Finance Your Studies

Studying at U.S. institution is an expensive investment, but one we are sure you will find worthwhile. For the 2008-2009 academic year, The College Board reported the following average annual tuition costs by type of institution:

  • Two-year, Public Community Colleges: $2,402
  • Four-year, Public Institutions: $17,452
  • Four-year, Private Institutions: $25,143

These costs represent the cost of studies alone; when lodging, personal expenses, transportation, and other expenses are taken into account, The College Board suggests the following annual student budgets:

  • Four-year, Public Institutions (out-of-state students): $25,200
  • Four-year, Private Institutions (residents): $34,132

(The College Board, Trends in College Pricing, 2008)

Because studying in the United States will likely cost more than it does to study in your own country, it is important to start your financial planning at least 12 months before you intend to study in the United States. Please visit or contact the nearest Prosper Overseas Branch to speak with experienced professionals who can guide you through the process.

Financing your college education consists of:

  • Compiling effective applications
  • Assessing Personal Funds
  • Identifying Sources of Financial Assistance
  • Reducing Educational Costs
  • Assessing Personal Funds

Consult your parents and other family sponsors to find out how much money they can commit each year to your education. Try to raise as much as you can from family sources, because most scholarship awards, if available, cover only part of the total educational and living costs and may not be available to first-year international students.

Identifying Sources of Financial Assistance

"Be realistic about how much you need and what you can really afford."

International studies and sociology student from Ghana.

All types of scholarships and financial aid for international students are highly competitive and require excellent academic records. You will often find the terms "scholarships" and "financial aid" used interchangeably, but technically speaking, a scholarship is a financial award based on merit, including outstanding academic performance, special talent in sports or performing arts, or perhaps community service or leadership. Financial aid is a "need-based" grant based on the student's financial need, as documented by family income, assets, and other factors. Below are the main types of financial assistance available for international students who want to study in the United States:

Home Country Funds: Conduct research at home to find possible funding from local government, corporate, or foundation sources. Although these sources are not found in all countries, you could reduce your educational cost with scholarships from local organizations.

Funding From Colleges/Universities: Meet with an Prosper Overseas Counselors to learn how to research available financial aid for international students. Careful advance research and realistic expectations are more likely to result in success. Do not assume that all colleges award financial aid. In fact, less than half of the institutions offering bachelor's degrees can provide financial assistance to students who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Keep in mind that financial aid for U.S. students is separate from financial aid for international students. Be sure to tell the admissions office your country of citizenship and request information on financial aid available to non-U.S. citizens If offered, financial aid is usually made up of a number of different types of assistance, including grants and scholarships and occasionally loans or part-time work programs.

You will discover that financial aid is very rare at state, or public, colleges and at colleges that offer professional courses such as engineering, business administration, and health professions. More financial aid may be available from the private liberal arts colleges, which offer the arts and science subjects.

As you do your research, make a table listing the colleges you would like to attend. Write down annual costs (as outlined above), then enter the average financial aid award and the number of awards made by each of the colleges. Such information is available from resources in your information or advising center. This chart can quickly allow you to see where your best chances lie, and can help you eliminate from your list the colleges where your admission with the needed funding is not viable.

International students often ask advisers about full scholarships, which cover all the costs of education except for airfare. The total number of full scholarships available each year to incoming international students in the United States is about 1,000, offered by only about 100 colleges. To get a full scholarship, you must be one of the top students in your country, usually with "A"s (excellent) in almost every subject, high SAT and TOEFL scores, and distinguished performance in other areas such as leadership and community service. There are 20 top students from all over the world competing for each scholarship, so you must distinguish yourself among a pool of outstanding students.

Only a handful of wealthy colleges in the United States are able to meet the financial need of all the students they admit. (Please note that admission to these schools is usually very competitive.) Financial need is the difference between what you and your family can afford to contribute and the estimated cost of attending the college. The former is calculated on the basis of detailed information about your parents' financial circumstances, including supporting evidence such as bank statements, employers' letters, and other official documents and statements. Other universities, which make more limited awards on the basis of your financial need, will also ask to see such evidence.

Financial assistance from colleges is awarded at the beginning of the academic year and is rarely available for students entering mid-year in January or at other times. More aid is available for freshman students than for those transferring in from other institutions. Students who have already proven themselves at a college may find it easier to obtain financial assistance from that college than new students.

Sports Scholarships: Some U.S. colleges offer opportunities for gifted student athletes to play for the college team as a means of paying for their education.

International Awards: International students also ask about financial assistance from foundations, organizations, and the U.S. government (see the Find Financial Aid section below). Very little aid exists through such sources, and it is usually earmarked for advanced graduate students. Again, your educational adviser can tell you whether there are special funds available for students from your country.

