The Cost of Study in USA: An In-depth Exploration - PFEC

The Cost of Study
in USA:

An In-depth Exploration

  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
The Cost of Study in USA: An In-depth Exploration 8 Months ago

The United States has long been a popular destination for international students, and for good reason. US universities are consistently ranked among the best in the world, offering a world-class education. The US also has a rich culture and history and is a welcoming and diverse country.

In recent years, the number of international students studying in the US has continued to grow. As of 2023, there were over 1.1 million international students enrolled in US universities. This growth is being driven by a number of factors, including the US's strong economy, its reputation for quality education, and its welcoming environment for international students.

1. Tuition Fees: The Core of Educational Expenditure

Educational institutions in the USA, known for their excellence, offer a range of course fees that vary based on different factors:

  • Institution Ranking: Renowned universities like Harvard University or Stanford University typically have higher fees compared to less prestigious institutions.
  • Course Duration: Bachelor's degrees generally take around four years to complete, while postgraduate programs can vary in duration, which affects the overall cost.
  • Specialized Courses: Pursuing degrees in fields such as medicine, engineering, or law can be more expensive due to the specialized equipment, advanced laboratories, and rigorous training required.

It's important to note that tuition fees in the USA vary significantly between institutions and can also be influenced by factors like location, program type, and financial aid options available.

2. Living Costs: Making a Home in the USA

The USA offers a diverse and vibrant lifestyle, but it also comes with a high price tag.

  • Accommodation: Depending on your preference - dormitories, apartments, homestays, or hostels - costs can range from USD 100 to USD 1,000 per week.
  • Average accommodation cost in the USA for international students
  • Utilities: If your utilities are not included in your rent, you can expect to pay USD 20 to USD 300 per week on electricity, gas, water, internet, and phone bills.
  • Meals: You can buy groceries from local supermarkets or convenience stores, which typically cost between USD 400 and USD 800 per month. You can also save money by shopping at discount stores such as Walmart, Costco, and Target.

Eating out at a casual restaurant will cost you about USD 15 on average for a meal. A three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant average at USD 60. You can also enjoy a variety of cuisines from different cultures, such as Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and Indian.

International students living in the USA usually need between USD 1,500 and USD 3,000 per month to cover their living expenses, including housing, food, and entertainment. It is important to note that when applying for the student visa in the USA, students must show proof of their financial ability to support their education and stay in the country.

To know more about Standard of Living in USA Read our Blog: Standard of Living in USA: A Comprehensive Guide for International Students

  • Public Transport: Some universities offer free or discounted transportation services to students on campus or nearby areas.

    Bicycling is another feasible option for commuting. Renting a bike can cost around USD 30 per day.

3. Health Insurance: A Vital Necessity

It is not mandatory for international students to have health insurance in the U.S., but it is highly recommended and often required by most universities. Depending on the provider and the plan, this can cost between USD 1,500 and USD 2,500 per year1. Health insurance can help international students cover their medical expenses and avoid paying high bills out of pocket. Health insurance plans for international students can vary in terms of coverage, benefits, deductibles, and co-payments. Some plans may also offer additional services such as dental, vision, or mental health care. International students should compare different plans and choose one that meets their needs and budget. They should also check the visa and school requirements for health insurance before enrolling in a plan.

To know more about Medical and Health care facilities for International Students in USA read our blog

Study Materials and Equipment

4. Study Materials and Equipment

Pursuing higher education in the USA typically involves acquiring various study materials and equipment to facilitate effective learning. Similarly to global trends, the expenses associated with study resources can vary widely based on the field of study.

I. Textbooks and Reading Materials: The United States boasts a diverse array of academic programs across esteemed institutions, resulting in up-to-date curricula aligned with international standards. Consequently, students often find it necessary to purchase the latest editions of textbooks.

II. Specialized Tools and Equipment: Students enrolled in specialized programs like engineering, sciences, arts, or design might encounter the need for specific tools. These can encompass laboratory gear, safety gear, technical devices, advanced cameras, or artistic supplies.

