How much does it really cost to study abroad?

For many international students, the cost of studying is a big concern. If you’re worried about how you can pay for those big one-off expenses such as tuition fees, airfares and insurance, as well as day-to-day living expenses, this article has the answers.

Find out…

- How much you really need to budget for

- When you need those funds by

- How you can save on study and living costs

- Facts about international education costs

How much will my education cost?

Tuition fees vary widely between universities and colleges, and living expenses, travel and insurance costs also vary between different countries and regions. So there’s no simple answer, and you’ll need to do a bit of research online to set your budget.

In her recent blog, Anna explained that you’ll need to have enough money for all these costs for the entire duration of your course. That could be as little as six months for an English language course or study exchange, or as long as five years for a PhD.

At the moment, annual costs are roughly estimated at:

CountryTuition fees rangeCost of living range
USAUS$6,000 – 40,000US$10,000 – $15,000
UK£4,000 – £21,000£9,000 – $12,000
AustraliaAU$9,000 – $18,000AU$18,000 – $20,000
New ZealandNZ$14,000 – $21,000NZ$12,000 – $15,000
CanadaC$2,000 – $16,000C$15,000 – $20,000

Note that average costs may be higher or lower than the middle of these ranges, and you’ll need to apply the current exchange rate to see what this equates to in your own currency.

You can use the study costs calculator on the StudyCostCompare website to work out how much you’ll need to save. Before you apply for your course, research the cost of living by looking at supermarket websites, travel booking sites, real estate sites and other retail sites.

You can also read about the different ways you can get this money, including scholarships and student loans, by visiting the StudyLink website.

When will I need this money by?

You’ll need to prove you have access to these funds before you apply for your student visa.

This means you will need to show a history of saving, bank account details, a letter from a sponsor or scholarship board, or other proof of your ability to pay for your education. Otherwise your student visa could be denied.

Recent changes in Australia now mean you need to show you have at least $18,000 per year in living expenses available (up from $12,000 before 2010), and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship may ask about the source of your funds, such as whether it’s a student loan, savings from your salary, or a contribution from your family. Other countries have a similar process in place.

How can I save money on my education?

If this all sounds a bit daunting, it’s important to remember you do have options. Here are some ways you can reduce the cost of studying overseas:

Saving on the big one-off costs:

  • Pay your tuition fees in advance if they offer a discount.
  • Choose a smaller college or campus with more affordable fees – the quality of education may be just as good, and you could also benefit from more attention.
  • Choose a community college in the US to save on your first two years of undergraduate study – they often offer a pathway to larger universities
  • Study by distance learning with a reputable college or university as tuition fees are usually lower and you’ll save on travel costs
  • Two + one degrees are becoming more popular – study the first two years at home with a partner provider, and then the last year overseas for graduation
  • Keep most of your money in a high-interest or term deposit account and only withdraw when you need to pay for big items (like fees and accommodation)
  • Shop around online for your airfares and health insurance

Saving on the cost of living:

  • Choose an off-shore campus in a country with a lower cost of living. There are now 162 higher education branch campuses around the world, nearly twice as many as in 2006, including American, British and Australian universities in China, Malaysia, the UAE and Singapore.
  • Share accommodation with fellow students, and share the costs of electricity, water and internet.
  • Make sure you live in a safe area with good public transport links, so you don’t need to spend on taxis.
  • Cook at home instead of eating out – learn how to cook your favourite dishes before you leave home!
  • Shop at cheaper supermarkets and look for sales and discount coupons. If you can buy your fresh fruit and vegetables at markets, split bulk buys with your flatmates and friends.
  • Use Skype or discount phone cards to call, especially when you’re calling home, and keep your mobile phone costs under control.

The cost of a global education – just the facts

Here are eight key things to remember when you’re budgeting for your study plans:

  1. Fees can increase while you study, so check with your university whether the fees in their offer letter are fixed or not…
  2. Exchange rates can also change and could affect your ability to pay for fees and accommodation. If you think the rate is as good as it’s going to get, transfer more money over sooner.
  3. You can’t rely on part-time work while you study to cover your fees or major costs – no matter where you are studying or what your job is. It will not be considered in your student visa application. Remember you’ll also be paying tax, and it could affect any financial aid you’re able to claim.
  4. The little things can add up. Don’t forget to factor in some fun. Movie tickets, trips, and nights out all need to be included in your budget.
  5. Living in urban areas (in or near a big city) generally costs a lot more than living in a smaller town or rural area.
  6. Not all countries offer international students the same concession cards as domestic students. If you do have access to a student discount card, use it! If not, save money with off-peak travel, or buying weekly passes instead of single trips.
  7. Credit cards are not savings. Don’t be tempted to live on credit, as you’ll have to repay it eventually and the interest and minimum payments will add to your costs of study.
  8. Don’t expect to live the same lifestyle as a student if you’re currently living at home with your parents. Your bedroom may not be as nice. You may have to catch public transport all the time. You might not be able to make as many phone calls, or buy as many new clothes.  But it will be worth it!

Do you have any other money-saving tips to share? Or do you have some questions about how you can fund your studies? Share with us below!

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