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Cost of Studying in US as International Student? Apply Cheaper Schools?

It is a well know fact that studying in USA can be very costly. Our goal as an international student applying for MS or MBA is to either get scholarship or find  good schools with less tuition fee. This article will cover the cost of studying in US including rough idea on living expenses, Private vs State schools and their fees variations for MS.   This article is part of the series Guide / steps to study in USA for International students?

State Schools vs Private schools fee differences for MS/MBA for International Students :

There are two types of schools in US: private and state schools. As the name suggests, private schools are very expensive and state schools are cheaper in terms of tuition. There is a significant difference in fees between Private and State schools. You may read this article where I compare fee: Is Fee different when you pay than what is listed on I20 ? State Vs private schools Fee comparison . You may also check the below example :

The key thing to consider is fee. State schools are funded by state and they get state grants. That’s the reason they have less fee. Part of the research budget also come from State for State schools. So, funding chances are good in a good state school.  Private schools funding can be varying based on school and the research activity. Bottom-line the fee is high. Anyways, the fee for a semester depends on the enrollment status. For international graduate students the full time status is defined by school and it can be either 9 credits or 12 credits.

MS vs MBA fee for International Students  :

Fee for MS program is relatively less when compared with MBA. Depending on the number of credits, for MS program it can range anywhere between $7000 to over $21,000 or more depending on the public or private school and the program you apply.  The tuition fee for MBA is much higher than MS program, especially for private schools.   For state schools, it can be anywhere around 30,000 USD per year or about 60,000 USD for full program for international students. e.g Univ of Houston MBA Fee . For private schools, the fee can be much higher, it can be as high as 65,000 USD per year for MBA. Check out Colombia School of Business – MBA Tuition Fee . There can be cheaper schools as well, you would need to do more research.

Living expenses for MS/MBA in USA:

The living expenses varies based on the place and school you go to. Most of the internationals who study MS stay outside with friends sharing apartment. The cost of living for a month can vary anywhere from $300 to $1000 based on how you lead your life.  For a semester(5 months),  the living expenses vary from $1500 to $5000 based on the city you live and your lifestyle.  If you want to save money on living expenses, you have to apply to schools in smaller towns and NOT big cities. Also, you want to have more roommate to save money. But, having more roommates has its own disadvantages. If you stay on-campus in student dorm rooms, the expense can be quite high as well and it can range from $700 to over $1200 depending on the school.  It is your preference based on your financial situation. Read this article for breakdown of cost of living : MS/MBA Cost of Living in USA – $250 or $950? Why difference ?

How to Apply for cheaper Schools in US as International Student ?

It is always good to apply to schools that fit your needs and one of them is your financial situation. Now that you know, the total expenditure for a semester for MS in USA can vary from $8,500 ($7,000 + $1,500) to $26,000 ($21,000 + $5,000). Your goal is to aim for cheaper tuition school with better education. Here are some things to consider for applying to cheaper schools

  • Basic rule is : Try to apply to state schools, unless you have good score and you are confident of getting full funding or scholarship in private schools.
  • Whenever you are applying to a school, go to the tuition fee page and see the out-of-state or non-resident tuition fee. Compare the tuition fee with other schools.
  • You can find out if a school is private or state mostly with the name, but if you cannot, just search in the About pages of the University or ask someone in the school. The Tuition fee reflects the state vs private schools for the most part.
  • I am not saying you have to totally avoid Private schools, if you are really looking for saving money and getting MS degree with less cost, then you may want to consider above information. If you have good scores and you are confident, then you must apply to private schools too.
  • Apply to state schools in smaller towns or schools in suburbs of cities. The farther you are from the downtown of the city, the cheaper the rent and living expenses. There are some advantages and disadvantages of small cities and big cities. You may need a car. You can read this article for car related info : Importance of owning a Car in small cities of USA ? Advantages and Disadvantages in big cities having a Car ?

Image Credit :http://www.flickr.com/photos/librariesrock/3732834168/


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  1. I want to do P.hd in US. Could you please tell me what is the procedure, Qualification and fee structure for the same? Is there any chances to get scholarship?

