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Study in United States of America - USA

Education Cost:

Studying abroad can be an expensive affair for students studying in the US. However, an efficient budget plan can help you manage your living expenses more effectively. Before you depart from India, ensure that you consider expenses like accommodation, food, health coverage and travel along with your tuition fee when calculating the estimated cost of studying in the US.

1. Tuition fee is your prime expenditure

Universities in the US are majorly divided into two categories - Public/State and Private. The education cost at a public/state university is comparatively lesser than that of a private institution. Your expenditure on tuition fee depends on the type of qualification and university or school you opt for. To cover tuition fees, you will need approx. $10,000 to $55,000 (USD) a year (indicative).

Most commonly, humanities, education and arts courses are cheaper, while subjects such as medicine and engineering are likely to be more expensive. If you wish to study at postgraduate level, the tuition fees are typically higher and the costs vary depending on the program. As with most other countries, MBA programs are often the most expensive. The average cost for these programs is around $60,000 (indicative).

SchoolIndicative tuition fees (USD)
English language studies$700 to $2,000 a month
Community colleges$6,000 to $20,000 per year
Undergraduate bachelor degree$20,000 to $40,000 per year
Graduate programs$20,000 to $30,000 per year (An MBA degree can cost significantly more, as can professional programs such as law, medicine, dentistry, some design programs, etc.)
Doctoral degree$28,000 to $55,000 per year (Most doctoral degrees are 100% funded through research/teaching assistantships, research aid and bursaries.)

*Please note that all figures are indicative

2. Where will you live? Calculate accommodation costs

Most universities in the US offer on-campus residence to international students. Living as a resident on-campus is a very affordable option, however you need to apply for it separately, and well ahead in time to secure a slot for yourself.

You can also opt for an off-campus accommodation wherein you can share apartments with other students from India or live in a homestay with a local family. In such cases, you should be open to adjusting to a different lifestyle than India. Remember, the rentals vary from city to city.

Accommodation costs can typically range between $3,000 and $8,000 per year (indicative) depending on the area you choose to stay. If you opt to rent an apartment, you will have to additionally pay for utility bills like electricity, internet, water usage and also tenant’s insurance (in some areas of housing). In most cases, universities help the students in finding accommodation, both on-campus as well as off-campus.

3. Cost of your student visa

In order to study in the US, the first step is to secure a valid student visa and that comes with its own costs (approx. US$ 160).

4. Living expenses

You need to keep a little money aside for your grocery shopping, social activities and emergency situations. When living in a foreign country as a student, it is better to keep a track of your expenditures so that you do not over spend. Considering various expenses and living costs, a single student budget in the US comes between US$ 10,000 and US$ 25,000 per academic year (indicative) depending on the city they choose to live. You should also consider these common expenses when creating your budget:

  • Communication expenses: As a student from India, you’d be frequently calling your friends and family back home. Therefore, always keep a section of your budget for phone bills and data expenses. Look for cost-effective calling plans and student discounts in order to stay connected with your loved ones within your monthly budget.
  • Books and supplies: Keep aside some anything between $500 and $1,500 for purchasing reference books. For instance, books for engineering, law, medicine and pharmacy can be pricey. You can manage this in your budget by opting for second hand books, buying digital versions or even securing a library membership.
  • Personal expenses and incidentals: Your daily expenses will include groceries ($250 annually), laundry, toiletries, clothing, dining out, etc. It’s best to keep aside $500 annually for incidentals such as travel, landline, and electricity. This depends entirely on the kind of lifestyle you choose for yourself.

5. Keep safe. Consider health support and insurance

It is mandatory for all students travelling to the US from India to get a medical insurance before the commencement of their program. Several American universities and colleges have initiated comprehensive health insurance plans for international students, but that is applicable as long your program is ongoing and ceases upon completion.

Certain institutions may not offer any insurance, and hence you will have to arrange for a private medical insurance (your IDP counsellor will guide you with the same). The average cost for medical insurance ranges between US$ 700 and US$ 1,000 per year (indicative).

6. Transportation. Know how much it will cost to move around

Unless your institution provides with a shuttle service to-and-fro from your lodging, you’ll have to rely on the available public transport.

For short distances

You can make use of regional trains, buses, and subways. This can range anywhere between US$45 and $100 per month (approx. figure, subject to fluctuate with changing economy). It is a good idea to get monthly passes for travelling to college and back as these can be fairly cheap.

For long distances

For travelling between different cities, you can avail any of the following options:

  • Long-distance bus
  • Rail
  • Air

7. Don’t ignore your taxes

Indian students in the US are allowed to work 20 hours per week during academic sessions and full-time during vacations. If you choose to work along with your studies, your earned income may be taxable.

