Cost of Living in the US for International Students: 2024

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Prodigy Finance - June, 28 2024

7 min read

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At Prodigy Finance, we're committed to helping international talent to achieve their education dreams. We offer international student loans to qualified individuals attending top master's programmes in the US.

The United States has long been a top destination for international students, drawn by its prestigious universities, diverse cultural experiences, and abundant career opportunities. In 2022, international student admission increased by 14%, which got a top-up of 80% increase in 2023.

Although the excitement of studying in a country like the USA is huge, you have to consider the responsibility of managing the cost of living as well. On average, international students can anticipate spending between $1,000 and $2,500+ per month, excluding tuition fees.

If you are trying to navigate through the expenses of living in the USA as an international student, we have you covered. Learn about all factors involved, from college tuition fees for particular destinations to the cost of top universities to help you plan effectively.

Average Cost Of Living In The USA

The cost of living in the USA can differ greatly depending on the location, lifestyle, and individual expenses. However, to provide a general idea, here’s a breakdown of the living costs of an international student in the USA.

CategoryAverage cost

On-campus Accommodation

Average cost

$800 - $1,500


Off-campus Accommodation

Average cost

$700 - $2,500+



Average cost

$300 - $600



Average cost

$100 - $200


Health Insurance

Average cost

$100 - $500+


Books and Materials

Average cost

$100 - $300


Personal Expenses

Average cost

$200 - $500+

Cost of Living for Major Student Destinations in the USA

The cost of living in the USA can alter significantly depending on the city. Cities in the USA are classified into Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3 based on various factors such as population, economic growth, cost of living, and job opportunities. Here’s an estimate of the living costs in these places.

  • Tier 1 cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the cost of living is high due to their size, popularity, and economic activity. Estimated monthly living expenses are around $2,500 - $4,500+.
  • Tier 2 cities, like Atlanta, have an approximate monthly living expense of about $1,500 to $2,800.
  • The cost of living in a tier 3 city, like Austin, Texas, can be as low as $1,100 to $2,200 per month.

Top 5 USA Universities - Average Tuition Fees in 2024

Choosing the right university is an important decision for international students aspiring to study in the USA. Here are the top USA universities along with their estimated tuition fees and living expenses.

Choosing the right university is an important decision for international students aspiring to study in the USA. Here are the top USA universities along with their estimated tuition fees and living expenses.

1. Stanford University

Stanford University, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is renowned for its strong emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly in fields like engineering, computer science, business, and economics. The estimated tuition charges lie somewhere around $80,000 for a graduate degree without financial aid. Along with this, the living expenses can range from $20,000 to $25,000 annually for international students.

2. Harvard University

Harvard University, situated in historic Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a global leader in research and education across a wide range of disciplines, including law, medicine, business, and the social sciences. The average estimated tuition is $60,000, for various graduate programs. Living expenses vary and lie between $24,000 to $26,000 for international students.

3. University of California, Berkeley

UC Berkeley, a public research university in Berkeley, California, is known for its commitment to public service and academic excellence. Particularly in areas like engineering, computer science, business, and environmental science. It offers a slightly more affordable tuition, with total expected graduate costs for the academic year ranging from $53,034 to $57,478, while living expenses can run up to $36,062.

4. University of Chicago

The University of Chicago, located in the vibrant city of Chicago, Illinois, is celebrated for its rigorous intellectual environment and emphasis on critical thinking. Its programs in business, economics, law, and social sciences are highly regarded. The estimated tuition is $67,446, with slightly lower living expenses compared to the other universities.

5. MIT

MIT, also located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a world-renowned science and technology institution, leading the way in cutting-edge research and innovation. It offers top-tier programs in engineering, computer science, physics, and mathematics. The estimated tuition fee is around $61,990, and living expenses are close to $20,000.

Disclaimer: Please note that these figures are subject to change and may not reflect the actual tuition fees for the 2024 academic year. For the latest information, contact the university/school directly.

Most Affordable Universities in the USA

The USA also offers several affordable university options for budget-conscious students. These universities provide excellent academic programs and provide attractive choices for international students.

