Student Living Costs in the USA. Budgeting for an International Degree in 2020

The United States offers some of the best Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the world, but it also comes with potentially high living costs. If you have your heart set on studying abroad in the US, you will need to have a good plan about how to cover these costs.

Keep reading to discover key estimates about student living and accommodation costs, funding opportunities, and money-saving tips you’ll need to cover if you wish to study a degree at an American university or college.

Living costs in the United States

Living costs in the US vary a lot because of the vast territory of the country. In general, living in urban areas (in or near a big city) is more expensive than living in smaller towns or suburban areas. To give you a clearer picture of the general living costs of studying in the USA, we have included some estimates for the major regions of the country.

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As a rule, locations in the Midwest region have lower living costs, while those in the East and North-East have the highest. Living costs can vary significantly depending on the following factors:

  • Accommodation on-campus or renting apartments outside the campus
  • Meal plans, personal grocery shopping or eating out
  • Travelling by public transport or by car
  • Amounts spent on entertainment
  • Personal spending habits
  • Having a part-time job or not

Click on the cities to find out more about the student life and living costs of studying there.

East Coast

West Coast

Central

  • New Orleans (Louisiana): 1,100 – 2,000 USD/month
  • Seattle (Washington): 1,500 – 2,500 USD/month

North Central

  • Chicago (Illinois): 1,300 – 2,500 USD/month
  • Detroit (Michigan): 1,000 – 1,800 USD/month

South

For more exact yearly costs, you can always contact the university where you plan to study and ask for an estimate. They will be more than happy to help.

Accommodation costs in the United States

In the US, accommodation costs are just as varied as general living costs. The average apartment can start at 600 USD (one-bedroom apartments in more rural areas) and go up to 3,000 USD or more (1 bedroom apartment in Boston).

Renting outside campus in America might be less expensive than living on campus – 450 USD/month for shared rooms. But take into account the distance to the university and the fact that you might need to commute daily.

Average room and board costs at universities amount to:

  • 9,800 USD/academic year at public four-year colleges
  • 11,100 USD/academic year at private four-year colleges

costs of living in the States.jpg

Utility costs that come with accommodation

The price may not include the utilities, so you should check the contract before signing it. Here are some of the most common prices you will see for different utilities:

  • Electricity: 50 – 100 USD/month, depending on the size of your apartment, and if your heating is electric, the overall price may go up to 150 USD/month
  • Heating: 50 – 100 USD/month
  • Internet: 45 – 50 USD/month
  • Phone subscription: 50 USD/month
  • Water, sewer, and trash — the landlord usually covers them, but if you have to pay, those will cost 50 – 75 USD/three months

Food costs in the United States

For one person, groceries amount to 400 – 600 USD per month. This depends on your dietary habits and if some meals are included with your accommodation at the university. Look for some of the cheapest supermarkets — Walmart, Target, Costco, Trader Joe’s — to do your shopping.

If you live in residence halls, you could select the on-campus meal plans, for which you would have to pay around 250 USD/month.

Examples of prices in restaurants

  • In Bowling Green, restaurants have affordable prices: a pizza will cost around 7 USD, and you can get a coffee for 4.50 USD.
  • In Chicago, you can grab a meal for around 12 USD, while one beer in a bar is 6 USD.
  • International and American restaurants in San Francisco serve meals that cost around 15 USD.

Transportation in the United States

A monthly public transportation pass is between 45 and 100 USD (some universities have discounts for students, but not all). For instance, in Cincinnati, a metro fare card for students is 53 USD/semester. In Nashville, a monthly public transportation pass is 44 USD.

The biggest transportation expense will probably be flying from and to your home country. Be careful to add your airplane tickets to the overall budget, as this can have a great impact on your plans.

Try to factor in vacation trips to popular tourist destinations and weekend getaways in the US. Depending on your location and the destination, you can spend as much as 500 USD per trip.

Additional costs

  • Books and other study materials: 400 – 1,000 USD/ academic year
  • Health insurance: 700 – 1,100 USD

Try to also have a yearly budget for other personal or unexpected expenses. 2,000 USD is a good start. You can also use a free tool like the Student Budget Calculator to keep track of your finances.

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Financial aid for international students in the US

Most universities offer financial assistance to international students focusing primarily on merit and rarely on need. Scholarships are easier to get for graduate studies. Study fields that usually receive more generous funding include Engineering, Physical Sciences and Biological sciences.

All universities in the US are required to include fees and a financial aid calculator on their websites. You can find this and other useful resources on the official government website. Look for scholarships, grants, assistantships, work-study plans or consider student loans. Apply for financial aid the same time you submit your university application.

You can also check out the Studyportals Scholarship to get some help on financing your studies abroad.

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You might also want to read about university tuition fees in the United States.

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