Cost of study

How much does it cost to study in the USA?

By Edvoy• Last updated: Apr 24, 2024
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The United States of America is a land of opportunity. The country 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, Canada, and Germany.

If you are considering studying in the US, several factors may affect how much you pay in tuition and living expenses. 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.

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Cost of studying in the USA: Top factors to consider

Several factors contribute to a budget plan international students create for studying abroad. From education to recreation, every expense plays a vital role in your academic journey abroad. Here are the top factors every international should consider while studying in the US.

  • Tuition fees
  • Study materials and supplies
  • Accommodation
  • Insurance
  • Travel to and around the US
  • Food and drink
  • Recreational expenses
  • Visa cost
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Cost of studying in the USA: A detailed walkthrough

Tuition fees

The tuition fees may differ in the US depending on the type of institution and course you choose to pursue. Generally speaking, tuition fees at private universities will be higher than at public universities, and the 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.

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. To support the claim, the US witnessed the fastest growth in international student numbers in 40 years for the academic year 2023-2023.

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.

Cost of studying at top universities in the US

As these are only average figures, your actual fees could be lower or higher. Here is the starting cost to study in the USA for some top educational institutions for international students.

The average annual USA university fee

  • Stanford University - $61,731
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - $29,875
  • Harvard University - $28,710
  • Princeton University - $31,200
  • California Institute of Technology - $30,400
  • University of California, Berkeley - $24,500
  • Yale University - $37,300
  • Johns Hopkins University - $26,300
  • Arizona State University - $32,760
  • Cleveland State University - $17,090

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

Study materials and supplies

In most cases, the college supplies for a typical student in the United States depend largely on the course they intend to study, and where they plan 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.

Related topic: Study masters in USA

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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 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 thousand.

Also read: USA student accommodation


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 enrol students in the Student Health Insurance Plan. The plan would already provide medical, prescription, counselling, 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. Note that it is sometimes a mandatory requirement 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 international student health insurance

Older students, especially those over 40, might pay over $300 per month. Also, keep in mind that you may be required to pay a deductible before your insurance pays for any damage.

Also read: Students Life in the USA

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.

Pre-arrival & Post-arrival Cost

In addition to that, you should also take into account the cost of travelling 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 US 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 other countries. Then again, 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 universities, they might cost several thousand.

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.

Also read: US vs UK cost of universities

Recreation and other expenses

It is important to consider how much it will cost to socialise 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 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 at a weekend.

Read more: Is it safe to study in the USA?

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 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.

You can also check our ultimate guide to US student visas for more info.

In most cases, a nonimmigrant visa application fee of $185 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, is $345.00.

There will also be a fee for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), as well as visa processing fees, which are $510 for F-1 visas and $220 for J-1 visas.

Keep in mind the costs of required language aptitude tests if you speak English as a second language.

Other costs to study in the USA

If you plan to study abroad, you will have to pay for various additional living expenses, such as bedding, clothes, and other items 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. Understand how you can use your plan overseas by checking your 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.

Also read: Study Masters in USA

Frequently asked questions

How much does an undergraduate degree cost 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.

How much does the accommodation for an international student cost?

The average expenses for a complete academic year, covering room, board, food, and accommodation, amount to $10,440 for public schools and $11,890 for private schools. It's crucial to consider that these costs may differ based on your choice of study location.

What is the cost of USA visas for international students?

Typically, a nonimmigrant visa’s application fee is about $185. The cost of most petition-based visas, such as work visas, is $345.00.

There will also be a fee for the SEVIS, as well as visa processing fees, which are $510 for F-1 visas and $220 for J-1 visas.

Looking for budget-friendly universities?
Get expert counselling and scholarship guidance for free with Edvoy

How many students from India study in the USA?

As of 2022, there are a massive number of 211,930 Indian students studying in the USA.

Is studying in the USA affordable for Indian students?

The US is considered one of the best study destinations for Indian students. While many find studying in the country an expensive choice, there are plenty of affordable options students can find while staying in the US. From education to accommodation, there are cheap options available for Indian students to study under budget.

Is it difficult to get a US study visa?

Although many think it is difficult to obtain a US study visa, in reality, it is more of an extensive process. Students should ensure they follow the protocols and satisfy the requirements properly. This would avoid any delays or rejections while applying for a US student visa.

Which is the cheapest university in the USA?

Here are some US universities with low tuition fees.

  • Delta State University
  • Dakota State University
  • Nicholls State University
  • Brigham Young University
  • California State University
  • Arkansas State University
  • Henderson State University
  • Bridgewater State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Eastern New Mexico University
  • The University of Nevada at Reno
  • Southeast Missouri State University
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead
  • Mississippi University for Women (MUW)

Can I work in the USA while studying?

Yes, international students can work part-time in the US while pursuing higher education. The government has allowed students to work 20 hours per week during academic sessions, and 40 hours per week during vacations. Also, remember that the working permits vary with the type of visa you hold.

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