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Study Abroad

How to fund study at American universities

Studying in America isn't cheap. Luckily, there are many ways to get funding as a UK student in the USA. Allow us to explain.

american flag with woman holding money

Credit: STILLFX, Dean Drobot – Shutterstock

You may already know that studying at an American university can be pretty expensive. Many students would struggle to pay for one year's study, let alone four (the norm for undergrads in America).

Fortunately, there are loads of scholarships, grants and other types of funding available for UK students studying in America. Read on to find out what funding could be available to you.

How much does it cost to study in America?

Studying at a university in America isn't cheap. Depending on where you choose to study, the average cost of tuition alone sits between £3,500 – £35,000+ every year.

In the UK, you can get a Tuition Fee Loan to cover your fees. While it's possible to get a Student Loan in the US, you should only use this as a last resort.

UK Student Loans are funded by the government and are a comparatively safe option for students. While the system isn't perfect, the repayment terms won't cause significant concern to most students. This isn't the case in the USA, as we explain later. Luckily, there are other ways to get funding.

In America, your fees need to be paid in advance of each semester. You can pay for the whole year at once or semester by semester. Either way, it's a significant sum of money to pay each time.

As for living costs, the expected expenses are more equal across the different types of colleges. You'll likely be looking at something between £13,500 and £16,000 to cover the cost of accommodation, transport and all your other expenses each year.

This means that, depending on the type of university that you attend, your total annual expenses could be as 'little' as £17,000, or as much as £51,000+.

Of course, these are all average figures. Check out our guide to the cost of studying in America for a more detailed breakdown.

Financial support for UK students in America

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Despite the considerably higher cost (upfront, at least) of studying in the USA, the financial support is often less generous than in the UK.

What's more, UK Student Loans, which are provided by the Student Loans Company (SLC), are not available to British students studying their whole degree abroad. This means you'll have to look at alternative sources of funding for your degree.

Here are some options:

Financial aid and scholarships for UK students in America

You might look at the sky-high tuition fees of some US colleges and think, "Well, I can forget about going there". But before you shy away from the idea, remember that the listed cost of tuition in America is very rarely what you'll actually pay.

In fact, according to Education Data Initiative, 83.8% of full-time undergraduates at American universities received some kind of financial aid. Often, the colleges with the highest listed fees (which are usually the big names like Harvard and MIT) have the most generous support packages.

This financial aid can come in all shapes and sizes, including sports scholarships. If you excel in a sport (any sport), it's worth saying so when you apply for an American university.

But sporting scholarships aren't the only type of financial aid. Extra support is often available for academically gifted students, too. Crucially, these funds are usually open to international students as well as Americans.

And best of all, this financial aid will help to cover your living costs and tuition.

Some universities (again, often the elite) even run a 'needs-blind' policy for all applicants. This means that your application will only be assessed on your academic credentials. Should you get the required grades, the university will provide whatever financial assistance is necessary.

The financial support on offer will vary from uni to uni. If you're shortlisted for a few that you're interested in, you should check out their websites or get in touch with them to find out what you'd be eligible for.

Alternatively, check out one of the following sites for a whole host of scholarships, grants and fellowships on offer to international students in the USA:

American Student Loans

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If you're not eligible for any financial aid, you can still apply for a Student Loan in the US.

However, this should be treated as a last resort. As flawed as the UK's Student Finance system is, the American equivalent is arguably worse.

You'll need an American citizen (with a decent credit rating) to be a guarantor on your loan. And, unlike in the UK where all loans come courtesy of the Student Loans Company, you'll have to choose which provider to go with.

Interest rates and repayment schedules can (and will) vary depending on who you choose. That said, you'll struggle to find terms that are as generous as those attached to Student Loan repayments in the UK.

In the UK, debts are cancelled after around 30 years, and you'll only ever repay a percentage of your income over the threshold. This won't be the case for US Student Loans.

Part-time jobs

Finally, you can also look at finding a part-time job to help fund your studies in America. Again, this shouldn't be considered a primary option.

Your student visa will likely only allow you to work on campus (for a maximum of 20 hours a week). And remember, you may need to have an American bank account for them to pay you.

During holidays you should be able to work for up to 40 hours a week. But, it's highly unlikely that you'll find a campus job with a salary that can cover all your expenses – particularly given that you'll only be able to work a half-week most of the time.

Ready to make the jump and study in America? Make sure you read our guide to the differences between UK and US universities before you do.

Tom Allingham

WRITTEN BY Tom Allingham

Tom joined Save the Student in 2017, initially heading up the editorial team before becoming Communications Director. He has appeared as a Student Finance expert on a range of TV and radio stations including the BBC, ITV and Sky, sharing his top tips for saving money and cutting student bills.
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