FPJ-ED: Financing your higher studies in the United States

A recent article published in this newspaper explained the value of a US education and the reasons why Indian students might want to study in the United States

Ryan PereiraUpdated: Friday, March 11, 2022, 08:39 PM IST
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According to the most recent Open Doors report1, there are more than one 1,67,000 Indian students currently enrolled at US universities. This indicates that the United States continues to be a sought-after destination for Indian students to pursue their higher education. A recent article published in this newspaper explained the value of a US education and the reasons why Indian students might want to study in the United States. While many Indian students dream of pursuing higher studies in the United States, several have second thoughts given the cost of attending a US university. Per a recent report by College Board2, the average cost of tuition and living expenses for one academic year for an international student to attend a public four-year university in the United States is $44,150.

While studying in the United States might seem expensive, there are various avenues one can follow to reduce costs. The first step is to consider your personal budget by calculating how much you and your family can contribute annually for your studies in the United States. This will also include funds that might be available by taking an education loan. While preparing your budget, it is important to consider the total cost of attending a US university, which includes the tuition, living expenses, and other miscellaneous expenses such as health insurance. Once you have your budget ready, then you can start searching for US universities that are the right fit for you and where the cost of attendance fits within a budget you can afford. You can also look for universities that may be able to provide financial aid to cover the difference between your contribution and the estimated cost of studies.

Once you have your budget, you can look for ways to reduce the costs of attending a US university. Avenues to do this include looking at public universities which tend to have lower costs. Undergraduate students can look to reduce the cost of attending college by applying to a community college for the first two years of study and then transferring to a four-year college for the last two years of their undergraduate studies. This helps reduce the cost of studies since the cost to attend a community college in the United States is significantly lower than that of a four-year institution. Another option is to look for 2+2 programmes offered by some Indian institutes where students do the first two years of their undergraduate studies in India before transferring to a U.S. university to complete their undergraduate programme.

Students can also look at the location of the university since this can have an impact on the living costs. Generally, the cost of living in US cities located in the Midwest and the South tends to be lower than cities on the two coasts. Finally, students can look to reduce the cost of attending a US university by trying to accelerate the programme. This involves getting credits for courses before you join the US university. One such method of obtaining credits for undergraduate study at most US universities includes doing the Advanced Placement exams offered by the College Board. Students can also complete the requirements for a degree early by taking extra courses at the university. This will help reduce the cost of paying for additional months of living expenses.

The final step in trying to reduce the cost of attending a US university is to look for financial aid. The EducationUSA website (https://educationusa.state.gov/your-5-steps-us-study/finance-your-studies) is a great place to start your search for scholarships. Here you will find several tips on how to reduce the cost of attending a college in the United States, as well as resources to help you search for scholarships. You can also look at the websites of the US universities you would like to apply to and check on any scholarships they may offer to international students. In addition to scholarships, many postgraduate departments at US universities offer teaching assistantships or research assistantships to their postgraduate students (students pursuing a master's or doctoral degree). Assistantships usually involve a tuition award and some sort of stipend in return for teaching or research duties. Such funds are generally controlled by individual departments at the university. Often deadlines to apply for financial aid are before the normal application deadline.

As an international student, you may be eligible for a specific scholarship award or grant from an outside agency. Some sources to explore are employers, unions, professional organizations, and special interest groups. Some trusts such as the J.N. Tata Endowment for the Higher Education of Indians, the K.C. Mahindra Education Trust, the Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation and the R.D. Sethna Scholarship Fund offer financial assistance to Indian students. Most of the funding from these trusts based in India is for those students looking to pursue studies abroad. Finally, you may be able to earn some income from on-campus work in the US for up to 20 hours a week and also through practical training opportunities. However, do remember that practical training opportunities must first be approved by your US university.

In conclusion, remember that financial planning must be undertaken early on in the application process. Consider all your financial resources while you are selecting universities to which you will submit applications so you do not run into difficulties later. For more information, please visit the EducationUSA website (https://educationusa.state.gov), and for individual questions, please write to mumbai@educationusa.org

References:

1. “Fast Facts 2021,” Open Doors, accessed March 4, 2022, https://opendoorsdata.org/fast_facts/fast-facts-2021/

2. Jennifer Ma and Matea Pender, “Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021,” College Board, accessed March 4, 2022, https://research.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/trends-college-pricing-student-aid-2021.pdf

(Ryan Pereira is the Regional Officer at the United States–India Educational Foundation, where he supervises both the EducationUSA and Fulbright programmes in Western India. Ryan has over eleven years’ experience guiding students interested in pursuing higher studies in the United States. Ryan has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Ohio State University.)

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