Prices for Higher Education in the USA: Is It Really So Expensive?


Many foreign students want to study in the USA. It remains one of the most popular destinations for international students but also one of the most expensive ones. The cost of getting higher education in the USA is rather high, many people are interested in how to save money in college, but it’s worth looking at various options and funding opportunities. 

Thousands of students have to rely on student loans to fund their education. What are the real prices of attending a college in the USA, and who can afford it?

Understanding the Cost of Education in the USA

The cost of college or university is more than just tuition in the USA. It comprises various expenses. If you are an international student willing to study here, you may not understand what fees can be added to your college bill. It can be really challenging to understand the fees and tuition at American colleges and universities. 

These fees can differ by college and certain degree programs. How much does college cost in the USA? What do tuition fees include? Which kinds of fees can impact my college bill? Keep on reading to find out the answers.

There is a major variation in this country’s average cost of studying. Each college or university may offer different fees. The top-rated American universities can have fees, tuition, and living expenses that will add up to about $60,000 a year. This sum is really high for the majority of students, so they either have to seek cheaper alternatives or count on student loans and get deep into debt.

Those who can’t afford to pay such an enormous sum may look for more reasonable universities and colleges in the public sector. Public colleges have two tuition fee rates: one for non-state residents and another one for state residents. International students who come from other countries fall into the first category and have to pay higher fees. 

Private colleges and universities are smaller compared to public ones. More international students go to private colleges as the tuition cost is equal for both state residents and other students.

How Much It Costs to Study in the USA

According to the National Center for Education Statistics data, average tuition and fees for first-time undergraduate students were higher in the academic year 2020-21 than in the academic year 2010-11 at public, private nonprofit, and private for-profit 4-year institutions. 


The average tuition and fees were $9,400 at public, nonprofit 4-year institutions in 2020-21. The median tuition and fees were $37,600 at private nonprofit 4-year institutions in the same year.

As you can see, getting a degree is really expensive in this country. Not every person can afford to study in the USA, so the vast majority of students have to take out huge student loans to afford their education. 

The annual cost can typically be between $32,000 and $60,000. Tuition prices vary by location, type of college or university, degree program, etc. The largest factor in what a student needs to pay to study here is tuition.

The price of a computer science degree can be higher in one university than the other. Why does it happen that tuition costs are so different? Take into account the location and the program of each college or university. The events, lecturers, faculty, facilities, and program content may be absolutely different.

What Types of Fees Can Be Added to Your College Bill?

The degree program of each college or university differs, so the fees can also vary. For instance, an English major won’t have laboratory fees on the college bill, while a major in engineering will. While expenses and costs may be absolutely different across majors and colleges, you will find some mandatory fees at almost every American college or university:

  • Campus fees. It is a common fee term, including campus maintenance and access to particular programs. The name of these fees may differ among universities.
  • Orientation fees. These charges come for the student’s orientation program. You should cover them during your registration if you are a first-time student in the country.
  • Housing fees. These charges apply to on-campus options, such as residence halls and dormitories, as well as off-campus options. Subsidized apartments also fall into this category. Once you review the housing charges, make sure to check if this sum includes additional services and utilities or not.
  • Dining fees. The dining fees can differ depending on the meal plan a student selects. Off-campus dining fees, on-campus options, and add-on options exist for those who prefer to tailor their meal plan.
  • Technology fees. These charges are included for services such as student portals, online registrations, computer labs, Wi-Fi, faculty research, and computer security.
  • Health insurance fees. If you are an international student, you can’t avoid paying the fees for health insurance. Such fees are obligatory for every international student. Students are offered different kinds of health insurance plans depending on their health care needs. You may lower the cost of these charges by choosing a basic plan or getting the full coverage which will be much more expensive. Anyway, these fees will also be added up to your college bill.

What Universities Are the Cheapest?

Public colleges and universities are typically cheaper compared to private ones. You should choose a public college if you want to opt for lower tuition and cheaper fees. The cheapest option for undergraduate students would be to go to a public community college. 

It offers them a chance to get an associate’s degree without paying billions of dollars. You may even select a community college with a transfer program. This program will allow a student to transfer to a four-year university after getting a degree in this college.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, getting higher education in the USA isn’t cheap. Many international students dream of studying here, so they should prepare in advance and understand what costs and fees will be included in their tuition. 

Having all the relevant information will help students avoid misunderstanding and know how much they might need to take out in the form of student loans.