The cost of going to college in the United States is something you and your family need to think about early in your planning. Costs differ from one institution to another, so you should estimate your budget for each of the colleges you are considering. Be sure to confirm current costs with each institution.

Your total budget should include the follow­ing expenses for each year of study in the United States.

Tuition and fees

Tuition and fees are generally charged on the basis of a nine-month (September-May)


Accounting for inflation

US college costs have been rising by about six to seven percent per year in recent years. If you are estimating your costs for the future, add this increase for each year.

Academic year. Some colleges also offer course work in the summer period (June-August); if you plan to take courses in the summer, you must increase your budget to allow for tuition and fees for a 12-month period. (A typical course in an American institution is worth three credit hours. Thus, to calculate the additional cost of a summer program, you must multiply the number of courses you intend to take by three to obtain the total number of credit hours. Then you must multiply the number of credit hours by the credit hour charge at the institution you plan to attend.)

Lower costs at public institutions


Both colleges and universities may be public or private. Institutions of high quality are found equally among public and private universities; the principal difference is one of funding. Pub­lic institutions are funded partially by the gov­ernment of the state in which the institution is located (for example, Texas or Florida), and partially by students tuition payments and pri­vate donations. Since public institutions are supported by state government, they give pref­erence in enrollment and tuition charges to students from that state.

The total cost, however, is usually lower at most state institutions than at private institu­tions, even for those who are not residents of the state.

Living costs

Living costs include:

  • Room and board,
  • Books and supplies,
  • Local transportation, and
  • Other personal expenses.
  • These are described in detail below.


Room and board

Room and board means basic living expenses for food and housing. No matter what kind of institution you attend, you will have to con­sider these expenses. Many colleges have on campus housing. Others do not, and students commute from housing near the college. Commuting students in general pay somewhat less for housing than students living in college dormitories. Most colleges have housing offices that can help you find local housing in an apartment or a home that you can share with other students.

The room and board cost for colleges with on-campus housing assumes that you will share a room with one student and have regular meals at the college cafeteria.

If you will be attending college during the summer, add to your budget an estimate of the cost for housing and meals during the summer.


Books and supplies

Colleges estimate the costs for books and sup­plies for the academic year. If you are planning to study in a field that requires special supplies, such as engineering, art, or architecture, expenses are likely to be greater than the age.

You will be buying a whole lot of text at school but there are a few essential refer books you can bring from home.

A reputed dictionary. Suggested: Am Heritage or Webster’s New World Dictionary. Indian reprints are cheap.


A Thesaurus or synonym-finder, prefer in easy-to-use dictionary format. Suggested; Roget’s International Thesaurus.

A book of quotations. Suggested: Bartlett’s Book of Quotations.

For Technology: all books by Taub. Books in India cost a fraction of their dollar equivalent and if you do manage to anticipate some of the books you will need, better buy them and sea-mail them to your US address. A typical book costing $25 in the US costs only Rs. 110 in India. Though technically speaking, you are not supposed to do that, but it’s certainly worth the saving.



Be sure to add expenses for round-trip travel between your home country and your college to your yearly budget. Chapter 10 offers tried and tested tricks and tips for saving money on airfare from your home country to the US.

If you plan to live off campus and commute to college, you will incur commuting expenses. Commuter colleges can provide you with an estimate of these expenses.

Other personal expenses

These expenses include the cost of basic goods and services. Health insurance is required.

Health insurance

Unlike what you may have been used to in your own country, hospitalization and medication costs are extremely high in the United States, so all universities ask you to enroll in a medical or health insurance plan. Health problems could prove to be so expensive that they could unbal­ance the complete financial resources of the student and compel him to return to his coun­try for lack of finances.

Depending on the state requirements, insur­ance coverage may range from $10,000 to $50,000, and costs between $300 to $500 a year.

If you have dependents a spouse and/or children or if you have special medical needs, substantial additional funds will be needed to meet your living expenses. Most in­stitutions have an estimate of these basic costs.

Surviving on a shoestring budget

The great news here for Asian students is that the cost involved is one thing American

Minimum budget

The room rent will cost you a maximum of about $200 per month in a shared apartment even in a very big city, provided you take care in selecting the location. Food costs another $50 to $75 throughout the whole country and postage and traveling in local buses will cost another about $40. So in $350 or so, you can survive for a month. If you are in a smaller city or suburban location, this expense could be as low as $200 or $175.

Thus even a half-assistantship will allow you to manage, provided you are given a tuition waiver. In the extreme case where you are not given a tuition waiver but asked to pay in-state tuition, you will have to spend less than $2,000 for that year. But such cases are quite rare.

Universities invariably overestimate while quoting to you the financial costs. Their figures are calculated on the basis of what an American may spend unlike the relatively frugal Asian, who is not to the Manor born. Here is how you can handily cut down your expenses.

Share an apartment

Sharing an apartment is possibly the best way to reduce both your boarding and lodging costs.

If two or three persons are sharing a room, you may cut down your annual boarding and room costs to a minimum $80 a month for a shared efficiency apartment (single room) in a bigger city, towards the outskirts of New York and San Francisco and as low as $45 in smaller cities like Rapid City and Tallese. These are the figures that universities normally count up as $300 to $500 per month for single-occupancy rooms. Quite of­ten, it may work out cheaper to live off- campus. Make sure your college does not have any residency requirements. Many Indian, Pakistani and Chinese students share apart­ments outside colleges.

The same idea applies to food prepared in larger quantities. So of all other possibilities, sharing an apartment with other students from your country, or even other countries is the plan that best suits the student on a tight budget.

Of course, getting along with others can be a problem. But that rarely crops up since all the members know their financial limitations and do their best to get along!

Books travel and postage would roughly add up to $45 or so per month. Food would be another $60 or so per month.