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An A-Z Guide On The Cost of Studying In The USA

Explore the expenses and financial planning for international students

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Study Cost in USA

Introduction to Study Cost in the USA

The USA is often regarded as the pinnacle of higher education. The US education system is widely regarded as the best in the world. Some of the best universities in the world are located in the US. They rank among the top hundred in the world consistently. This draws millions of international applications each year.

Because of the high surge in demand, the cost of studying in the USA has spiked a lot in the last decade. But that hasn’t stopped students from moving to the US in pursuit of a globally recognized degree. So, if you are also planning to move to the USA, you need full clarity on the huge expenses that lie ahead. So, let’s begin.

Tuition Fees in the USA

Undergraduate Programs

In the United States of America, undergraduate courses span a four-year tenure on average. Some of the most in-demand undergraduate courses in the US right now are –

  • Bachelor of Science [BS]
  • Bachelor of Business Administration [BBA]
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts [BFA]
  • Bachelor of Arts [BA]

The average total cost for any standard undergraduate course can cost you about 30,000 USD. However, this cost can go up or down depending on the university or the course you choose.

Graduate Programs

There are a number of universities that consistently rank among the world's best for graduate programs. Universities like Princeton, Stanford, and Harvard are the crème de la crème of the academic world. However, meeting the eligibility criteria of any one of them is a humongous challenge. Not only do you need an astounding academic result, but you will also need to be financially sound.

To give a perspective, an average graduate program in the US can cost between 20,000 USD to 35,000 USD. This cost varies according to the university and the course you want to enroll in. The most in-demand graduate degree programs in the US are –

  • MS in Data Science
  • MS in Software Engineering
  • MS in Computer Science

Because of Silicon Valley, US universities have a larger focus on STEM courses. Usually, the course duration of these 2 years. However, you can add an additional 2 years to your visa if you want to enroll for personal training after the course completion.

Professional Programs

The American institutes also give students an option to pursue professional programs after school. Some of the leading professional courses in the USA right now are –

  • Accounting/Banking
  • Medicine
  • Cosmetology
  • Aviation
  • Business Management
  • Carpentry
  • Engineering
  • Data Sciences
  • Environment Management

The average cost for professional courses is significantly higher than any undergraduate courses. Sometimes, it may even surpass the course fees of certain post-graduate courses. On average, the tuition fees may range from 28,000 USD to 55,000 USD.

Living Expenses in the USA

Accommodation Costs

Your total budget will get significantly impacted by your choice of stay. The cost of living in the USA is one of the highest in the world. Especially if you choose to live near any metropolitan city like New York, San Francisco, or Boston, the rents can go off the roof. On the contrary, the living cost in rural areas like Texas, Seattle, or New Orleans can be much cheaper. But ultimately, your decision to choose your place to stay will depend on the institution you are getting in. For example, if you enroll yourself in a college in Massachusetts, it will be logical to stay within the proximity of the college.

The accommodation cost also can differ according to your preferences. Many of you prefer privacy or a safe neighborhood. So, you may need to spend extra bucks to afford a place like that. But your budget can receive a massive boost if you choose to stay in the campus hostels. Depending on where you want to live, your accommodation expenses can range between 9800 USD to 12000 USD per year.

Food and Dining

This is one expense many of you don’t consider while budgeting your finances. But food and dining is the second highest recurrent expense that you will have to bear. Eating out every day is never a practical option. It not only disrupts your budget but also affects your health. So, you should allocate a fixed budget for food every month.

If you are staying off campus, then you should look at 400-600 USD per month on food. For on-campus students, the cost is a little less, and it will cost them around 250 USD per month. These expenses exclude the time you will go out for dining. An average visit to a standard restaurant or café can cost you approximately 50-100 USD. So, you need to consider those expenses while planning your budget.


According to data, an average American household spends about 10,961 USD on transportation alone in a year. This is the second highest household expenditure after accommodation. So, as a student, you should consider transportation costs while making a budget. Ideally, you should limit your budget to 300-700 USD per year for transportation. Avoid private cabs at all costs. The cost of Uber is very high, and it can disrupt your budget. Instead, I prefer the bus route for traveling. The bus network in the USA is quite extensive. Greyhound buses are an inexpensive way of communicating long distances. But they can be time-consuming too. Most bus systems are now available on apps. So, you can easily track and book a bus seat whenever you want.