  2. What are the career advancement opportunity for me. I have 4 years exp. In HR and have completed by BCA & MCA and have almost completed my MBA degree.

  3. sir i got 159 in verbal and 163 in quantitative in gre . can you tell the admission fee of mit and about scholoralships in it and range of money to do ms there ?

  4. Hi sir. currently iam doing my bcom professionals 2nd year.I would like to pursue my mba in us. will you please help me of what examz i have to write and fee , costly of living. can we do job aftr studies?? and any scope for part time jobs for girls?

    • Hello dipali, you can do ms without any work.experience or anytime you want to. Just you have to do is to give a gmat exam.

  5. I have also found out that the AP Physics, AP Chemistry, AP biology and indian 12th grade physics…..( same) curriculums are same, so does that mean i have taken the above AP courses?

  6. My US common application form asks that how many courses have i taken. in india, we do not have separate courses for each subject and I have completed 12th standard fromCBSE Board India with physics, chemistry, biology and maths. According to this how many courses should i fill in?

  7. Hello,
    I am working/studying here in United States. I came to US in 2007 and have been here since then. My question is about my little brother who is in India and just finished his BCA this year. Firstly, BCA is a 3 year program and secondly, he failed couple of subjects in his last year which were then cleared.
    For his further education, we were deciding between US and Canada. I understand, this post is concentrated on US schools and all. I would like to know if there are any chances for him to get I 20s fromUS schools provided he gets a decent score in GRE/TOEFL. BCA is just a 3 year program plus he is not having a good GPA( failed 2 courses). Do these 2 facts totally close his chances? Or can we still try based on the exam scores, SOP etc. Having done a 3 year Bachelors, is it possible to apply for Masters? If yes, does anyone knor of any schools here?

    Thanks for the reply!


  8. Hello kumar sir..this is ashwath from bangalr..I hav done my b.com degree..and I shud do my mba in us i hav red ur suggestion tu others and I came tu knw that I can not spend more money on pvt clgs..so if I choose a public clg..wat will be the money stucture for year including clg fees and leaving in average lyfstyl.. its coz to inform financial requirements to my parents for fare idea…can yu plz giv a feed back..

  9. i had completed my BE in Mechanical with 66% over all but i have distinction in university certificates.12th passed with 66% and 10th with 77%,2 years working experience in Global giant automotive company. i am planning to MS from US in state university .. i need to know the which university i can apply for…is there chances of getting scholarship in state university with this profile. it might be funny but desperately need financial support.

  10. Hi
    I have 66% in Be over all but in university certificates i have distinction declaration. 12th i have 65.4 and 10th 76% , have 2 years of experience of working global giant automotive company. i planning to pursue MS from us in mechanical field. im planning to apply for state university because i dnt have strong financial support. i need to know the best possible university i can apply for with my present university. i am planning to go for loan for fee, can i get scholarships in some university?

  11. I am now doing final year BE IN EEE.i got a very less percentage in my previous semesters
    .now my entire engineering degree is ruined.am planning to write gre and study ms in some
    International university.if get a good score in gre,will it substitute my degree percentage?

  12. hey hi, I am Bhagyashri
    ihave done my BE, and then CDAC, BUT the thing is that was in embedde and no proper job, so i am preparing for inadian bank exams but i really wann study in us, Now i have one question i heard tht gmat needs expeerianceand other is that if i do job in bank , which is probitionary oficer will it help in getting good schools for mba+ scholarship

  13. hello sir i want to know that whats the cost of study in us university i am associate engineer in pakistan and need higher education its my dream

  14. Hi,

    I am working in an IT company having 3 yrs of experience and planning to write GRE in september to apply for FALL 13 for MS in CS. My question is more of a concern “is it really worth going US”..means most of us are loan cases and also most of us fly US for monetary aspect so if i am spending 25 + lacs (with loan) i would atleast prefer to stay there for more than 5 years to pay back loans and earn some good money to come back home. But i heard even some of their visa are not getting renewed after 1st H1B and green card is then a dream. Can someone please provide an honest opinion on this on what is the situation and how it’s likely to play out in next few years.