Loans: In limited instances, you may be able to negotiate a loan to fund part of your educational costs. Your educational adviser may have information on loan programs for which you may be eligible. You must usually have a U.S. citizen co-signer to act as a guarantor for any loans from U.S. loan programs, and in most cases you must already be enrolled in a U.S. university before you apply. Before taking a loan, make certain you know how you are going to repay it, and how a loan will affect your plans for graduate or other further study and for returning home.

Employment: Current immigration regulations permit international students to work only part-time — up to 20 hours per week — and only on campus during their first year of study. By working 10 to 15 hours a week, you could earn enough to pay for incidentals such as books, clothing, and personal expenses, but your campus job cannot pay your major expenses, such as tuition or room and board. This income also cannot be used as a source of income for any official financial statements. Campus jobs may include working at the university's cafeteria, bookstore, library, or health club, or within the university's administrative offices.

After the first year, you can also apply for employment as a resident assistant (RA) in a university dormitory. RAs serve as the first point of contact for students needing assistance or who have queries regarding dorm life. In return, RAs receive free accommodation and sometimes a small salary and/or meal plan.

Under current regulations, after your first year of study, you may apply for permission to work off campus for up to 20 hours a week. You should note, however, that there is no guarantee that this request will be granted. If you are married and are in the United States on an F-1 student visa (see chapter 11), your spouse does not have permission to work. However, if you are in the United States on a J-1 student visa, your spouse is allowed to request a temporary work permit.

You should always check with your international student adviser before considering any form of employment. More information is available in Pre-departure Information.

Reducing Educational Costs

When planning your finances, consider these ways to reduce your costs:

Best Buys: Look for the colleges that offer you the highest quality education at the lowest cost.

Accelerated Programs: Completing a four-year bachelor's degree in three years saves thousands of dollars. Students can accelerate their programs by:

earning transfer credit or advanced standing for college-level studies completed in the home country (for example through A-levels, International Baccalaureate, advanced placement exams, or courses taken at local accredited post secondary institutions in your country, if accepted by the U.S. institution);

taking courses at a nearby community college if tuition is lower and credits are transferable;

attending classes during the summer if they are available;

taking one additional course each semester.

Tuition Waivers: Based on your first-year grades, some colleges award partial tuition waivers. A superior academic record could save you thousands of dollars.

Living Expenses: Becoming a resident assistant in a dormitory could save thousands of dollars in living costs. Working in the dining hall offers a modest salary plus "all you can eat" meals. Living off campus with a relative or friend saves money if suitable accommodation is available and public transport is efficient.

Two-year and Community Colleges: Many students save thousands of dollars in tuition by attending community colleges for their first two years and then transferring to four-year institutions to complete their degree. For more information on community colleges, please visit Community Colleges USA, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) official resource for international students.

Find Scholarship & Financial Aid

  • IIE Funding for US Study Online
  • InternationalScholarhips.com
  • OACAC List of Financial Aid Awarded to International Students
  • External Financial Aid Sites (with options for international students)
  • Chase Manhattan Bank
  • International Education Financial Aid
  • Citibank Student Loan Corporation
  • Gates Millennium Scholars Program
  • College Connection Scholarships
  • Key Education Resources
  • College Scholarship Search
  • Next Student Loans
  • Educaid
  • Scholarship ExpertseStudent Loan
  • Scholarship Resource Network
  • Fast Web
  • Federal Trade Commission: Scholarship Scams
  • Southwest Student Services Corporation
  • FinAid
  • Student Loan Network
  • Financial Aid Resource Center
  • Super College
  • Fundsnet Online Services
  • United Negro College Fund
  • International Education Finance Corporation
  • U.S. Bank Student Loans
  • MeritAid.com
  • Sports Scholarships
  • Fast Web Scholarships for Athletes
  • National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics
  • National Collegiate Athletic Association
  • National Scouting Report
  • Opportunities for Students of Engineering
  • Peterson's Financial Aid/Scholarships Search Engine
  • Society of Women Engineers
  • Opportunities for Students with Special Needs
  • American Association of University Affiliated Programs For Persons With Developmental Disabilities
  • Exceptional Nurse
  • American Council of the Blind
  • National Attention Deficit Disorder Association
  • Association on Higher Education and Disability
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder
  • National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
  • Disabilities Studies and Services Center
  • U.S. Dept. of Justice Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Opportunities for Students from Different Cultural/ Ethnic Backgrounds
  • American Indian College Fund
  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund
  • American Indian Higher Education Consortium
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • American Institute for Managing Diversity
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Black Collegian
  • Journal of Blacks In Higher Education
  • Black Excel: The College Help Network
  • Minority Scholarships and Fellowships
  • Department of Education/Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
  • Gates Millennium Scholars Fund
  • Quality Education for Minorities
  • Hillel: Jewish Campus Life
  • Tribal Colleges, Native Studies Programs, and Indian Education
  • Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
  • United Negro College Fund

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