However, the cheapest way of communication in the US has to be the subways. Subways are available in all the major American cities. So, subways are always the fastest and most affordable option for intercity travel. Familiarise yourself with the subway system after moving to the new country. It can be your lifesaver during your stay. Many students also pool cars for getting around. Once you befriend some American students, you all can pool cars and go to college together by sharing the fuel costs. They are certainly a fun and inexpensive way of getting around. But be careful about pooling the car with people you don’t know very well.

Alternatively, get yourself a bicycle. Bicycles are a great way to go to college and move around the neighborhood. Not only is it inexpensive, but you will also get a daily dose of exercise while cycling. Almost all college campuses have separate racks for bicycles, and you can pay a small security deposit to park the bike before going to the class.

Healthcare and Insurance

If you are staying in the US on an F1 visa, healthcare can be quite expensive. Most of you take loans to fund your education. So, with the burden of interests strangling them, they cannot spend much on medical treatments. You will also stay there alone in all probability. So, falling sick or facing an accident is not something you can afford. With no one to tend to your medical needs, worrying about the medical bills is the last thing you need. This is why you, like Americans, should invest in health insurance as soon as you move there.

Although health insurance is not mandated to get an F1 visa, you may need one to enroll in college. Many universities set rules on getting adequate health insurance coverage. So, check with the universities beforehand to know how much insurance is mandatory.

There are a number of insurance companies in the US. You should check trusted comparison sites and find the best insurance plan for you. Health insurance plans for international students start from 1500 USD. It can go up to 2500 USD and above annually, depending on your chosen plan.

Pro Tip – International students can get a better insurance deal if they buy the plan before moving to the US. You can even use this information while filling out your visa application.

Personal Expenses

This is an area that we cannot accurately estimate. Personal expenses largely vary because of personal choices. Moreover, the expenses can change depending on the city you are residing in. Yet, to give you a broad idea, the estimated living cost can range between 10,000 USD to 18,000 USD per year. This averages to approximately 1000-1500 USD per month. These expenses include your Netflix subscriptions, internet bills, an occasional movie, and traveling.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Merit-Based Scholarships

You can avail of a merit-based scholarship with a stellar academic result. These are some of the best merit-based scholarships that you can consider –

  1. University of New Haven Scholarship
  2. The University of Memphis Scholarship
  3. The University of Minnesota Fellowship
  4. AAUW International Fellowship Program
  5. ACI Foundation Scholarship
  6. Onsi Sawiris Scholarship

Need-Based Scholarships

Some scholarships are granted to students who have good academic results but are in dire need of financial aid. You need to present proof of income to become eligible for these scholarship programs –

  1. Fulbright Program for Foreign Students Scholarship
  2. MPOWER Global Citizen Scholarship
  3. MPOWER Monthly Scholarship Series
  4. #YouAreWelcomeHere Scholarship
  5. Study a Bachelor’s in the USA Scholarship

Grants and Fellowships

The US government grants non-payable financial grants to many deserving candidates. Some of the most popular grants and fellowships are –

  1. AAMC Financing Your Medical Education Scholarship
  2. AIA/AAF Minority/Disadvantaged Scholarship
  3. AAMC Medical Scientist Training Program
  4. Albright Institute Fellowships
  5. Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  6. Allen Lee Hughes Fellowship

Work-Study Programs

These are part-time jobs that you can apply to while studying abroad. This will help you to earn money to sustain your living expenses. There are quite some options across the US, but some of the most enquired are –

  1. Harvard University Work Study Program
  2. The University of Pennsylvania Work-Study Program
  3. Yale University Work-Study Program
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Work-Study Program
  5. University of California, Berkeley Work-Study Program

Part-Time Work Opportunities for International Students

The American government allows part-time work while studying. If you have an F1 visa, you can easily apply for a part-time job. However, according to Federal laws, you cannot work more than 20 hours when the school is in session. During vacations, there are no restrictions, and you can work as a full-time employee. The minimum wage rate in the USA is currently 7.25 USD per hour. So, you can easily earn enough money for your monthly groceries and other expenses from working somewhere.