III. Digital Resources and Software: With the digital shift in education, many courses rely on online resources, e-books, academic journals, or discipline-specific software tools for activities like programming, data analysis, or design work.

IV. Stationery and Miscellaneous Supplies: While seemingly modest, expenses for stationery items such as notebooks, writing implements, printing, and miscellaneous supplies should not be underestimated.

V. Pre-owned Options and Campus Resources: To mitigate the financial burden, students often explore cost-effective alternatives like purchasing second-hand textbooks from fellow students or online platforms. Many universities in the USA offer well-stocked libraries with access to essential course materials, which significantly minimizes the expenditure associated with study resources.

5. Cost of Entrance and Proficiency Exams for Prospective Students in the USA

The United States, renowned for its exceptional educational institutions and diverse academic offerings, remains a top destination for international students. Amid the attraction of pursuing studies in the USA, prospective students encounter various initial hurdles, including the financial commitments linked to entrance and proficiency exams.

A closer examination of the Examination costs offers valuable insights for aspiring students planning to pursue education in the United States.

Cost of Entrance and Proficiency Exams for Prospective Students in USA

Why Are These Exams Important?

Entrance exams like the GRE and GMAT are essential indicators of a student's capability and readiness for rigorous postgraduate programs. Top universities in the USA use scores from these tests to make admission decisions.

English proficiency tests ensure that international students can effectively communicate, understand course material, and participate actively in classes, thereby ensuring they can thrive in an English-speaking academic environment.


Early Preparation: Beginning preparation well in advance not only ensures better scores but also provides ample time to retake exams if needed.

Budgeting: Given these costs, prospective students should factor in these expenses while budgeting for their educational journey in the USA.

6. Visa Expenses

For students planning to study in the USA, it's crucial to consider visa expenses. The primary visa category for international students in the United States is the F-1 Student Visa. As of the latest information available, the application fee for the F-1 Student Visa is $160. However, it's important to note that visa fees can change over time and may vary depending on the specific U.S. embassy or consulate where the application is processed.

Additionally, students might also need to budget for other expenses associated with the visa application process, such as SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fees, which are currently $350 for F-1 visa applicants. It's advisable to check the latest fee information on the official website of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. embassy or consulate where you plan to apply for your visa, as fees are subject to change and may vary based on individual circumstances.

To know more about Student Visa for USA Read our Blog: A comprehensive Guide to Student Visa for USA: Types, Requirements, and Application Process

Leisure and Personal Expenses

7. Leisure and Personal Expenses

The United States, often hailed as the "Land of Opportunity," not only boasts a diverse range of educational institutions but also offers an abundance of recreational and cultural experiences. As an international student in the USA, your journey extends beyond the classroom, allowing you to explore the vast landscapes, dynamic cities, and cultural offerings that the country has to offer.

However, engaging in these enriching experiences comes with associated costs. Here's a breakdown of some of the expenses you may encounter:

I. Natural Wonders: The USA is renowned for its stunning natural attractions, from exploring the Grand Canyon to hiking in Yosemite National Park. While visiting these iconic sites can be a memorable experience, it's important to budget for park entrance fees, which can range from $15 to $35 per vehicle, depending on the park.

II. Cultural Adventures: The USA is home to world-famous cultural landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., and Broadway shows in New York City. Ticket prices for these attractions can vary widely, with

III. Dining and Entertainment The culinary scene in the USA is diverse and offers a wide range of dining options.

Depending on the location and cuisine. Exploring the nightlife, especially in cities like New York or Los Angeles, may include expenses for bars and clubs, with cover charges and drinks that can vary in price.Dining out at a mid-range restaurant typically costs between $20 to $50 per person

IV. Sports and Fitness: Staying active and fit in the USA is a popular choice, with

Depending on the facility and location. Engaging in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, or playing sports may require equipment rental or purchase, adding to your expenses.

V. Shopping: Whether you're shopping for souvenirs, clothing, or personal care items, budgeting for shopping is essential. Many cities in the USA offer outlet malls, thrift stores, and weekend markets where you can find affordable deals.

