Low Tuition in the United States: Cost of Living, Tuition and Accomodation

What is the cost of studying on low tuition in the United States? If you are keen on studying in the United States, one important thing to consider is the cost of studying there. This article will review the cost of every aspect of university life to make sure you have all your questions thoroughly answered.  

Please note that the amounts and exchange rates shown below are correct only at the time of publication and may vary over time. 

Tuition fees

It is a well known fact that the US is one of the world’s most popular study abroad destinations for tertiary education – and at the same time one of the most expensive places to study abroad. Understandably, the initial cost may send shivers down your spine,but it is important to explore all avenues of securing funding and financial aid before ruling out the possibility of studying there.

Tuition fees typically range from $5,000 to $50,000 (£3,820-£38,200) per annum. The average cost of tuition fees in the US was put at $33,215 (£25,376) as at 2016. Most undergraduate programs last four years, so averagely, local students graduate with $132,860 (£101,505) worth of debt.

Some countries typically differentiate tuition for domestic, EU and international students, but American universities differentiate between in-state and out-of-state students. A standard four-year public college charged in-state students $9,650 per year (£7,372) in 2016-17, while out-of-state students were charged $24,930 (£19,046). There are equally private non-profit colleges too, which charged about $33,480 (£25,578) on average in the same year.

To provide context, the University of Michigan (currently one of the higher-ranking public universities) charged out-of-state students $45,410 (£34,693) per year, and $10,872 (£8,306) for accommodation and board, $1,048 (£800) for books and other academic supplies and $2,454 (£1,874) for other personal expenses. This totals up to a budget of $59,784 (£45,674) per year.

Accommodation costs

Generally, university towns in the Midwest region of the US have lower living expenses, whereas the East and North East are much more expensive. The average apartment starts at $500 (£382) per month (a one-bedroom apartment in a rural area) and goes up to $3,500 or £2,674 (a one-bedroom apartment in Boston).

Typically, on-campus accommodation is in dormitories, and has two or three people per room. Roommates share bathrooms, toilets and showers.

As at 2017, on-campus dormitory accommodation in the US averaged $10,440 (£7,976) per year at public four-year colleges or $11,890 (£9,083) per year at private four-year institutions, plus all utilities and housing-related costs. There are specific calculators for totting up accommodation and tuition fee estimations on each university website.

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Other essential student costs

Internet provision costs $45-50 (£34-38) per month, and household and monthly phone bills are around $50 (£38). Petrol costs around $3.50 (£2.67) per gallon (4.5 litres). A monthly public transport pass costs about $50-60 (£38-45) and some areas offer discounted prices for students. The average cost of books and academic supplies per academic year is $1,170 (£893), or $390 (£297) per semester.

Another compulsory cost to consider is the student visa to study in the US, which costs $160 (£122). The application can be a long process and is best started about three-five months before the semester begins.

What financial support is available

The cost of studying in the US can seem extortionate but it’s important to look at the difference between the “sticker” price (what is advertised on university websites) and what students actually pay, once all sources of funding have been considered. Bear in mind that in 2013-14, 85 percent of full-time undergraduate students at four-year public universities and 89 per cent at private non-profit universities benefited from some type of financial aid. More often than not, the most prestigious universities in the US, with the highest “sticker” prices, give students the widest range of funding opportunities. For example, some 91 per cent of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyreceive financial aid.

Financial aid comes in many formats: scholarships, grants, assistantships and work-study schemes. Some of these might be possible only for US citizens but there are many financial aid opportunities for international students too. For example, the University of Pennsylvania sets aside $6 million each year to fund graduates from outside the US and in neighbouring Canada and Mexico. Many universities guarantee on-campus paid work for students while they study.

Funding information is available on each university’s website and financial aid should be applied for at the same time as a university place.

Several high-ranking universities in the US operate a “needs-blind” admission policy, meaning the financial background of potential students is disregarded during the admission process and the university promises to financially support students so every successful applicant can attend. In 2017, these establishments were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University and Amherst College.

There are also a few well-known government-funded US scholarship programmes for international students, for example, the Fulbright Foreign Student Program and the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program. There is a full list of scholarships for international students here

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