These are some of the best-paid part-time work opportunities that you can find in the USA –

On-Campus Job Positions

Average Salary Per Hour [In USD]

Teaching Assistant


Book Store Assistant


Library Assistant


Research and Study Assistant


Department Assistant


Sales Assistant


Peer Mentor


Campus Ambassador


Food Runner/Catering Assistant







Off-Campus Job Positions

Average Salary Per Hour [In USD]

Office Administration


Call Centre Representative










Store Associate


The average minimum wage can, however, differ according to the state you are working in. Usually, the minimum wage rate of big cities like New York (15 USD) or California (14 USD) is significantly higher than smaller, suburban areas like Florida (8.65 USD) or Pennsylvania (7.25).

Cost of Healthcare and Insurance

As we have established, getting a healthcare plan is extremely important for all of you. Here are the steps you must follow to buy a health insurance plan in the US –

  1. Check with the school/college/university and find out if buying one is mandatory.
  2. If it is, check if the premium amounts are included in the tuition bills or if you must pay them additionally.
  3. They may have special group insurance plans with optional waivers. Check if that plan fits you. If it doesn’t, then send them a waiver form.
  4. Alternatively, personal check and compare health insurance plans from online sites.
  5. List all the plans you feel suits your requirement perfectly.
  6. Select the plan most suitable and purchase it.

There are a few things that you should know while buying a plan –

  1. You can buy a plan with a maximum coverage of 50,000 USD.
  2. Schools require a deductible limit as part of their waiver requirements.
  3. The US government encourages students to get mental health coverage.
  4. Female students can avail of maternity coverage too. The student health policies cover at least 80% of the pre-natal, delivery, and post-natal care.

You must always declare any pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes or blood pressure before buying the insurance plan. By being transparent, you can avoid any disputes during claims later on.

Taxes and Other Expenses

According to the US tax code, you are liable to pay a certain tax, even as a student. Many of you work as part-timers while studying. You may receive financial gifts or monetary awards while being a student too. You need to pay a 14% tax on all these earnings. Any tax you pay directly goes to the IRS, along with the state revenue department, where you earn your money.

Additional Expenses for International Students

Visa Fees

If you are an international student, you need to get an F1 visa to study on American soil. The overall cost of an F1 student visa is USD 510. This includes the application of 160 USD. You must apply at least three months before the course start date.


The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System or SEVIS is a Federal system to maintain student information. While applying for the visa, you also need to pay the SEVIS amount, which will cost you another 350 USD.

Examination Fees

Name of the Test

Fees [In USD]



AP Exams








English Language Proficiency Tests

Here is a snapshot of the exam fees you need to count in while budgeting –

Name of the Test

Fee [In USD]









Budgeting and Financial Planning

You need to budget your stay in the US to manage your finances efficiently. Follow these steps to plan your finances properly –

Calculate your income

Assess your sources of income before planning anything. You may earn from several sources like

  1. Scholarships
  2. Grants
  3. Part-time jobs
  4. Financial support from your family

Calculate the exact amount you have to cover your expenses before planning a budget.

Identify your expenses

Make a list of all your expenses in the following categories –

Tuition and fees

Calculate your tuition fees and any other mandatory fees required by your educational institution.


Consider the cost of rent and utilities (electricity, water, internet). Living on-campus or sharing an apartment with roommates can help you reduce costs.


Estimate your monthly grocery expenses and eating-out costs. Try to cook your meals at home to make it more budget-friendly.


Control your transportation fees by availing of public transport. You can also take the subways for short distances and trains for long distances. For shorter travels, you can also buy a bicycle.

Books and supplies

Allocate a portion of your budget to textbooks, stationery, and other study materials.

Health insurance

Understanding the cost of health insurance premiums is also necessary. Determine the health coverage you need in your institution. You can plan and purchase your own plan also if necessary.

Personal expenses

Always set aside some funds for personal expenses like entertainment and leisure activities.

Emergency fund

Similarly, it's important to have a safety net for any kind of unexpected expenses or emergencies.

Create a monthly budget

Once you have a clear understanding of your income and expenses, create a monthly budget plan. Allocate specific amounts to each expense category based on your earlier estimates.

