How much does it cost for an international student to study at university in the US?

January 18th, 2021 by IEFA

Millions of students around the world dream of studying an undergraduate degree in the US. There are a lot of famous universities and colleges to choose from. Improving their future prospects, getting a high quality higher education, and access to better opportunities are just some of the reasons why so many students want to study at a university in the US.

But to get the best quality product you usually have to pay a high price. US colleges are some of the most expensive colleges in the world, but still millions of international students apply every year. How do you find an affordable university in USA for international students?

So, how much does an international student pay to study in the US? The annual cost of studying here can reach up to five figures.

Most colleges don’t have a standardized government fee system. It mostly depends on the college and the course you choose.

There are multiple types of institutions available for undergraduate students in the US such as community colleges, private colleges, and public colleges. Most international students study at public and private colleges rather than community colleges.

Private colleges are the costliest of them all. On average public colleges charge between $35,000 and $45,000 and private colleges charge from $50,000 to $75,000 per year.

Tuition Fees:

Private universities charge more tuition fees as compared to public universities and community colleges. Unfortunately, in most cases, there is no such thing as cheap tuition for international students.

Public colleges get their funding mostly from the state government and private colleges get their funding from private organizations and donations. Community colleges or two year colleges also usually get their funding from the government just like public colleges.

Subjects like the arts, education, and humanities tend to be less expensive than engineering, medical, dentistry, and other similar subjects.

Higher courses like masters are usually more expensive than undergraduate courses. The college tuition fees depend on the college or course that you are planning to pursue. They differ from college to college. However, international students almost always pay significantly more in university fees than American students.

  • Undergraduate Courses:

The cost of undergraduate degrees in the US varies greatly between institutions, and it is even higher for international students. International students pay $25,000-$35,000 per year at a public university and $30,000-$45,000 at private colleges on average. The cost can reach up to $50,000-$55,000 per year for some private colleges.

For a cheaper option, you can go to a community college. You will receive an associate’s degree instead of a bachelor’s degree because community colleges provide 2-year courses. They can charge you $2500-$3000 per year. You can use the associate’s degree as a qualification for the first half of your bachelor’s degree and later you can apply for a master’s degree as well.

  • Postgraduate Courses:

All the fees depend on degree program and the courses that you choose. In general a Ph.D. or master’s courses will cost less than the MBA, JD, or MD courses. International students usually pay $20,000-$35,000 for public colleges and $35,000-$50.000 for private colleges per year.

Accommodation Costs:

Most colleges offer their international students on-campus residence. The residence is often called a “dorm room” or dormitory. Students usually share a room with 2 or 3 other students. Colleges provide daily essentials like water, electricity, and the internet. Students also share bathrooms, showers, and so on. It depends on the college how much they charge for on-campus accommodation. On average this is between $5000-$8000 per year.

However, you can choose to stay at a non-campus residence as well. You can share an apartment with other students or you can live alone as well. The rent depends on the area you are staying in. The Midwest region is cheaper than the East and Northeast in the US. But, you have to pay your electricity, internet, and water bills along with the rent and living costs. The usual rate for a single bedroom apartment is between $6,000-$15,000 per year – depending on the apartment and location.

Living Expenses:

It will be a good idea to make some savings for your daily and basic needs like emergencies, shopping, groceries, food, water, clothes, books, and study materials. When you live or study abroad you should track even your smallest expenses. This will help you to keep an eye on your overall expenses and you can save or set a budget for a period.

A good estimate would be $10,000-$12,000 per year for international students. The cost of living might vary where you are staying.

Student Visa:

A student visa is mandatory for all international students. It can be a long process as well. As an international student, you have to apply and get accepted by a Student and Visitor Exchange Program (SEVP) certified college. After the approval process, you will receive the I-20 from where all of your information will be recorded.

Visa applicants have to pay a non-refundable fee. All students are categorized as F, M, or J, depending on their courses, merit, and colleges. They have to pay $350 as a SEVP fee and a visa application fee of $160.

Health Insurance:

Staying so far away from your home can be hard. Thousands of international students get injured or need medical attention throughout their courses. Student health insurance provides international students with financial support in these kinds of situations. International students must have proof of health insurance to get admission to most US universities and colleges. Without health insurance, international students can not apply for US colleges.

Under the age of 25, international students can expect to pay $30-$140 for health insurance per month depending on the college and the health insurance package.


Usually, the most affordable universities and colleges provide dormitories to their international students. When you stay inside the college campus you won’t be using transportation too much, unless you are going somewhere off-campus. However, if you choose to live outside of the college campus, you will need transportation. Luckily, in the US transportation costs are not that high, and there are multiple options to choose from. You can get cabs, trains, and buses or you can use vehicle rental facilities.

Bus and train passes cost around $30-$50 per month for students. For additional expenses, you can expect to pay around $100-$120 per month in your total transportation. However, that cost mostly depends on where you are staying.

In summary:

Yes, it is costly to study in the US. International students pay around $32,000-$60,000 per year depending on the university and the course. It is a lot of money but there are various options and opportunities available for international students. You can get the facilities of international student financial aid, international scholarships, international student loans, and help from private and government organizations as well.

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    Hello, I’m 35years old and I have 2kids age 7 and 5. Is it possible for me to apply for an undergraduate program and travel with my kids? If no, please which any other program can I apply for that will allow me travel with my kids except masters degree program because I’m not a graduate.I will be expecting your response. Thank you..

    • Al C says:

      Unfortunately, we don’t offer specific advice on programs or schools as this important decision depends on your own individual circumstances.

      Thank you.

  2. Pascal says:

    Pls I’m an international students wishing to study in u.s. how can I go about it?

  3. Vaughan Enyiogu says:

    Hi there!

    My name is Vaughan. I have just been admitted to South Dakota State University to pursue my bachelor’s degree in political science.

    Please I would like to know if I can get a student loan.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


  4. Ankesh Anand says:

    This article was helpful. However, there are no lenders on IEFA for Iowa State University. Any Student Loan options?

    • Al C says:

      Thanks for your email.

      Unfortunately, if a school is not on the list, we do not have a loan program for the school, and I am not aware of any others for which you would be eligible. My best advice is to contact the school, as they should know if there are any loan programs available to their international students.

      Also, you might be interested in the following site for International Scholarships:

      Be sure to receive the free International Student Loan Newsletter — sign up at:

  5. Roseline Guwor says:

    I am interested in studying abroad and I really need this loan to help me.

  6. Toyin Williams Okoro says:

    My Daughter is looking for a University to study Law that can earn her LLB Honor

  7. Bambi Wilson says:

    I am still interested!

  8. Stephen Kofi Dotse says:

    I need international students Financial aid or international students scholarships to enable me pursue PhD programs in University of Alabama or University of Maine

  9. Alaa Reda Saleh Tantawi says:

    I am Egyptian citizen and I have the U S A citizenship (I have born in U S A – Tennessee State). I graduated from Faculty of Pharmacy, Zagazig University, Egypt (with excellent grade). I am looking for living in U S A and obtaining a scholarship for Master degree studies in one of the American universities covered financially completely by the U. S. A. government.
    Could you please let me know the best way to do this.

  10. Srinivas Reddy says:

    The college mentioned on the i-20 the fees is $7,000 for it semester but when I came from India to USA the college is saying that I should pay $15,000 per semester is that legal

    • Al C says:

      Unfortunately, we don’t offer specific advice on programs or schools as this important decision depends on your own individual circumstances. You should be able to get a full and clear outline of the costs from your school.

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