Remember, the exchange rate variations may also affect your budgeting. We suggest you also look for a part time job while you are studying in the US or seek scholarship in the universities you apply to. This can help lower your cost of studying abroad to a great extent.

Education System:

Let’s find out how the American education system works

Home to the maximum number of international students, the US provides a diverse range of courses for all study levels. Here’s a rundown on the education system of the US.

Study levels in the US

  • Elementary school
  • Middle school/Junior high school
  • High school
  • Higher education

Here's an overview of the qualifications available in the US:

QualificationDurationDescription
Associate degree2 yearsJob oriented programs that allow a graduate to launch a career, it is also equivalent to first two years of a 4-year bachelor's degree
Bachelor's degree3 - 4 yearsUndergraduate degree that includes core courses, major, minor and elective. The four years are known as Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior.
Master's degree (Professional)1 to 3 yearsLeads students from first degree to particular profession; duration depends on field of study
Master's degree (Academic)2 yearsGenerally awarded in traditional disciplines of humanities, arts, and science; may lead students to doctoral programs
Doctorate or PhD5 to 8 yearsCompleted under the supervision of faculty advisor, PhD is awarded on completion of dissertation and successful defence before a panel of faculty members

Types of institutions

There are various types of institutions in the US that provide quality education. These can be categorised into:

Colleges

Smaller than the universities, colleges generally provide undergraduate degrees. Community colleges, an affordable study option in the US, offer two-year associate degrees after which you can continue your studies in the university for another two years to gain an undergraduate degree.

Universities

Offer research-based masters, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. There are mainly two types of universities in the US:

  • Public universities: Mostly state universities, established and run by the state government
  • Private universities: A mix of profit and not-for-profit supported by tuition fee and donations; approximately 20% of students attend private universities

Universities may further be categorised into:

Type of universityDescription
Ivy LeagueIvy League, which is actually a sports conference of eight private colleges in the Northeast includes some of the oldest American institutions. These are perceived to be some of the most esteemed places to study and therefore extremely competitive for admissions.
Public IviesGroup of over 30 state-funded or public universities in the US. Although this is not an official classification of universities, these universities have earned their reputation and are considered prestigious and academically rigorous. Education costs are slightly lower than the Ivy League universities.
Liberal Arts PhilosophyThis philosophy promotes a well-rounded academic education that develops the overall thought process of students. The courses begin with a wide variety of courses in humanities, languages, arts and the social sciences before specialising in a particular field. The primary focus for faculty is on undergraduate teaching rather than research, with a small student population and high student to faculty ratio.
Specialist institutionsuniversities and institutes that specialise in providing degrees in a certain field such a degrees in music, visual and applied arts, etc.
Land Grant Colleges and UniversitiesLarge, publicly-funded universities
Research Intensive InstitutionsUniversities offering the highest level of research and are a good starting point for students seeking doctoral degree.

Fee structure

Tuition fee solely depends on the type of qualification and university or college you choose. Courses in medicine and engineering are likely to be more expensive. As with most other countries, MBA programs are often the most expensive. The tuition fee spent annually can range anywhere between US$ 10,000 and US$55,000.

Financial aid

You can fund your studies by availing various kinds of financial aids available. These can be classified into:

  • Need-based aid
  • Athletic Scholarships
  • Scholarships / Tuition Waivers
  • Fellowships / Grants
  • Teaching Assistantships
  • Research Assistantships
  • Administrative / Residence Assistantships

These aids may be provided by the government, private organisations or educational institutions. Keep in mind that the competition for such aids is high and thus you must apply for them in advance.

Pedagogy in American classrooms

USA universities place great significance on diversity, meaning classes will consist of students of different ages, religions and ethnicities. This provides a stimulating and interesting learning atmosphere that motivates cross-cultural understanding and socialising.

Most classes will have no more than 20 students and the faculty member will take the time to get to know students and their strengths. Interactive and practical learning are the basis of American teaching. Professors are usually willing to spend time outside of class to offer further support. Campuses in the US also offer an active social life with many clubs and organisations for students to meet other students with similar interests and further career opportunities.

Academic year

Most American universities and colleges commence their classes in August/September usually known as the Fall session. A few others also provide a January/February intake, called as the Spring intake that goes on till April. In fact, a Summer intake is also available for limited programs and colleges between the months of May and August.

The duration of each course depends on the university and specialisation. Most bachelor’s degrees take three to four years, masters take one to two years and doctoral degrees may take four to seven years. The academic year at many colleges comprises of two terms called the semesters. Some may have a three-term calendar where it is referred to as the trimester system.

Partner Institutions

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University of California
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University of Florida
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American University
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California State University
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Cambridge College
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Columbia International University
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East Georgia State College
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Georgia College and State University
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Harvard University
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Indiana State University
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New Jersey City University