How much does it cost to study in the USA?

Last updated: Jan 20, 20238 min read
How much does it cost to study in the USA?

The United States of America is a land of opportunity. It is a country that offers many opportunities to achieve academic success, from prestigious Ivy League schools to state universities and community colleges. 

There is no doubt that the American education system is one of the best in the world, topping the educational rankings, followed by the United Kingdom and Germany.

If you are considering studying in the US, there are several factors that may affect how much you pay in tuition and living expenses. There may be some things that are cheaper than in the UK or elsewhere, and there may be some things that are more expensive.

In this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with an in-depth breakdown of all the costs that you are likely to encounter if you decide to study in the United States.

Tuition Fees

Depending on the type of institution and course you choose for your higher education, tuition fees may differ in the United States. Generally speaking, tuition fees at private universities will be higher than at public universities, and in some cases, tuition fees may be higher for international students.

On average, undergraduate degrees for international students will cost between $25,000 and $35,000 at a public university compared to between $30,000 and $45,000 at a private university. There are community colleges that offer programs starting at $18,000.

As these are only average figures, your actual fees could be lower or higher. As an example, an undergraduate degree at Arizona State University costs $31,449, while an undergraduate degree at Cleveland State University costs much less at $17,090. 

For the top US universities, such as MIT, Harvard, and Stanford, expect tuition fees to reach an average of $55,000 a year.

While tuition fees in the US in general are on the higher side of the spectrum, there has been a reported increase in applications from international students. In 2022, 65% of all US colleges  reported a surge in these applications, an all-time high, compared to 43% and 22% in the previous consecutive years.

How are international students typically able to cover their tuition costs? While loans and savings are the most common ways to finance a university education, applying for scholarships is the best option.

The good news is that some universities, charities, and even the government offer scholarships to select applicants. Consider this option if you intend to pursue higher quality education at any of the more prestigious institutions in the United States.

Related Topic: Top 5 low tuition fee universities in the USA

Study Materials and Supplies

In most cases, the cost of college supplies for a typical student in the United States depends largely on the course they intend to study, in addition to where the student plans to attend school. In a four-year institution for undergraduate students, books and academic supplies average $1,170 per year or $390 per semester.

Usually, those funds are used to cover the cost of textbooks, lab books, notebooks, and other necessary course supplies. Computers, laptops, or tablets, which are necessities for most college students these days, are not included in the figure. For a quality laptop, you can expect to pay up to $1,000 if you don't already have one.

If you want to save money, then you might want to consider buying used textbooks or renting them when available. You can also take advantage of your campus' facilities as most US colleges and universities have 24/7 computing resource hubs available to you. 


Most colleges offer their international students on-campus residence, and the residence is often called a “dormitory”. Usually, several students share a room with communal bathrooms and shower rooms.

Colleges provide daily essentials like water, electricity, and internet. How much you will end up paying for on-campus accommodation will depend on your college.

On average, a full academic year of room and board, including food and accommodation, can cost $10,440 at public schools and $11,890 at private schools. It is important to keep in mind, however, that costs will vary depending on where you study.

Depending on which region of the US you live in, the cost of other forms of accommodation will also vary. An apartment in a rural area can cost as little as $500 per month, but in a larger city with a higher cost of living, it might be several thousands.


The majority of US universities require their students to have health insurance, and this includes international students. The insurance is designed specifically to meet the health insurance needs of international students who study abroad.

In some cases, the universities themselves have health insurance plans, such as the University of California, Berkeley, which automatically enrolls students in the Student Health Insurance Plan, which already provides medical, prescription, counseling, vision, and dental coverage for $1,768 per semester.

Because there is no universal healthcare in the US, it is your responsibility to ensure you can pay for any medical expenses. The good news is that this can also be accomplished by taking out an insurance policy that is often also required when applying for a student visa.

That being said, students under 25 can expect to pay as little as $30 and up to $140 per month for their insurance, and older students might pay more, especially those over 40, who might pay $300 per month. Also keep in mind that you may be required to pay a deductible before your insurance pays for any damage.

Travel to and Around the US

The cost of travel is a major consideration when determining expenses for studying abroad, and in the United States, travel within and between cities is relatively accessible and affordable. 

Fortunately, you can walk around college campuses easily, use your bicycle, or take public transportation such as buses, trains, subways, or taxis within the city. A college student in the US typically spends between $1,050 and $1,800 on transportation each year.

In addition to that, you should also take into account the cost of traveling back and forth between the US and your home country, especially during academic breaks. It goes without saying that where you're coming from and where you're going will affect the cost of your trip to and from the US. Comparing flight prices ahead of time is the best way to get an idea of how much international flights would cost.

Food and Drink

Due to its openness to diversity, the United States offers a huge variety of world cuisines. Different types of food and drinks will be available at a variety of prices according to your taste.

Generally speaking, American food costs are lower than those in some other countries, although it depends on where you live. There is usually also the option of purchasing a student meal plan, which makes managing your meals and costs easier.

Many students living in dorms on campus will be required to choose a meal plan, which allows them to purchase meals from campus cafeterias. Meal plans normally cost just over $1,000 per year, though at some colleges, they might cost several thousands.

When the cost of eating out is taken into account, US college students spend on average $341 a month eating off-campus, while meals cooked at home can cost $206 a month. 


It is definitely important to consider how much it will cost to socialize with friends while studying in the US. Even if you're mostly there to study, you still want to have some fun during your free time.

Your interests and how you want to spend your time on extracurricular activities and socializing will ultimately determine the cost. A gym membership, for example, may be included in your budget with a monthly fee of $37.71 or you may want to set a budget for fast food and restaurant meals.

Depending on how often you go shopping, to the movies, or to dance clubs, you may spend upwards of $100 in a weekend.

Visa Costs

Choosing the right visa to study in the United States can be overwhelming as there are a variety of visas available, each with its own specific requirements.

You will need a J-1 visa if you wish to participate in a study/work exchange program. F-1 visas, on the other hand, are for students whose courses require more than 18 hours of study per week, which includes all full-time undergraduates and postgraduates. Lastly, M-1 visas are for students doing non-academic vocational courses.

In most cases, a nonimmigrant visa application fee of $160 is required. A tourist visa, a business visa, a student visa, or an exchange visa fall into this category. The cost of most petition-based visas, such as work visas and religious visas, is $190.00.

There will also be a fee for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), as well as visa processing fees, which are $350 for F-1 and M-1 visas, or $220 for J-1 visas. Keep in mind the costs of required language aptitude tests if you speak English as a second language.

Various Living Expenses

If you plan to study abroad, you will have to pay for various additional living expenses, such as bedding, clothes, and other items that you might want for your dormitory. Most of these costs will hit you in your first year of study.

You should also keep in mind that your college may charge miscellaneous fees, such as activity fees, administrative fees, and technology fees.

Often overlooked, you should also keep an eye on your phone bill, since most telecom providers charge different international rates. Make sure you understand how you can use your plan overseas by checking your personal subscription.

By considering the different expenses that might apply to you, you can get a better idea of how much studying in the USA might cost.

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