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Cost of Studying in the USA: From Tuition to Living Expenses

10 May, 2023
Cost of Studying in the USA: From Tuition to Living Expenses

With its excellent universities, vibrant cities and and high standards of living, the US continues to be one of the most popular destinations for higher education internationally.

The opportunities afforded to those students who complete their degree in the US, particularly at one of the top universities, are second-to-none. However, the trade off can come in the form of the high tuition fees that many institutes in the country charge.

Whilst it does vary by institution, US universities are generally known for their higher than average tuition fees, making the USA one of the most expensive countries to study in the world, along with Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

While initially the cost of study may seem overwhelming, making informed decisions about prospective universities, making sensible choices when it comes to budgeting, and making the most of financial aid and scholarships can significantly diminish the financial outlay.

Table of Contents

Tuition Fees 101

Living Expenses

All You Need to Know About Financing Your Education

Affordable University Programs with Kings Education

Frequently Asked Questions FAQ

Tuition Fees 101

Tuition fees at US colleges and universities range from around $5,000 to $50,000 per year. Most undergraduate degrees last four years.

When it comes to tuition fees, American universities differentiate between in-state and out-of-state students. The average cost of tuition for in-state students at a typical four-year public college is around $10,000 per year, while out-of-state students can expect to pay around $28,000. There are also private, non-profit universities, such as Stanford University and Ivy League Harvard University, which generally charge over $35,000 per year.

Below is an overview of the average published (sticker) tuition and fees charged by universities over the last three years, according to College Board.

Education-associated expenses

Alongside the main tuition costs, other education-associated expenses (outside of general living costs) include books and supplies, and transportation costs to and from classes. Of course, international students will also have the additional costs related to getting a US student visa.

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

Study materials

Books and supplies cost anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500, depending on the type of degree program. Often, there are a good number of textbooks required. While some can be loaned from libraries, or accessed digitally, some will need to be purchased - buying used copies is, of course, a cheaper option than buying brand new.

Study equipment

Before the first day of class, students need to make sure they have essential study-related equipment such as a laptop. On top of this, they'll need to buy stationery, such as notebooks, pens and printer paper.

Transport costs

The cost of transport to and from classes depends on the type and size of university a student is at, and of course if they are living on campus.

If they are based on a small or medium sized campus where most classes and facilities are walkable or cyclable, they are likely to have minimum costs. If however, they are living off campus they may need to factor in costs for buses or trains.

Student visa

Anyone who want to study in the US and is not a US citizen will need to obtain a student visa.

The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows students to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program.

As part of the visa application process, students will be required to pay visa fees such as the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee, and an application fee.

Public vs. private institutions: Comparison of costs

Types of institutions

Public and private universities, two-year colleges, and four-year colleges all have varying tuition fee structures.For example, while private universities rely on donations, foundations, and other private sources for funding, public universities receive funding from the government.

Tuition fees at private US universities tend to be higher than public universities, as tuition makes up a large part of their funding.

Public universities are generally required to accepted a certain percentage of local students, and students who live in that same state usually qualify for lower tuition fees compared to students from another state (or international students).

Duration of study

The duration of a university’s undergraduate programs also affects the tuition fee they charge.

Colleges and universities offering mainly four-year bachelor’sdegree programs (‘four-year colleges’), generally cost more than two-year colleges. The cost of a bachelor’sdegree program varies by school, not just according to whether it is private or public, but also to factors such as facilities, resources, and unique offerings such as placement programs.

Some public and private colleges offer a two-year associate’s degree — these are known as two-year colleges, community colleges, or technical colleges. Because of their shorter length, associate’s degrees can be more affordable options; they enable students to either begin their career sooner or transfer to continue their studies for a bachelor’s degree (having paid a lower cost for their first two years).

Living Expenses

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Alongside the cost of university tuition, students also have to consider general living expenses when planning financially for their studies. These cover essentials such as housing and food and then further miscellaneous expenses for leisure and recreation.

Tips for minimizing student living expenses

While the cost of living varies according to location (big, cosmopolitan cities such as New York and Boston) often being more expensive than small college towns), irrespective of which university students attend there are ways to keep living costs as affordable as possible.