VI. Travel: Exploring different states and cities within the USA is a common pastime for international students. Travel expenses may include transportation costs (flights, buses, or trains), accommodation, and activities at your destination. Budget airlines and group discounts can help reduce travel expenses.

VII. Budgeting Tips: To manage your leisure and personal expenses effectively, consider using student discount cards, seeking out group discounts, or taking advantage of early-bird offers. Many universities also have student clubs and societies that organize affordable trips and events, allowing you to make the most of your time in the USA without breaking the bank.

Working Part-Time as an International Student in USA and Understanding Tax Implications

8. Working Part-Time as an International Student in USA and Understanding Tax Implications

International students in the United States have the opportunity to work part-time, which not only helps them financially but also provides valuable work experience in a diverse cultural setting. With an F-1 Student Visa, students are eligible to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week during their academic sessions and can work full-time during authorized breaks, such as summer or winter vacations.

While part-time work can alleviate financial pressures, it's essential for international students to understand the U.S. tax system regarding income generated through employment. Before commencing work, students are required to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), depending on their eligibility and the nature of their employment. The process for obtaining an SSN or ITIN involves specific documentation and application procedures, typically done through the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Regarding taxation, any annual income in the United States is subject to taxation.

The taxation rates are progressive and vary based on income brackets

Many international students in the USA pursue part-time employment opportunities that align with their skills, availability, and career goals. Here are some commonly sought-after job options:

  • Tutoring: International students often opt to become tutors in subjects they excel in. This not only helps them reinforce their own knowledge but also provides valuable academic assistance to their peers.
  • Food Services: Roles such as bartenders, waitstaff, and kitchen assistants are frequently chosen by students. The flexible working hours and the potential for tips make these positions attractive for those seeking part-time work.
  • Office Assistants: Working as office assistants allows international students to gain insights into the professional American workplace. Tasks may include data entry, managing phone calls, and organizing paperwork, offering valuable administrative experience.
  • Customer Service/Call Centers: These roles are well-suited for students with strong communication skills. Employment in customer service or call centers provides an opportunity to develop customer interaction abilities and enhance problem-solving skills while serving clients and customers.
Scholarships Lightening the Financial Load

9. Scholarships: Lightening the Financial Load

Many universities in the United States offer scholarships, grants, and fellowships to international students, providing valuable financial assistance to alleviate the cost of education. These scholarships typically come with their own eligibility criteria established by the respective institutions.

However, most of these scholarships are accessible to international students, ensuring that financial constraints do not hinder deserving applicants. For a comprehensive list of scholarships available in the United States, the official 'Study in the USA' website serves as a valuable resource.

Highlighted below are some notable scholarships available to international students pursuing higher education in the USA:

Fulbright Program:

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright Program offers a range of scholarships and fellowships to international students. These awards cover tuition, travel expenses, and living stipends for recipients pursuing graduate-level studies in the United States.

  1. I. Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program:
    This scholarship, supported by the World Bank, provides funding for international students from developing countries to pursue graduate studies related to development at universities around the world, including the USA.
  2. II. Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program:
    Administered by the U.S. Department of State, this program brings accomplished mid-career professionals from around the world to the United States for a year of non-degree graduate-level study and related practical professional experiences.
  3. III. American University Emerging Global Leader Scholarship:
    American University offers this competitive scholarship to international students who demonstrate leadership potential, dedication to improving their home country, and strong academic credentials. The scholarship covers tuition, room, and board.
  4. IV. Harvard University Scholarships:
    Harvard University provides a range of scholarships for international students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. These scholarships are awarded based on academic excellence and financial need.
  5. V. Stanford Reliance Dhirubhai Ambani Fellowship:
    Stanford University's Graduate School of Business offers this fellowship to promising students from India. It covers the full cost of tuition and associated fees for the Stanford MBA Program.
  6. VI. MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI):
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers MISTI scholarships to international students participating in research and internship programs. These scholarships support travel and living expenses during the program.
  7. VII. Yale University Scholarships:
    Yale University offers various scholarships and fellowships to international students pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies. These awards are based on academic achievements and financial need.

