Tuition fees or tuition is the largest component of the cost of a US education. The amount is highly dependent on the university and also the degree a student is enrolled for. As a general rule, tuition at Private Institutions is higher than at Public Institutions. Tuition at Community Colleges is usually the lowest, primarily because they do not have high research expenses as compared to 4-year institutions. There may always be exceptions to this rule.
Also, students with residential status in a state qualify for in-state tuition at the Public Institutions in the state. This is significantly lower than the out-of-state tuition charged to non-residents and international students. A student who gets offered a scholarship (even a partial scholarship) may also be eligible for in-state tuition.
Living expenses include all the other expenses a student will incur while pursuing a US education, such as rent, food, books and other personal expenses. These expenses, specially rent, are extremely location sensitive. The university usually provides an estimate for living expenses in the I-20 sent along with the admission package. However, costs can be much lower too.
Healthcare in the US can become a major expense in the case of sickness or medical emergency and it is highly advisable that students purchase medical insurance to cover for the possible burden. Several health insurance plans are available in the US for international students and premiums vary based on the plan selected. A few things to consider while selecting insurance include the coverage, both in terms of the ailments covered and the amount covered for, the deductible and the geographical coverage area, among others. The international students’ center at a university will usually be able to help guide foreign students on obtaining medical coverage. Several universities also allow students to carry overseas insurance.
Several Indian banks and financial institutions offer loans to Indian students going abroad for higher education. The amount may be used for paying tuition or expenses or a combination of both. Approval of loan applications is contingent on a review of financial documents, provision of collateral on the loan and sometimes also dependent on the University of attendance. These requirements are extremely specific to the company providing the loans.
Several banks as well as financial institutions provide loans to international students to fund their education. However, they may need a US citizen or permanent resident of good financial standing to be a co-signer or guarantor on the loan. The student will need to submit documents which may include the admission letter, I-20, proof of identity and documents from the cosigner. The loan amount approved is usually capped by the total expenses listed in the I-20 and may be paid directly to the university, depending on the policies of the loan provider.
Scholarships pay towards a student’s tuition and are offered either for the entire course of the program or on a semester by semester basis. Scholarships are generally offered based on past academic records, the student’s educational goals and the university’s goals. Partial scholarships are also possible. Scholarships pay towards the student’s tuition and may also make the student eligible for in-state tuition for the remaining amount.
Research Assistantships may be offered to students who wish to conduct research in specific areas that the university excels in. Selection is made based on past academic and professional record as well as future research goals. RAships usually qualify a student for tuition waivers and/or pay an additional stipend. Students who get offered RAships are most often PhD students, but it is not uncommon for Graduate students to be offered the same.
Teaching Assistantships are offered to students with the potential to teach, based on academic performance for the related course. Teaching assistants help the professor conduct lectures and labs, grade exams and homework and answer student queries. TAships may qualify for full or partial tuition waivers and/or an additional stipend.
Graduate Assistantships are mostly administrative positions at the University. GAships may be in the form of tuition waivers, stipends or a combination of both.