✅ Tip 1: Choose a shared living space

In terms of accommodation costs, one of the best ways to save money in college (for anyone living off campus) is to live in a shared apartment or house. By splitting rent between a group, a significant amount can be saved each month. Money will also be saved by splitting utility bills and the cost of any shared furniture.

✅ Tip 2: Consider the best means of transportation

Whether it's for going to and from campus, to work, or just getting around the local area to run errands and enjoy free time activities, transportation is an important consideration for anyone on a budget.

The outlay for transportation will of course vary according to the type of location the university or college has. Students living off campus in a big city, for example, will need to set aside more money, even if transport options are subsidized (many colleges offer student discounts on public transportation).

If money is going to be tight, it’s doubly as important for students to carefully consider their choice of university before making a college applications. Choosing a university where there is plentiful on-campus housing, or which is located in a small town where most things are accessible on foot, would be a good option.

No matter what the location or size of institute though, clearly the best option for getting around in terms of finances (and also well-being) is walking or cycling so it's advisable for students to do that wherever possible.

✅ Tip 3: Look for free activities

Being careful with expenses doesn’t have to mean there's no fun! One great way to do so is by attending campus events, which are usually free and sometimes also offer free food.

Off campus, some careful research will also show low-cost local events and activities taking place.

For those students located in an area that is rich in natural landmarks and attractions, whether that’s forests, beaches, lakes or mountains, there are of course many outdoor pursuits that are totally free and great for keeping fit and healthy!

✅ Tip 4: Take advantage of your student discount

In the US, as in many countries, a student ID can mean great discounts in a wide variety of restaurants, transportation, shops, and cultural attractions, and can also get large reductions on products from tech companies like Apple, Adobe, and Microsoft.

✅ Tip 5: Use a budgeting tool to help you stay on track

Many banks and credit unions offer education tools to help customers learn to manage their finances, which can be very useful if you are a student living independently for the first time - especially in a new country with different costs of living.

All You Need to Know About Financing Your Education

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While initially the cost of studying in the US may seem high, there are a host of options for financial aid and scholarships which can greatly reduce the total cost for students. Of course, working part-time alongside studies can also offset the cost of tuition.

The difference between the “sticker” price (what is advertised on university websites) and what a student will actually pay, once all sources of funding have been considered, can be quite substantial.

Financial aid options

At 4-year degree-granting postsecondary institutions overall, the percentage of first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students awarded financial aid increased from 85 to 87 percent between academic years 2009–10 and 2019–20. (National Center for Education Statistics)

More often than not, the most prestigious universities in the US, with the highest “sticker” prices, give students the widest range of funding opportunities. vy League Princeton University, for example, advertised a sticker price of $56,010 for tuition and fees in 2021-2022, but the average cost to students after receiving need-based grants that year was around $16,562 (US News and World Report).

Financial aid comes in many formats; scholarships, assistantships grants, and work-study schemes. Some of these may only be available for US citizens but there are many financial aid opportunities for international students too.


Almost all universities have scholarship programmes, most of which are open to applications from international students – although applicants may need to take SAT or ACT tests.

According to the Fulbright Commission, more than 600 American universities offer scholarships worth $20,000 or more to international students. They are typically assessed on either academic merit, financial need, or extracurricular contribution.

In addition to these, there are a range of scholarships available from private organisations and donors, with a broad range of criteria for eligibility.

Sometimes universities will also set up scholarships for subjects that are in high demand such as nursing or healthcare.

Government-funded scholarships for international students also exist, a couple of the most well-known being the Fulbright Foreign Student Program and the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program.

Part-time work opportunities

International students in the US are allowed to work 20 hours per week during academic sessions and full-time during vacations. Not only is it a good way to earn some money for expenses, but it also enables people to get valuable work experience while studying abroad.

In the USA, on campus part-time jobs for students are the most convenient and easy-to-find employment options. On campus job options include teaching and research, counter sales, library and laboratory assistance. Commonly held roles are:

  • Teaching Assistant
  • Book Store Assistant
  • Library Assistant
  • Research and Study Assistant
  • Sales Assistant
  • Tutor or Peer Mentor
  • Campus Ambassador
  • Food Runner or Catering Assistant
  • Barista

Off campus jobs are an option, but may be harder to fit in around classes. Students are most likely find a suitable off campus job near the university campus, where minimal travel is required.

