How much more do international students pay to study at university in the US?

January 18th, 2021 by IEFA

Calculating the cost of studying in the U.S.

Millions of students around the world dream of studying an undergraduate degree in the U.S. 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 U.S.

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 the U.S. for international students? It’s noteworthy that international students often face higher tuition fees compared to domestic students, highlighting a significant disparity in the cost of education.

So, how much does an international student pay to study in the U.S.? 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. This variation in tuition fees reflects the diverse areas of study that international students are enrolled in, contributing to the rich tapestry of international education in the United States.

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 U.S. varies greatly between institutions, and it is even higher for international students. International students pay US$25,000-US$35,000 per year at a public university and US$30,000-US$45,000 at private colleges on average. The cost can reach up to US$50,000-US$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 US$2500-US$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 US$20,000-US$35,000 for public colleges and US$35,000-US$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 US$5000-US$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 U.S. 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 US$6,000-US$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 US$10,000-US$12,000 per year for international students. The cost of living might vary where you are staying.

Student Visa:

A student visa, mandated for all international students, involves navigating the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) as part of the visa application process. To be eligible for a student visa, international students must apply to and be accepted by an SEVP-certified school, which is crucial for those enrolling in higher education, especially in STEM fields and business management. This certification is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security and its sub-agency U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), ensuring the school meets certain standards. After acceptance, students receive the I-20 form, which records all necessary information for their stay.

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

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 US$30-US$140 for health insurance per month depending on the college and the health insurance package.

We have a post about how to save on health insurance here.


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

What we’ve learned about the cost of studying in the U.S.:

Many international students face significant challenges when it comes to affording education in the U.S., yet there are numerous opportunities available to them. Yes, it is costly to study in the U.S. International students pay around US$32,000-US$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 support of international student financial aid, international scholarships, international student loans, and help from private and government organizations as well. Additionally, foreign students make substantial economic and cultural contributions to the U.S., enriching the educational environment for all students and fostering cross-cultural understanding and collaboration.

Other useful posts:


  1. Ian Wafula says:


  2. Yusuf says:


  3. Yusuf says:

    MBA scholarships for Indian students.

    • Charmone Wallace says:

      Hi Yusuf,

      For any international students looking for scholarships, you can visit to view awards that you might be eligible for. You can browse through the available scholarships or use the quick search tool to narrow down your options.

      Best of luck with your application,
      The IEFA Team

    • Charmone Wallace says:

      Hi Yusuf,

      For any international students looking for scholarships, you can visit to view awards that you might be eligible for. You can browse through the available scholarships or use the quick search tool to narrow down your options.

      Best of luck with your application,
      The IEFA Team

  4. Yusuf says:

    Ok. Canada.

  5. Yusuf says:

    Ok. I will do it

  6. Yaya mballow says:

    I’m keenly interested to come and do my master in your country. I had completed series of exam’s.

  7. Suresh Keith Daniels says:

    Suresh Keith Daniels from Sri Lanka
    To be honest and open though I am interested and keen and have the desire to enhance with higher studies I don’t have much support from any other sources
    Maybe this is very interesting and I hope I can build some connections studies plus some earning opportunities
    Thank you

  8. Eric kolubah says:

    I’m interested

    • Charmone Wallace says:


      Thank you for your comment!

      We recommend exploring various scholarship and financial aid options that might be available to you. Our scholarship search tool can be a great resource. You can access it here:

      Additionally, for more comprehensive information on financial aid options, including loans and other forms of assistance, please visit our resources page here:

      Remember, each scholarship or financial aid program will have its own application process and requirements, so be sure to contact the relevant organizations directly for guidance.

      Best of luck with your studies, and keep pursuing your dreams!
      – The IEFA Team

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