Track your spending

Keep a close eye on your expenses regularly. This ensures you're staying within your budget. Use budgeting apps, or maintain a spreadsheet to record all transactions.

Seek cost-saving opportunities

Look for ways to reduce your expenses and save money, such as –

  1. Cook your meals at home instead of eating out.
  2. Use public transportation or walk whenever possible.
  3. Buy second-hand books or download online resources to save money.
  4. Take advantage of student discounts for various services and entertainment options.
  5. Limit unnecessary expenses and prioritize your needs.

Plan for financial emergencies

Set aside a portion of your budget for an emergency fund. Having a safety net helps you to steer away from unexpected adverse situations and provide peace of mind.

Review and adjust your budget

Regularly review your budget to evaluate your spending patterns. Accordingly, you may make adjustments and stay on track.

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Frequently Asked Questions by Students

The higher education cost in the US is quite high. This cost may vary depending on various factors like the course selected, the university enrolled, etc. But on average, international students can expect a cost between 20,000 to 40,000 USD per year for tuition expenses.

The tuition fees in the various universities and programs differ greatly across the USA. For example, the average tuition cost in a university is 10,388 USD. In private colleges, the fees for the same course will cost you approximately 38,185 USD.

The living cost of international students in the US depends largely on your personal choices. For example, the city you are living in plays a significant role in deciding the average living cost. Counting all factors, the average living cost in the US can range between 10,000 to 18,000 USD per year.

There are several scholarship programs available for international students in the USA. These scholarships can be both need-based and merit-based. Some of the most notable scholarship plans in the US are –

  1. AAUW International Fellowship
  2. Fulbright Scholarship
  3. Stanford University Scholarships
  4. ACI Foundation Scholarship
  5. Yale University Scholarship

Yes, you can work part-time with your F1 visa. However, there are several restrictions for working while studying. You cannot work more than 20 hours a week while the school is in session.

The USA has one of the costliest healthcare systems in the world. In 2021, the average healthcare cost per person was recorded at a staggering 12,900 USD. So, having health insurance is mandatory for all international students. On average, the insurance premiums for international students cost between 1000 and 1200 USD per year.

International students living on an F1 visa need to pay 14% tax every year. The tax amount is calculated on the various earnings like scholarships and gifts they receive. So they are not required to pay any employment tax. But they need to pay both state and federal income taxes.

You don’t need to pay anything extra for a quick identification of your level during the English proficiency test. However, you need to pay if you want access to the Core English Proficiency Level Tests and other additional options.

If you are a prospective student, you should have proper financial evidence that you have sufficient funds to live and study in the USA. The amount should be enough to cover the duration of the stay. You can also present a sponsor for the same. The documents you need to present for financial evidence are family bank statements or any relevant documents of the sponsor.

Follow these five steps to plan your finances while studying in the USA –

  1. Calculate your net income
  2. List down your monthly expenses
  3. Organize the expenses according to priority
  4. Allocate a specific amount for each expense
  5. Make necessary adjustments as required

The average cost of MS in the US is between $28,000 and $85,000 annually, including living expenses and tuition. However, these figures will likely change depending on the university, location, and study area. You are advised to visit the university website to get details of the exact fees of your desired course.

Generally, the cost of studying psychology in the US depends on the choice of university, location, and study level. The tentative cost of a bachelor’s degree in the US ranges between $25,000 and $35,000 annually for an international student, while a Master's degree can cost from $28,000 to $82,000, depending on the program.

Typically, the tuition fees range from $13,000 for in-state candidates and $46,500 for out-of-state students. However, the cost of studying computer science in the USA varies by the university, location, and program. For instance, tuition fees for computer science at MIT are around $53,450 for undergraduate programs and $56,719 for postgraduate programs.

As an international student, you may not be eligible for US Federal Student Aid options like federal loans, but there are options to pay for your higher studies. Most American universities have special financial and scholarship programs allocated for international students. Visit the official site of your preferred university to learn about the available options for grants, scholarships, and private student loans.

Most universities provide on-campus housing facilities in the style of dormitory rooms. However, there's limited availability. The average housing cost in the US varies widely depending on the location, room type, and demand but usually ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.