  15. hi , im looking forward to do mba in us , currently studying bcom final yr , i can score more thn 80 % , im also doing cousing 4 gmat , so my question is , is thr any chance 4 me to get full scholarship or atleast colledge tuition fees scholarship if i do well in gmat or gre , although my 10 & 12 records r nt so good , plus my father salary would nt be enough so tht i study thr , so plz let me knw abt scholarship details and how to get , plz mail me [email removed]

  16. Hello, I want to study my college in America’s university, so I need your help to guide me how I can do it

  17. I am a software engineer and working in Charlotte from past 1.5 years, have 5 years of IT experience. I am looking for a good evening/weekend MBA program from state university in my city. Can you suggest from good college and also give an idea how much it should cost as fees?

    • Shailender,
      Unfortunately, we do not advise on schools. I would look at the list of schools around Charlotte and talk to them or look at their fee structure. Just look up online, you should be able to find the schools around Charlotte.

  18. i am in 3rd year of b.tech (mechanichal engg.)please suggest me about ms. i have little to spend say how can i accomlish my dream

  19. I recently got an acceptance letter from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. Applied for MS in Environmental Engineering. They’ve asked me to submit bank statements worth $35,000 U.S.D approx. They’ve not given me a break up of this amount. I’m assuming its for one year including living expenses, etc. According to this stat the whole cost of MS for 2 years is coming out to be $70,000 (38 Lacs approx.) (1USD = 54 Rs). Are MS degrees really this expensive ?? Is it really worth spending this much of amount ?? This doubt has put me into dilemma.

    • Ratul Roy,
      Yes, they can be expensive…I just checked it, it is for one year http://www.iit.edu/graduate_admission/finances/tuition.shtml

      Not all schools are expensive, it is a private school. You can choose any public universities… The trick is the living expenses are calculated and they seem very high to me….You can save up some money if you live off campus. But, University wants you to send the bank statements as they have to make sure you have the financial capability.

      Well, about spending, it is a tricky question… I dont know much about IIT Chicago, you need to justify the cost by yourself…But, if it was like Stanford, Harvard or Carnegie Mellon, I would not hesitate.

  20. Dear Sir/Madam,
    Would you please to lead me to get scholarship in PHD (Management) in California? which university is better to financial aid?


  21. Recently i finished my B.tech in Computer Science and i want to do M S in US..
    But my concern is i got very less percentage in my degree i.e,60% ..
    I knw it is very less but i think i can work hard frm nw on..
    1)So if i score gud marks in GRE,do they consider me for gud colleges only based on that marks?/
    2)Is TOEFL necessary for US// can i take only TOEFL and score gud marks only in dat I heard dat TOEFL is easy compared to GRE..so i m asking dis..
    3)And also for US my parents cant give that much money..So can i do MS in UK?? iS there gud scope for MS in UK?? and also hw much it will cost in UK and US for doing MS..
    please reply me as soon a

  22. Dear Sir,

    I like to do CPA in US. I have completed my CA Inter. I am looking forward chances in US. I want to be in part time work and have to do CPA.

    Anybody will sponsor for this? How can I look forward?

    I am keep on waiting to go US and complete my ambition since 2010. I went almost mad… Kindly guide me…

  23. Hi ,
    I m Bcom + Inter CS from India(mumbai university). I have evaluated my transcripts from ACEI , they says that i m not equivalent to US bachelor degree inspite of having 120 semester units. I want to do CPA…

    i need an advice .. plz help….

  24. iam completed my graduation this year and i want to apply for ms in human resource, but my grades arent good. will i still get a college and what will be the coast?

