Sources of Funds for International Students in the US

March 5th, 2010 by IEFA

Each year, the Institute of International Education publishes the Open Doors Report, packed full of information about international students in the US, US students abroad and trends in international education.

One of the tables I check out each year is the Primary Source of Funds table. This shows the primary source of education funding for international students in the US, and it really has not changed much over the past five years. The online table is great, and shows that most international students at US colleges and universities still must rely on their own funds to pay for their education — like family funds, loans and savings.

But the printed report is even better, as it breaks the data down by academic level. IIE just released the full printed 2009 Open Doors Report, and the data shows that the overwhelming majority (81.9%) of international undergraduates in the US are self-funded, while less than half (48.8%) of international graduate students cite personal and family funds as their primary source of funding.

The next set of numbers shows how those graduate students are funding their education – with help from their school. 43.3% of international graduates receive their primary funding from their US College or University, while the number is only 9.1% for undergraduates.

Here’s the full data table from the 2009 Open Doors Report showing the primary source of funds for international undergraduate and graduate students in the US:

Primary Source of Funds% undergraduate% graduate
Personal & Family81.948.8
U.S. College or University9.143.3
Home Government/University3.93.1
U.S. Government0.30.8
U.S. Private Sponsor1.40.9
Foreign Private Sponsor2.11
International Organization0.10.3
Current Employment0.21
Other Sources10.8

Graduate students are much more likely to receive financial assistance from their school, often in the form of assistantships, research grants, etc., whereas very few undergraduates receive any form of aid from their school. This information is quite helpful as you set expectations about how to pay for an international education. There are scholarships for undergraduates, but far fewer than the financing opportunities available to graduate students.

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