Multiple transportation options are available for international students, from trains, buses, and rental services. You can sign up for the monthly pass system to use Public transport, which is about $40-50 per month. Plus, some states offer additional student discounts on a valid student ID.

Yes, textbooks and course materials in the US are expensive, and students may have to pay around $500 to $1000. Reports suggest that the average students spend around $662 per year on course materials.

Although there are limited affordable dining options on campus, you will find several places outside the campus that offer food under $15. Food joints like Taco Bell have affordable food options for $6.19 and under.  

Several colleges and universities offer to pay in installments to reduce students' financial burdens. You are advised to consult your admission officer for detailed information about payment plans, installments, or short-term loans.

Yes, the cost of living, transportation, and education vary by US state. For instance, the average monthly rent in Alabama is around $1,055, while the average monthly rent in California is around $2,032.

Opening a bank account in the US can be done without any charge. Generally, banks don't charge anything for account opening. But some banks have a minimum balance where the cost comes in from $0 to hundreds of dollars.

Extracurricular activities and clubs in the US can be expensive and range from $15 to $1500 yearly. Still, the exact expense will vary from student to student based on their extracurricular activities and club participation.

Yes, there are ample free resources for textbooks and course-specific materials, such as:

  • OER Commons
  • Mason OER Metafinder (MOM)
  • LibreTexts
  • LabXchange
  • GALILEO Open Learning Materials
  • OpenStax
  • BC Campus
  • ISBN Search
  • NCBI Bookshelf
  • Mine Open Textbooks
  • Pressbooks Directory
  • OER subject guides
  • MIT OpenCourseWare

If you choose wire transfer, the fees will range between $25 and $30 for outgoing transfers to a bank account within the States and between $45 and $50 for sending money to banks outside the US. Please note some banks may charge fees to the receiver. Nonetheless, consult customer service at your bank to get details of the exact costs.

International students on an F-1 visa can apply for co-op only after obtaining work authorization, known as Circular Practical Training (CPT). CPT will permit you to apply for employment in the US as long as it is relevant to your academic curriculum.

Post-graduation in the US is an expensive investment. From entrance fees to the cost of living, you must consider a few mandatory costs before applying. Here's a chart of the probable costs:

  • TOEFL entrance exam fees - $190
  • GRE entrance exam fee - $213
  • Application fee - $40 to $200
  • Tuition costs - $40,000 to $80,000
  • Living costs - $1,500 to $2,000 per month

The average cost of MS in the States ranges between $21,000 and $55,000. The exact amount will depend on the university, choice of subject, and location.

Requirements to show Proof of Funds in accounts:

  • Bank’s name and address
  • Official bank statement or bank certificate
  • Balance of funds in the checking and saving accounts
  • Balance of total funds
  • Signature of authorized bank personnel

If you want to study in the US but do not have sufficient funds in your account, a sponsor can support you. A sponsor can be a family member based inside or outside the States. If you are sponsored by your family member who is a US citizen, s/he must complete and submit the I-134 Affidavit of Support Form to sponsor the fees you cannot afford.

On the contrary, if you are sponsored with funds by someone outside the States, then the embassy will have to verify if there are any fund transfer restrictions from the specified country. In case of restrictions, you must submit a letter of evidence that you can access these funds during your study.

NOTE: LPRs (Lawful Permanent Residents) can sponsor their spouse or unmarried children. Other relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins CANNOT sponsor you for a visa under any situation, and LPR siblings or children ARE NOT ELIGIBLE to sponsor you either.

Common types of questions asked during a visa interview:

  • What is the reason for your travel?
  • What is the duration of your stay?
  • Where will you be staying?
  • Who is going to cover your travel expenses?
  • Do you have any relatives/friends in the US?
  • Have you been to the US before?
  • Where will you be studying/working?
  • Is anyone accompanying you to the US?
  • What are your plans after the visa expires?
  • What are your plans if your visa gets rejected?
  • Have you booked the tickets yet?
  • Did someone help you with the application form?
  • Why do you want to pursue further education? Why do you want to travel abroad?
  • Why do you want to live in the US, not the UK or Canada?
  • Why should you get the visa?

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