  25. good evening sir,
    i’m persuing b.tech in computer science from jodhpur as of now..my past academic profile is decent..75% in 10th and 67% in 12th..i know very well that only this scar could make you answer a complete “no” for me to persue masters(MS) in the USA..also..i have less finances to do the same…well..to begin with the queries..if i take enough certifications during engg in database management systems(which is also the field in which i want to do my masters)..would it really subsidise the past academic profile of 10th and 10+2 and make me considerable for the universities to get selected?
    with this..even if i take a loan from a bank for the same…are the ROI and savings after MS enough to make the payback actually feasible?..
    sir, i’m highly tensed about both of these factors…eagerly waiting for a response…

  26. Is it difficult to get visas for private university?Also I know not even one indian student who is going to apply for marquette university.Especially in Electronics and Communication engineering.Also I am applying for two universities in wisconsin.Will this pose a big problem at the visa?My uncle lives in Wisconsin so if i get an admit there I might as well save the living expenses.

  27. i have planned to complete my MS from USA (in electronics and tele-communication)……please tell me about the overall 2 year approx. cost for MS from USA…….i m an Indian student is it though to get a US visa?

  28. Hello Sir,
    I just finished my 2nd year EEE I’m really passionate about doing MS in USA but fate the last semester i failed in my core subject ‘Electrical Machines’ now i have it as an arrear I’m confident i’ll clear the course but I’m really depressed the way my life has changed My 10th percentage was 88% then 11th and 12th together is 96%
    What is my prospective now? I want to join a good college for MS in USA and i need to plan from now Will my failure effect me? if it does how can i overcome it? Please do help me

    • Jaswanth,
      Dont worry too much about the failed subject. As long as you complete it on time and get good marks, you should be fine. Typically, admissions are not just based on one aspect, they look at your application as a whole…i.e, Academics, GRE, TOEFL, SOP, etc. So, don’t be disappointed…you will be fine, just put your best effort from now in everything….

      • thank you very much sir i’m indebted to you i was really out of the world just thinking about why i failed your reply gave me hope that i still have a chance left. i really mean it sir i started hating myself for the way i failed but now i feel i can still win thanks a lot sir for the quick reply i promise i’ll work hard and hope you continue to guide me in my journey
        once again thanks a lot


  29. Hi,
    Is there any one to share his experience of studying in Northern Illinois University for MS in Mech. Engg ?

  30. Hi,
    My son got an offer from NY Poly for admission in to MS in Mechanical Engg.
    But, the costs seem to be somewhat high. Is it worth doing there ?
    Is there anyone who secured admission there and can share his experiences – particularly in Mech Engg ?
    Krishna Murty

  31. hey i will complete my bca in next year and i m planning to go to us for my further studies.i m planning for ms in information technology.so can u tell me is it a good option.or suggest me something else.and i also want to know that is getting scholarships easy?means is it only depends on my gre score?

    • Rahul, Good or bad depends on what you really like to do. You need not just do something because it will be a good progression to what you have currently. Think about what you really want to do and then you can decide where to study and other stuff. No, scholarships depend on various aspects not just GRE score and not easy to get them…

      • I wanna study my college in America. This is my best wish to study in America if you want
        so I can study there

      • Hello, I want your need to help me for study my college in America’s university, Because it’s my best wish to study in America

  32. hi,
    i m a final year student from mumbai university with an aggregate of 69%.I scored 103 in toefl n yet to appear for gre(28th sept.2010).
    i hear from many ppl around me tht the u.s market is currently in a bad state and it is not advisable to do ur masters from u.s. how far is this true considering i wana cum back in 2018 and start my own enterprise in india?
    also, how do i collect information about the expenditures in various universities?
    reply asap.

  33. Hey, i m in two minds right now. I wanna do MS in Telecomm networks and i got admit from USC and NYU- POly.

    My doubt is it worth to spend 26000 bucks a year at USC or should i be opting for NYU_Poly where even i m offered 5000$ scolarship, which makes tuition sumthin around 15000?

    Will it make a huge difference for post MS jobs if i study at USC or Poly?

    • Both are good schools. Well, I think USC is in the vicinity of silicon valley and you have better options to look for full time jobs and internships as you will understand the market well around silicon valley.

