5 Financial Considerations When Choosing a School

February 5th, 2013 by Jennifer Frankel

student in libraryOne of the most important decisions international students will face is what school they choose to pursue their degree program. This is one of the most critical decisions since it will financially determine the costs over the next few years. The school you choose can determine whether you are set up for financial success – or failure.

Think about it. If you are an international student planning to study in the US, there are over 2,000 universities that you can go to that accept international students. Your primary purpose is to enroll, get an education, and translate that into the opportunity to have a good job that will allow you to earn even more money (not to mention, a rewarding career!). College costs money, especially for international students, and the costs can vary greatly. You don’t just have to worry about tuition, but there is the cost of textbooks, housing, food, other educational fees, health insurance, electronics and more.

To help you out, here are 5 financial considerations when choosing a school:

  • Evaluate the tuition costs

If you’ve done your research, then you know that US public colleges tend to be more affordable than private universities. Even though international students can expect to pay the out-of-state tuition at a public institution, this tends to still be more affordable than a private school. If you have a list of schools you plan to apply to, create a cost comparison chart and see what makes financial sense to you!

  • Find out what financial assistance is available

No matter if you are looking at private or public university, financial aid for international students is limited. That being said, however, schools have different budgets allowing some schools to provide more financial assistance to international students than others. Check with your potential schools to see what financial aid is available. Ask questions like, do they offer need based aid? Is there an opportunity to get on-campus employment (and if so, what’s the likelihood of being able to do so?)? What is the likelihood of getting financial aid, even if it is not need base? If so, how much can be expected?

  • Check to see what employment opportunities exist

Some colleges and universities have a budget that allows them to hire international students part time. US students have what’s called “work study” which allows federal funds to pay for student employees. While this is not available for international students, some schools allocate funds to allow their international students to work in compliance with their visa employment restrictions. Check with your school(s) to see whether this is an option, but keep in mind that the amount you’ll make will be small and only cover miscellaneous expenses.

  • Consider the cost of living in the area

New York City, San Francisco, and Washington DC are some of the key cities international students dream of living. Did you also know that these are some of the most expensive cities to live in as well? New York City is ranked #1, San Francisco #2, and DC is ranked #7 as the most expensive cities to live in throughout the US, according to Kiplinger. If you are looking for a high quality education but don’t have a lot of funds to support your education, be sure to consider the cost of living of the town in which your school is located. This will also affect what you’ll be able to do off campus, because the less expensive the town, the farther your money will go.

  • Compare your projected income to your total degree cost

If you have your heart set on a top, ivy-league school, do a cost-benefit analysis to see what the costs will be – and then see how it compares to your projected income According to Mark Kantrowitz, founder of FinAid.org, “if your total student loan debt is less than your annual income, you’ll be able to repay that debt in about 10 years.” While it may be difficult to forecast your projected income, it’s worth the research to ensure a good investment. Check out Salary.com to see what your projected income would be if you land a job in the US after graduation. It would also be advantageous to evaluate your projected income in your home country as you will still be responsible for paying back any money borrowed.

* Photo of girl in library courtesy of Shutterstock

Join the conversation