Affordable University programs with Kings

With Kings Guaranteed Outcome programs, international students are able to complete a full US undergraduate degree in 4 years, without the need for an international foundation ‘Year O’, saving both time and money.

Beginning their degree at one of Kings esteemed partner universities, students can ‘hit the ground running’ from Day One. They’ll study alongside American students from the outset, but with plenty of additional support from our on campus advisors to ensure their experience is positive and successful.

With the help and guidance of our on campus team, they will be able to develop their skills and profile in such a way that ensures they can then transfer after 2 years to one of the best universities in the US (a Top 50 or Top 100 university), from where they will graduate.

Partner universities

Kings partner universities (currently located in California, New York, Boston, Wisconsin and Oregon) have been carefully selected for their friendly campus communities, excellent locations and the overall experience they offer. Whilst some are small, private institutions others are larger and part of state university systems.

Fees vary by institute, but range from around $25,000 to $42,000 per academic year. While these tuition fees are widely comparable to many US universities, Guaranteed Outcome students enjoy a host of additional benefits as part of the fee.

Extensive support

The extensive on-campus support ensures students are happy, secure, and perfectly placed to develop into a student that will be extremely attractive to a competitive Top 50 or Top 100 university.

Examples of the various types of support offered include:

Campus Life Support

  • Guided tours of campus
  • Support in setting up bank accounts, a local mobile number
  • Support to help navigate university life, for example, any housing questions or concerns
  • Help in creating and implementing fun social events and excursions
  • Help to navigate healthcare needs, for example setting up with a doctor or dentist

Academic and Career Support

  • Setting up a personalized study plan to earn as many credits as possible and ultimately transfer to a dream Top 100 university
  • Help to register for classes
  • Support in selecting a major
  • Provision of various online and offline resources to help prepare for standardized tests such as the TOEFL, IELTS, SAT and ACT
  • Help to draft and perfect resumes and cover letters
  • Help to find volunteer opportunities or activities relevant to the field of studies

Top 100 Transfer Support

  • Assessment of previous academic history and help collecting necessary documents.
  • Help to access university rankings, and in general help research target universities
  • Arrange and guide campus tours
  • Help to gather recommendations
  • Regular workshops and seminars such as the overview of U.S. Education System, the Common Application, standardized testing, transfer application and essays etc
  • Help to accept transfer offers and complete transfer paperwork
  • Guidance through the university application process, and help with personal statement development and essay writing
  • Support in researching potential scholarship opportunities

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What kind of living expenses will I have in the USA as a student?

According to estimates, the cost of living in the US for international students is between $10,000 and $18,000 per year or around $1,000 and $1,500 per month. This includes housing, meals, transportation, textbooks, clothing and entertainment.

2. How much does it cost to study in the USA?

Tuition fees range from around $5,000 to $50,000 per year. Most undergraduate degrees at USA universities last four years.

According to the Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2022 report, in 2022-23, average estimated budgets (tuition and fees, room and board, and allowances for books and supplies, transportation and other personal expenses) for full-time undergraduate students range from $19,230 for public two-year in-district students and $27,940 for public four-year in-state students to $45,240 for public four-year out-of-state students and $57,570 for private nonprofit four-year students.

3. Is studying in the US expensive?

Tuition fees for university study in the US vary according to factors such as the type of institution, the location of the university, and the type and duration of program. Generally speaking, study costs in the US are considered among the most expensive internationally, but scholarships and financial aid is widely available and can reduce the overall amount significantly.

It's also worth considering the positive overall return on investment, given the international renown of US higher education and favorable employment opportunities globally as a graduate of a US university.

Get One Step Closer to Studying in the USA

We hope that this article has helped clarify the cost associated with attending university in the US, and how Kings Guaranteed Outcome programs can offer a cost -effective way of graduating from the top ranked universities in America.

If you would like to receive more detailed information about our programs and locations, please get in touch with us at

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