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What is the cost of a typical two-year course at an American university?

Oct 30, 2019 | 9 months ago | Read Time: 4 minutes | By iKnowledge Team
How Much Does It Cost to Study for 2 years in US?

Record million students from all over the world applied to American universities pursuing higher studies in FY18, and of these Indian students made up the largest segment at more than 15% of the total[1]. US is the Mecca of education for many aspirants in the country, but it is also amongst the most expensive.

According to a report in 2017[2] parents spend close to $60,000 per year for their child’s education in the US, including tuition, boarding, travel and books. This is an average figure. According to College Board [3], the student support organisation, an undergraduate course at a public university in the country can cost $25,620 putting it out of the reach for many.

In FY18, the tuition fees at state colleges for non-state residents were an average $25,620[3], according to College Board. At private non-profit colleges the tuition fees were an average $34,740[3]. Public sector two-year colleges are the cheapest option and the published tuition figure for them was just $3,570[3].

Comparison and Break-up of average cost for studies in American Universities, 2017-18 (all in USD)

  Public 2-year colleges Public 4-year colleges (in-state fees) Public 4-year colleges (out-of-state fees) Private non-profit 4-year colleges
Tuition and other college fees $3570 $9970 $25,620 $34,740
Room and Board $8400 $10,800 $10,800 $12,210
Total $11,970 $20,770 $36,420 $46,950

 SOURCE: College Board [3]

The costs shown above are per academic year for full-time students. The total will depend on how long a student is spending at the colleges. The College Board survey showed that on an average, students spend more than four years on a bachelor’s degree.

The fees vary depending on the institution. For instance, at public institutes the four-year tuition and fee prices range from $8,230 at bachelor’s colleges and $8,670 at master’s institutions to $10,830 at doctoral universities.[3]

Average published prices for these types of institutions in the private non-profit sector are $33,450, $29,960, and $42,920, respectively.[4]

Cost of doing a MS in the US [4]

For a student, the cost of pursuing professional courses in the US starts right from the time of taking the Graduate Record Examination and sending the scores, sending the TOEFL and IELTS (both for test of English language proficiency) and applying to the Universities. This comes to about $125 per university. Then there is the I-20 form (that the university sends for filling up by the student), the visa fees etc., and the total comes to about $400-plus. [4A]

You also need to factor in the airfare and a one-way fare could vary from Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000.

All the foregoing was just a small change compared to the tuition fees, which forms the major component of the cost.

For a two-year MS course, the tuition fee could range from $15,000 to $30,000 a year [5]. Living expenses are the next major item on the list and this depends a lot on where you stay. Anecdotal evidence suggests that students spend anything between $500 and $1000 a month[5A]. Let us assume an average of $18,000 for two years. So, taking it all together you could spend close to $70,000 for two years.

Cost of doing a MBA in the US

The tuition fees for a management degree are much higher than that for MS and of course, it varies between public and private institutes.

For state schools the tuition fees for a two-year MBA course are $60,000 (in total)[1]. For private schools, the fees are higher at an average of $65,000 per year, making it about $130,000 for the full two years. This is the average, the range varies widely even among the top B-schools. Wharton is most expensive charging close to $79,000 a year [6], with Harvard coming a close second at $73,000 a year [7]. At the bottom end of the scale is University of Texas that charges $40,500 a year [8]. Other universities that are not Ivy League, will charge lower; but this is the highest that you can expect to pay.

Living expenses are the same as what we discussed above for the MS course. Therefore, the costs range from $78,000 to $153,000 in total. That’s a big range from about Rs 54 lakhs to more than Rs 1 crore.

There’s no need to panic though. There are plenty of universities that charge much less, and your expenses may be half of the figures we have given above if you opt for state-run universities. The good news is that unlike Indian universities where there is a lot of rush, and the number of applicants far outstrips the seats available, American universities do not see that rush because in the US, only those who are serious about academics and higher studies go to the university. In addition, there are scholarships available that will help financially.

To parents, our advice is that you need to plan your child’s education while they are still young with a child savings plan.

Securing your child’s future is very important and if you save and plan accordingly, you will feel very little pain or anxiety when the time comes to send them abroad for studies. To know about Aegon Life’s life insurance products like term insurance and other products, visit our home page.


[1] US Department of Education release

[2]http://www.hsbc.com/news-and-insight/media-resources/media-releases/2017/the-value-of-education-higher-and-higher

[3]https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-published-undergraduate-charges-sector2017-18.

[3] & [4] – College Board

[4] [4A] & [5] [5A] Quora, https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-cost-of-doing-a-MS-at-top-US-universities

[6], [7], [8] http://www.mba.today/guide/fees


[1] https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/student-finance/how-much-does-it-cost-study-us


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