While the US remains the world’s most popular destination for international students, it’s also among the most expensive choices. But while the headline costs of studying in the US may be daunting, often involving a string of five-digit numbers, it’s worth checking all the facts on fees and funding options before you make up your mind.
In HSBC’s 2014 report on the costs of studying abroad in different locations, the US emerged as the third most-expensive option overall, behind Australia and Singapore. HSBC put the average annual cost of study in the US – including tuition fees and living expenses – at US$36,564. Multiply by four for most undergraduate courses and by two for most master’s degrees, and for the majority of prospective students, attending university in the US may seem about as realistic as crashing at the White House while you look for a place to live.
Costs of study at different types of US university
Anyone familiar with the basic rules of averages will have realized that the HSBC estimate is likely to include significant variation in either direction – and this is true. At the very top-tier US universities (the majority of which are private non-profits), fees and living costs are likely to add up to around US$60,000 per year, but it’s also possible to study in the US at a much lower outlay.
Those seeking a more affordable option may find lower tuition fees at US universities within the public sector. These are typically run as state university systems – collections of colleges within a state, which share some administrative aspects while operating as separate institutions. Public universities in the US have two tuition fee rates: one for state residents and one for everyone else. The second (more expensive) category applies equally to applicants from other US states and from other countries.
According to student support organization College Board, published tuition fees for 2014/15 at state colleges are an average of US$9,139 for state residents, and $22,958 for everyone else. This compares to an average of $31,231 at private non-profit colleges. The cheapest options of all, however, are public-sector two-year colleges – also known as community, technical or city colleges – where average fees for 2014/15 are just $3,347.
Admittedly, you can’t complete a full degree at a two-year college, but you can gain an associate’s degree. This counts as the first half of a bachelor’s degree, which can then be completed by transferring to a university for an additional two or three years.
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