Cost of Living in USA for International Students


Gargi Tomar
Updated on Feb 21, 2022 5:36 PM IST

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Student Living Cost in the USA

One of the most important concerns for a student seeking education abroad is about how much they might have to spend every month on living expenses. In the US, the average monthly cost of living for international students is around USD 1,000 to 3,000 excluding the tuition fee of the course. However, the cost of living can differ from student to student depending upon their lifestyle, location, type of accommodation and so on.

A major factor in determining the average cost of living in the US is the location of the university. If the university is in the middle of a well-established city like New York or Columbia, then the cost of living for students would be higher. On the contrary, for students studying at universities located in suburban areas like Ohio or Indiana, the cost of living is considerably low. The tuition fee of the courses is usually uniform in all the American universities but they are particularly high in comparison with other countries. Overall, international tuition fees may range anywhere between USD 8,000 to 55,000 a year.

In general, the cost of living for an international student in the US would be higher in its Northeast or Eastern part than in the Midwestern part. One year living expense in America can, all in all, be calculated depending upon factors such as hostel rent or off-campus accommodation, meals, healthcare, groceries and eating out expense, entertainment and travelling cost.

Take Help from Our Experts to Find Out Your Overall Expenses to Study in the US!

Student Education Cost in the USA

The educational cost of pursuing a degree in the USA depends upon the discipline the student plans to study. If the course of the student belongs to the STEM category, then the overall cost of the programme will be higher than other programmes. The other factor that causes variations in the tuition fee is the type of university. There are two kinds of universities in the US - Public and Private.

Public Universities are well-funded by the state government, thus the tuition fee for the courses offered under these universities are comparatively less. On the other hand, private Universities are not funded by the state government; they depend on the students’ tuition fees and other private organisations for funds.

Here is an estimated annual tuition fee of different kinds of universities for international students for undergraduate study programmes:  

University Cost in USD (Annual)
Community College $6,000-$20,000
Public University $26,290
Private Non-Profit College $35,830

The cost of a Masters degree can vary according to the duration of the programme - it can be either one year or two years long. The average annual cost of a Master's level course in the USA is as follows: 

University Cost in USD (Annual)
Public University $25,000
Private University $41,000

The fee for professional courses is usually higher as they lead to better employment opportunities in the USA. For example, the average cost of an MBA in the US is USD 70,000 per year.

Students need to check and plan their expenses before applying to US universities. There are also various study loans available in the market at low-interest rates for study abroad students.

Also Read: Everything You Wanted to Know About Ivy League Universities

Monthly Cost of Living in Different Parts of the US

Here is an estimated cost of living for a month in different parts of the US with well-established universities and community colleges: 



Cost in USD (Monthly) - Excluding Rent

Dallas (Texas)


Houston (Texas)


North Central


Cost in USD (Monthly) - Excluding Rent







Cost in USD (Monthly) - Excluding Rent

New Orleans 




West Coast


Cost in USD (Monthly) - Excluding Rent

Los Angeles


San Francisco


San Diego


East Coast


Cost in USD (Monthly) - Excluding Rent









Washington D.C.


 New York City (NYC)


Learn How You Should Budget for Your Degree in the US!

Accommodation Cost in the USA

Accommodation cost depends mostly on the preferences of students as to where they want to stay. International students have three accommodation options:

  • To live on campus 
  • To live off-campus 
  • To live outside the campus area 

Average costs for accommodation for international students are as follows: 

Type of Accommodation 

Cost in USD

On-Campus Residence

Public four-year colleges - $9,800 per year

Private four-year colleges - $11,100 per year

Dorms Off-Campus 

$450 (room shared by 4) per month

One Bedroom Apartment in a Rural Area

$500 per month
One Bedroom Apartment in a Built-up City $3,500 per month

Cost of Food in the USA

Cost of food in the USA for international students can vary due to the lifestyle and eating habits of an individual. A student living on-campus can take the option of meals while filling the accommodation forms. The cost of food for a hostel student would be approximately USD 250, which includes three times meal at the hostel mess. 

Students living off-campus, either in dorms or in the outskirts of campus, have to take care of their food expenses and groceries on their own. The cost of groceries could range from USD 100 to 200 depending upon the state. Some leading affordable grocery shopping stores are  Walmart, Target, Costco and Trader Joe’s. They also provide monthly offers and discounts to students. 

Food Average Cost
Basic Lunch $15
Combo Meal $8
Boneless Chicken Breast (500 g) $4.23
Whole Fat Milk (1l) $0.88
Eggs (1 dozen) $2.92
Tomatoes (1 kg) $4.16
Local Cheese (500 g) $6
Apples (1 kg) $3.46
Bread (for 2 people) $2.22

Transportation Cost in the USA

Students can use passes for taking public transport like buses and metros. A monthly public transportation pass can cost USD 40 - 100 depending upon the state. For example, in Nashville, the student travel pass for public transportation is for 44; in Cincinnati, the public transportation pass can cost USD 53. 

International students can also book their tickets beforehand for travelling back home or for coming back to the US. Planning trips and booking tickets in advance can save students a lot of money.

Given how well-connected US states are, travelling within the country is extremely easy and efficient. International students may make use of a variety of public transportation options including buses, bicycles, taxies and trains and subways.

Type of Transportation Average Cost (USD)
1 Litre Gas $0.935
Monthly Public Transport Ticket $73
Taxi $2.50 per mile
Volkswagen golf 1.4 tsi 150 cv (or equivalent), with no extras, new $23,605

Other Expenses

Apart from the above-listed expenses, an international student usually spends money on books and stationery. On average, a study abroad student may spend USD 400 to 1,000 in buying stationery, books and other supplies.    

