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A US Education: Still Worth It for International Students?

Sep 28, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

In the past, a US education was considered some of the best education available—by many countries in the world. Parents in many other countries would work hard to get their students coveted scholarships to study in the states. However, the educational landscape is changing—and tuition at US schools is rising exponentially. Is a US education still worth it for the high price international students pay? Here’s a look at the factors that should go into deciding.


In many countries, education is funded or partially funded by the government—meaning that costs are much lower for students. In the US, this is not the case. A US education can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 per year—both at traditional schools and accredited online colleges. While American students rarely pay the sticker price because of the availability of federal grants and loans, international students aren’t eligible for federal aid—and very frequently must pay tuition prices much higher than the typical American student.

Some countries offer scholarships to promising students who want to study abroad. And some American universities offer private scholarships and aid to international students. To earn this type of aid, you often have to be an extremely high-caliber student—and the application process can be highly competitive. However, if your family is not wealthy, winning a scholarship like this may be your only option to avoid high debt levels.

International Students

Consider carefully whether a US education is worth it in your case—and look into scholarships available through your government and the school you may attend.



Let’s face it—brand recognition in the school you attended can open a lot of doors. But not all American schools will be worth it in terms of brand recognition when you consider the price. Schools like Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Juilliard, MIT, and Carnegie-Mellon will likely provide graduates with a leg up anywhere in the world—as might non-US schools with great reputations, such as Oxford or Cambridge. However, if it isn’t an absolute top-tier school with global recognition, the name of the college alone isn’t likely to provide advantages that are worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

See Also: Online Degree Programs

Quality of education

In many countries, the education is funded by the government. Yes, that does keep costs down. However, it can also keep quality down. It means colleges have less discretionary money to attract top-tier researchers and develop their programs. So in some countries, while the education might be affordable, it may not be the best education you can find.

Quality of education in America is credited with being some of the best in the world—even at schools that are not absolutely top-tier. However, not all schools are created equally. When judging the real quality of education you might get at a school, do some independent research to determine how many people from that college are successful in their field now—colleges themselves often fudge these numbers and put students in contact only with successful alumni who will serve as brand ambassadors, so the more alumni you can talk to without college recommendations, the better.

Your future plans

Perhaps the most telling question you should ask yourself is, where do you want to work? If your dream is to work and live in the US—and you have a reasonably assured path to citizenship—then earning a US degree may be essential, depending on what field you’re planning to go into. Some fields, like law or medical school, require a US degree in most cases. However, if you’re planning to return to your home country, a US education may not be necessary.

Studying in the US as an international student isn’t always easy. At some colleges, it might be easy to gain acceptance—because you’ll be paying full freight. But that doesn’t mean your degree will be exactly what you need—and that debt can haunt you for the rest of your life. Consider carefully whether a US education is worth it in your case—and look into scholarships available through your government and the school you may attend.



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