fee. To get your money, they will claim that you must use a certified company to do your paperwork, or promise you an exceptional amount of money. Please know that you can complete scholarships, loans, and grant applications on your own. Your school's financial aid department, lenders, and academic advisors will help you with this process for free.

Government Officials

People may call foreign students while pretending to be school or government officials. They may claim the student has violated immigration laws, that they are in danger of losing scholarship funds, or that their financial information has been compromised. The goal of these calls is to frighten the student into paying money or giving over financial information. They may even threaten arrest or deportation. Never give information over the phone. Instead, contact your school or bank to ensure that everything is okay.

About the author

Jessica Fender is a researcher and academic content creator. Her job is to facilitate student learning – she creates educational content that aligns with search queries "write a thesis for me" and "hire writer". When Jessica has free time, she enjoys reading, blogging, and hiking.