Medical insurances are compulsory for international students before they start their education at the US university. Nowadays, various insurances are available for students at reasonable rates. Insurances not only help students at the time of health emergency but saves them a lot of money.

Electricity bills, mobile phones bills and internet bills are some other expenses that international students have to deal with. These can be covered easily by taking up part-time jobs at some fast-food chain or a grocery store. Mostly, all international students prefer taking up some part-time jobs along with studies to ease the burden of expenses.

Item Average Cost
Jeans (1 pair) $47
Sport Shoes (1 pair) $88
Antibiotics (12 doses) $16
Tampons (1 box) $7
Shampoo (400 ml) $4.97
Cold medicine (for 6 days) $7
Toothpaste (1) $1.82
Toilet Paper (4 rolls) $1.82
1 min. of prepaid mobile tariff $0.22
Gym membership (1 month) $49
Movie Tickets (2) $205
Wi-Fi (128 GB) $427

US States with the Lowest Cost of Living

Here are the top 10 most affordable states iin the US, according to the U.S. News & World Report, 2021:

State Median Household Income Ground Beef Milk Eggs
Mississippi $45,792 $3.77 $1.89 $1.14
Kansas $62,087 $4.11 $1.82 $1.22
Oklahoma $54,449 $3.99 $2.02 $1.18
Alabama $51,734 $4.30 $2.07 $1.35
Arkansas $48,952 $3.93 $1.75 $1.21
Georgia $61,980 $4.52 $2.02 $1.40
Tennesse $56,071 $4.24 $1.95 $1.22
Missouri $57,409 $3.97 $2.16 $1.22
Michigan $59,584 $4.43 $1.57  $1.12
Indiana $57,603 $4.26 $1.57 $1.13

US States with the Highest Cost of Living

Given below are the top 10 US states with the highest cost of living, according to CNBC:

State Average Home Price Half Gallon of Milk Monthly Energy Bill
Hawaii $1,386,483 $4.31 $470.38
New York $2,227,806 $3.11 $157.70
California $1,362,163 $2.83 $267.84
Oregon $623,494 $2.12 $143.85
Massachusetts $744,522 $2.27 $233.86
Alaska $581,906 $2.64 $273.38
Maryland $854,529 $2.49 $193.98
Connecticut $615,372 $2.65 $261.22
Rhode Island $430,197 $2.52 $240.57
New Jersey $615,738 $2.43 $186.37

Identify a Program that Meets Your Affordability and Academic Goals!

FAQs on Cost of Living in USA for International Students in 2023

How much does travel and transportation cost an international student in the USA?

On average, travel and transportation costs in the USA for an international student may range from USD 120 - USD 20,000 depending on the mode of transportation. For instance, a monthly bus/transport pass in the US may cost around USD 75 whereas travelling in a private car may cost no less than USD 19,000.

What much do healthcare and dental cost an international student in the USA?

Every international student in the US should make sure to get comprehensive health insurance especially because health and dental costs can be extremely high in the country. A regular check-up with a doctor can cost you around USD 155 on average and dental costs may range from USD 150 to USD 3,000 depending on the procedure.

How expensive is housing and accommodation in the USA for an international student?

In the US, off-campus residential facilities may cost an international student anywhere between USD 9,800 and USD 11,000 per year, whereas off-campus dorms (shared by four) may cost USD 450 per month. Additionally, a one-bedroom apartment in a built-up city in the US will cost around USD 3,500 per month.

How much does it cost per month to live and study in the US?

Although the cost of living in the US (excluding rent) per month may differ from one US city to another, the average monthly cost is USD 1,100. For an international student living on-campus, the monthly expenses in the US may range from USD 800 to USD 1,000.

How can an international student manage their expenses while living in the USA?

An international student manage their expenses while living in the USA firstly by learning how to manage various household chores and errands. Many international students in the US work part-time jobs to help fund their education. Learning how to prepare basic food items will help you feel more at home when it comes to Indian food.

Which is the cheapest among the US, UK and Canada for higher studies?

Among the countries where college tuition is the cheapest, Canada is the most expensive. Students there can get by with a total of $12,000 in annual fees. In the UK, the average annual tuition fee for international students is about $20,000. In the US, it's about $60,000. Aside from being the most affordable option, Canada also offers the most number of top universities. The US is also the top country for international students.

Which are the cheapest universities in the US for Indian students?

According to the U.S. News & World Report, US universities including the Western Michigan University, Arkansas State University, Auburn University at Montgomery (AL), Valdosta State University (GA), University of North Alabama, Purdue University—Northwest (IN), University of Minnesota Morris, Southeast Missouri State University, Murray State University (KY) are some of the most affordable or cheapest universities in the US for Indian and other international students.

How is the life of an Indian student in the US?

The US is a popular study destination for many Indian students. Various factors such as facilities and the environment have made living in the US easier for Indian students. Despite the advantages of studying in the US, it is still important that students feel more at home since it is a foreign land. Hence, life in the US is based on planning for accommodation and finding the cities offering the lowest cost of living for Indian students.

Which US state is the best for Indian students to live?

Pittsburgh is one of the best 10 places for Indian students to live and study. San Diego is home to over 60,000 international students annually. It is also affordable. While Boston has plenty of universities, Baltimore offers the best student choice. Dallas and Miami are the most popular places for Indian students. Both cities have plenty of job opportunities. If an aspiring automobile designer wants to study in Atlanta, then they can check out Chicago, Philadelphia, and Houston.

Is USA safe for Indian students?

Being a diverse country, the US offers immense safety and security to international students. Also, Indian students feel safe and at home. Although international students do not have to worry about their safety in the US, they can contact a special body to know about their campus security.

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