In addition to the scholarships listed above, international students can explore various scholarships offered by individual universities, private organizations, and government agencies, all aimed at facilitating international education in the United States. These scholarships play a crucial role in making U.S. education more accessible to deserving students from around the world.

10. The Cost-Effectiveness of Studying in the USA

While studying in the United States presents its own set of expenses, a direct comparison with other prominent global education destinations, such as Australia and the UK, reveals some intriguing insights. When examining the cost-effectiveness of pursuing higher education, the USA often offers competitive advantages. This is particularly evident when considering the return on investment in terms of educational quality, employment prospects, and overall quality of life.

A comprehensive assessment of educational value versus expenditure in major global education hubs underscores the USA's status as a cost-effective choice for prospective students. Notably, tuition fees and living costs in the USA, while variable depending on the institution and location, can often be on par with or even lower than those in countries like Australia and the UK. Moreover, the USA's educational institutions consistently rank among the world's finest, providing students with access to high-caliber programs and abundant research opportunities. Additionally, the country's diverse economy and robust job market contribute to favourable employment prospects for international graduates.

In essence, the USA emerges as a cost-effective destination that not only offers access to top-notch education but also a high standard of living and ample opportunities for personal and professional growth, making it an attractive choice for international students.

Tips to Managing Finances

11. Tips to Manage Expenses

Studying in a new country can be an enriching experience, but it also comes with the challenge of managing finances in a different currency and economy. The cost of living, along with tuition fees and personal expenses, can quickly add up. However, with some planning and smart strategies, international students can pursue their academic goals in the USA without undue financial stress. Here are some tips to manage expenses:

I. Budgeting – Your Financial Guide

  • Monthly Breakdown: : Initiate the process by itemizing all your monthly expenditures, including rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, and personal spending. Allocate a specific budget for each category and adhere to it diligently.
  • Expense Tracking: Utilize mobile apps or traditional journals to record daily expenses. This practice not only offers visibility into your spending patterns but also highlights areas where cost-cutting is feasible.
  • Savings Allocation: Even setting aside a small portion of your income each month can prove invaluable for unexpected expenses or emergencies.

II. Part-time Jobs – Earning While Learning

  • University Positions: : Explore on-campus job opportunities within your university, such as positions in libraries, cafeterias, or administrative offices. These roles often align conveniently with academic schedules and reduce commuting time.
  • Skills-based Gigs: Leverage your specific skills, such as tutoring, graphic design, or content writing, to earn a decent hourly wage.
  • Networking: Engage with fellow students and university job boards to stay informed about available job openings on and around campus.

III. Student Discounts – Maximizing Savings

  • Retail and Dining: : Many retail stores and restaurants extend discounts to students. Don't hesitate to inquire about available deals!
  • Transportation: Public transportation systems frequently offer reduced fares for students, significantly cutting commuting costs.
  • Cultural Activities: Museums, cinemas, theatres, and other cultural venues often provide student discounts, allowing for affordable entertainment and cultural immersion.

IV. Shared Accommodations – Divide and Conquer Expenses

  • Shared Rent: Opt for shared living arrangements, which involve splitting rent with one or more roommates. This approach substantially reduces individual housing expenses.
  • Shared Utilities: Sharing a living space means dividing utility costs, including electricity and internet bills, resulting in noteworthy savings.
  • Group Purchases: Consider bulk purchases for groceries and household items, which often come with discounted rates. Collaborate with roommates to take advantage of these opportunities.

V. Additional Tips:

  • Cook at Home: While dining out may be tempting, preparing meals at home is not only healthier but also a more economical choice.
  • Second-hand Stores: For items like textbooks or furniture, explore second-hand markets or consider exchanging with seniors who may no longer need these items.
  • Limit Luxuries: While occasional splurges are acceptable, frequent indulgence in luxuries can quickly deplete your finances. Prioritize needs over wants to maintain financial stability.


The United States, renowned for its world-class universities and diverse quality of life, stands as a highly appealing destination for international students. While the expenses associated with education and living can appear formidable at first, strategic financial planning, access to scholarships, and the availability of part-time work opportunities collectively make pursuing education in the USA a feasible and rewarding endeavour.