  • The University at Buffalo (SUNY) offers various undergraduate and graduate programs. Their estimated annual cost of living is around $19,000 - $24,000.
  • Then comes the University of South Florida, where average expenses can be as close as $23,000. This university is recognised for its focus on research and innovation.
  • The next affordable destination is the University of Arizona, where you would have to spend around $24,000 for a comfortable schooling journey.
  • If you wish to move towards the southern part of the USA, then the most affordable option is Florida State University. -The basic expense range starts at $18,746 per year.
  • Moreover for students interested in agriculture and engineering programs, Mississippi State University is an affordable option. The base cost range is $15,000 - $20,000. You might also be able to try your hand at architecture.
  • For a more hands-on approach to learning and to experience strong connections with the local industry, the University of Massachusetts Lowell can be a great choice. You just have to pay somewhere around $18,000 - $23,000, and you can be a member of their diverse culture.

Tips for Managing Living Costs In The USA for International Students

Managing living costs in the USA is an important aspect of studying abroad for international students. By understanding the available resources and implementing smart budget strategies, you can make your academic journey enjoyable and affordable. Here are some valuable tips to help you manage your expenses effectively:

1. Part-Time Work

International students on F-1 visa are generally allowed to work part-time for a significant amount of hours per week during the academic year. During academic breaks, you’re able to work full-time. Typical wages for part-time jobs vary depending on the status and location but can range from $10 to $20 per hour.

There are two main options for you:

  • **On-Campus Employment: **This includes working for the university in roles like library assistants, research assistants, or cafeteria staff.

  • Off-Campus Employment: This involves working for external businesses, but you'll typically need special authorization (like Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training) after your first academic year.

Note: International students cannot work off-campus in the first academic year.

2. Financial Aid and Scholarships:

International students seeking to pursue their academic dreams can find financial assistance through various scholarships offered by prestigious institutions like Brown University, Columbia University, Duke University, Harvard University, Yale University, and many others, which consider factors such as merit, financial need, and exceptional talents.

3. Student Loans:

When scholarships and financial aid fall short, student loans can be a valuable resource for international students desiring higher education in the USA. While private loans from banks are an option, they often come with high-interest rates. Prodigy Finance offers an alternative solution specifically tailored for international students, providing competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms without requiring a cosigner.

4. Budgeting Tips:

Create a budget and stick to it if you want to manage your finances properly. Here’s what you can do:

  • Track your expenses and identify the areas where you can cut back.
  • Save on accommodation and consider sharing an apartment with other students to split rent and utility costs
  • Eating out can be expensive, so prioritise cooking your meals at home.
  • Utilise public transport or biking to save on transportation costs.
  • Many businesses present discounts to students, so be sure to ask and take advantage of them.


While studying in the USA can seem pricey, especially for international students from emerging economies, careful planning and smart budgeting can make it more affordable. By exploring the various options for financial aid, scholarships, and student loans, and adopting frugal habits, you can successfully manage your living costs and focus on your academic pursuits.


Which is more economical? On-campus or Off-campus accommodation?

On-campus accommodation is typically more expensive but includes utilities and sometimes meal plans. Off-campus housing can be cheaper, but you'll have to factor in additional costs like utilities and transportation. Consider your budget and preferences to pick the best option for you.

How much funds do I need to show in Financial proof to apply for a USA student visa?

The amount of funds required for financial proof varies depending on your chosen university and program. Generally, you'll need to demonstrate that you have enough funds to cover tuition expenses, living costs, and other associated costs for at least one year of study.

How to get a scholarship to manage the expenses of studying in the USA?

Start by researching scholarships offered by your chosen university or external organisations. Look for scholarships based on merit, financial need, or specific talents. Tailor your application materials to each scholarship and apply for as many as you qualify for.

Is there a way for international students to study for free in the USA?

While fully funded scholarships are rare, some universities offer full-ride scholarships that cover tuition, fees, and living expenses. Additionally, some online universities like the University of the People offer tuition-free programs with only assessment fees. Research thoroughly and explore all available options to find the most affordable path for your education.

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