      • yes that fact is really well known…. but according to you Poly aint that bad option at all…. i just wish to know few good things bout Poly if there are…. the only thing stressing me right now is post MS jobs and also location, which i would prefer to be on the eastern coast…… and have also heard a lot about NY job fairs,,, wont that help at all???? its just due to location my mind calls for Poly everytime… who don like to be in LA bt still i prefer easter coast….. hope so wont take wrong decision if in favor of Poly?

        • Anand, there are always pros and cons buddy…I would recommend you to check out edulix.com and ask a question there or find someone in forum and email someone who went to school at NY Poly…

    • I have heard that NYU poly is not as reputed as USC. USC is in california and that has better job oppurtunities.
      BTW,I plan to apply to NYU poly too because I live in NY.
      Is this a $5000 scholarship every year? What about GA/TA/RA options in NYU poly?Does anyone know

  34. Hello,

    I must say you have got a great series of articles on Education in USA, Thanks for the same….

    My query is that I have got admits from two universities just about the same comparison as above, State university Vs Private University…

    SUNY Buffalo VS USC…
    Financially there is no problem, but just that when you spend this lot of Money you need to be cautious.

    Now the Tution fees
    Buffalo—> Rs 10 lakh
    Overall Cost–> Around Rs 12-14 Lakhs.

    USC—-> RS 20 Lakhs.
    Overall Cost—> RS 25-26 Lakhs..
    Family funds–>Rs 10 Lakhs.
    Loan—> Rs 10 lakhs
    Rest–> Hoping thorugh Part Time job..

    Now, my first Preference of doing an MS is that I want to Learn more, Because I dont think I have learned in my Bachelors to do a job here in India …

    So, considering I am a fresher and not up to a level that a Bachelors in Computer Science should be(I am not a hardcore Programmer). what will you suggest ? I don’t want to go in MBA or MIS field because It doesn’t interest me…

    Thanks in Advance…

    • Welcome. I have to tell you couple of things, I have not studied in either schools. But, I can suggest you few things to look: You will need to look into the program and research expertise at the schools : http://www.cse.buffalo.edu/research/index.php and http://www.cs.usc.edu/Research/RAreas-Labs.htm You should browse around and see if your area of interest is in them and where it is strong. Second thing, location and jobs. USC is in heart of LA and geographically closer to Silicon Valley. It gives you more chances to get a job, but your expenses might be lot higher. You would spend a lot more money in LA because of cost of living. You also have to see if have any plans for PhD and chose the school in long term. Check out student life on their website and see how the life is. Honestly, see if you can get in touch with someone who studied in that school. Say go to ISA website or international students website and email few of them and try to talk to them, get their number and call them. It is worth time and money to talk to someone who goes to school there. Hope it helps !

      • Thanks for the prompt Reply
        Yes, I will do the same and one more thing is that I have no plans of doing Phd as yet. And against all odds MS would be my terminal degree, So thinking in that way I preferred USC over buffalo, Because of the Strong Alumni and utmost respect for USC graduates. I consider it as an Lifetime opportunity as there are 1000+ university in US and over 45,000+ students go to US each year to study…So it makes sense to graduate from a high ranked university..Even if I have to shell out more bucks…Because I don’t want to commit another mistake in my life such as doing an BE from a mediocre college and ending in desperation to survive…

        Thank you once again….

        • Welcome . I agree with you. You are thinking in right direction ! Student life in a Big school and reputed one especially is unbelievable, you just have to make sure you utilize those by joining student orgs once you come here. Many do not realize it. If you have not read, have a look at these http://redbus2us.com/8-reasons-why-should-you-join-student-organizations-in-us-universities-how-many-to-join-what-kind-of-student-organizations-to-join/
          Good Luck !

  35. Hi,
    thanks for this article. What happens to job oppurtunities if we study in state colleges? is is good enough,if not as good as private universities?

    • It completely depends on the school you choose. State Schools are equally as good as private schools. For instance, Univ of Wisconsin Madison, Ohio State Univ are some of the premier state schools.


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