How much does it cost to study in the US?

Aman Saxena

The US continues to be a popular choice for Indian students. But whether for undergraduate degrees or postgraduate, you can expect to pay a pretty penny to study in the US. Let’s break down how much it can cost for an American education.

The cost of studying in the US can vary depending on the type of program you choose, your location and length of stay. So it is recommended to do your own research for your specific study in the US and identify your relevant costs. This article is not to be taken as professional advice or as a recommendation.

📝 Table of contents

🎓 Costs to Study in the US

Here are the average costs for one year’s tuition in the US for full time tertiary education for the 2020-2021 academic year ¹. The costs are listed in US Dollar and in Indian Rupee for reference. Since these are average costs, the costs you may incur can differ.

💵 Annual Tuition & FeesUSDINR
Private University$35,087₹26,31,335
Public University (Out of State)$21,184₹15,88,685
Public University (In-State)$9,687₹7,26,472
Community College²$8,646₹6,48,403

*All INR prices shown are converted at the mid-market exchange rate of $1 USD = ₹74.99 as of April 23, 2021

To qualify for in-state tuition at a public university, you must first be a resident of the state that the university is located.

Again, to note this is the per year cost, so you will need to multiply each by the length of the program you choose. But also keep an eye on your program’s tuition costs every year- some do raise the tuition annually.

In addition to tuition payments, you can also expect to pay for these additional expenses before and during your time in the US:

🏫 Room & Board³$ 10,905₹8,17,816
🎒Living Expenses$5,000₹3,74,973
✅ Visa$160₹11,999
📝 GRE Cost$205₹15,373
📋 Application Fee$44₹5,849
💰Total$ 17,317₹12,98,600
💡 Your overall cost for a US education can be lowered with the help of public and private scholarships, financial aid, or deferred with loans. It is best to research the different options available to you as an international student.

Let’s delve deeper into each of these expenses for studying in the US.

💵 Tuition & Fees

The annual cost for a program of study is considered the tuition cost in the US. This is usually calculated in the US as the cost for one full academic year which consists of 2 semesters- one Fall and one Spring.

The tuition goes to pay for the learning you receive as a student. And the amount reflects the type of institution it is. In the US, there are two main levels of universities which are each funded differently:

  • Private universities
  • Public universities

Private universities, as the name suggests, are privately run and funded through student tuitions, endowments, and philanthropic contributions in most cases. Public universities, such as state colleges and universities, are institutions that are supported by the local and state governments and tend to be more affordable.

📣 A private university’s tuition in the US on average can be 72% higher than that of a public state university

Private universities also do offer scholarships and financial aid to help qualifying students with the higher tuition costs.

In addition to tuition, you may come across additional fees that are tied into the cost. These fees can be administrative fee, health insurance fees or processing fees, amongst others. Make sure to read the fine print and account for all fees you may incur so there are no surprises. ³

🏫 Accomodation Costs

Accomodation costs often cover one of the most exciting experiences for a student- living on campus and making new friends. Also sometimes under the name of “Room and Board”, it is the fees for your lodging and often food.

Most often, you can decide, depending on your comfort level and spending limit, if you want to live on-campus on university provided accommodations, or off-campus at a private residence. But check with your program if you are required to live on-campus or not.

Most American campuses have a dining hall where you can have your meals through a meal plan. The meal plan can either give you full access to the dining hall at any time of day, or a set number of meals a week. Often this is optional, so if you prefer to cook on your own if your accommodation has a kitchen, you do not need to opt for a meal plan.

🎒 Living Expenses

You will be picking up and moving your life to the US for your education, so there will be additional expenses. This includes money for books, notebooks, a laptop and other school supplies. But also for the occasional restaurant meal or movie, or date or campus activity.

The living expenses will vary greatly depending on where in the US you will be located. There is a large cost discrepancy between the urban and rural parts of the country. Cities such as New York, San Francisco or Boston will be more expensive for basic living costs, then rural campuses or cities in the middle of the country.

Living CostsAcademic Year LIving Cost
New York University, New York City⁴$4,618/ ₹3,46,303
Duke University, North Carolina⁵$3,650/ ₹2,73,713
University of New Hampshire, New Hampshire⁶$2,200/ ₹1,64,978
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🛫 Travel costs

The travel cost to the US is one to keep in mind as well. Depending on where in the US you are headed to, you can expect a flight time of between 15-20 hours from India. There are numerous airlines that fly from India to the major US hubs such as:

  • Chicago
  • New York
  • Houston
  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Los Angeles

With the length of the flight, a round trip flight to the US can average between ₹60,000- ₹1.1 lakhs. The factors that will affect your flight costs are:

  • Cabin (Economy, Business or First class)
  • Airlines
  • Final destination
  • Luggage

If you are heading beyond the major cities, you will likely have to switch to a domestic carrier when you enter the country.

Check out websites like Skyscanner to keep an eye on flight prices and to estimate how much your flight to the US may be.

✅ Visa costs

A student visa is required to study in the United States If you are a student looking to go for any of the following, you will need to get a “F” visa:

  • University or college
  • High School
  • Private elementary school
  • Seminary
  • Conservatory
  • Another academic institution, including a language training program

To do so, you will need to fill out the online visa application, get the required photograph and if you are between the age 14-79, you may be required to get an interview.

The cost of the visa application is $160 and is non-refundable, even if your visa is rejected.

You may also be asked to furnish evidence of financial support for your tuition and living expenses in the US during your stay as part of your application.⁷

📝 Exam costs

Most US universities and colleges require international students to take the GRE and possibly the TOEFL exam.

Here is a quick rundown of both these exam:

What is itWhat it testsCost ⁸ ⁹ ¹⁰
SATAn undergraduate exam accepted by nearly all US institutionsReading, Writing, Math, and an essayMinimum $117/ ₹8,774
GREA graduate school level admissions testsVerbal, Quantitative and Analytical Writing$205/ ₹15,373
TOEFLA test for English language fluencyReading, Listening, Speaking, WritingApproximately $180/ ₹13,499

A student in India can be expected to take the TOEFL exam whether for undergraduate or postgraduate studies in the US.

📋 College application cost

The college application fee is a small but noteworthy additional cost to a US education. The fee is set by each individual university or college and is required for your application to be complete. You will have to pay an application per institution you apply to.

The average American university application fee is around $44/ ₹3,299.76, but for the top 62 universities in America, the average application fee is near double that at $78.

Here is a list of the universities with the highest application fees¹¹:

Application Fee USD/ INR
University of California/San Diego$105/ ₹7,874
Stanford University$90/ ₹6,749
Columbia University$85/ ₹6,374
Duke University$85/ ₹6,374
New York University$80/ ₹5,999


  1. Average College Tuition Costs
  2. Community College
  3. Tuition and fees
  4. Living Expenses NYU
  5. Living Expenses Duke
  6. Living Expenses UNH
  7. Visa costs
  8. SAT
  9. GRE
  10. TOEFL
  11. Application fees

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