Skip to main content

Earning a master’s or PhD at institutions like Stanford, Harvard or MIT can propel Australian and New Zealand students careers to new heights. Navigating the financial realities of postgraduate study in the US requires careful planning so we created this comprehensive guide that explores the various cost components,from tuition fees to everyday living expenses.

Tuition Fees for International Students

US tuition fees for international students can vary widely depending on the university, program and state residency in some cases. Here is a general breakdown:

Average Range: Expect tuition fees to range between $25,000 and $50,000 (around AU$40,000 – AU$80,000) per year for postgraduate programs at public universities, and even higher for private institutions.

Elite Universities: Prestigious universities like Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, and MIT can have significantly higher tuition fees. These institutions can charge upwards of $60,000 (around AU$96,000) per year for some postgraduate programs.

Specific costs at some top universities:

  • Stanford University: Master’s programs in Engineering typically range from $58,000 to $70,000 (around AU$93,000 – AU$112,000) per year, while a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Stanford Graduate School of Business can cost over $73,000 (around AU$117,000).
  • Harvard University: Expect tuition for master’s programs at Harvard to fall within the $52,000 to $65,000 (around AU$83,000 – AU$104,000) range, with some programs exceeding these figures.
  • Scholarships and Financial Aid Programs (Limited for International Students)

Unfortunately, unlike undergraduate programs, international students are generally ineligible for federal financial aid in the US. However, some resources can ease the financial burden:

  • University Scholarships: Many US universities offer merit-based scholarships specifically for international postgraduate students. Research the scholarship opportunities offered by your chosen universities.
  • Australian/New Zealand Government Support: Explore loan programs and scholarships offered by the Australian Government (Centrelink) or the New Zealand Government (Ministry of Education) that might support postgraduate studies overseas.
  • External Scholarships: Research scholarships offered by private foundations or organisations relevant to your field of study.
  • Spark Finance offers a tuition loan product tailored especially for postgraduate students. Please see more information about options for Australian and New Zealand students looking to study at Universities in the US in our FAQs or our website. You can also apply now

Cost of Living in the University Area

Living expenses  can vary greatly depending on the university’s location. Here is  a breakdown for some key areas:

  • High Cost of Living: Cities like New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles have a high cost of living. Expect to spend upwards of $2,500 (around AU$4,000) per month on accommodation, groceries, transportation, and utilities.
  • Moderate Cost of Living: University towns or cities in less populated areas might have a more moderate cost of living. Budget around $1,800 to $2,500 (around AU$2,900 – AU$4,000) per month in these locations.

Housing Options and Expenses

Accommodation is a significant expense. Here are some options to consider:

  • On-Campus Housing: Many universities offer on-campus housing for postgraduate students. While convenient, it can be more expensive than off-campus options. Costs typically range from $800 to $1,200 (around AU$1,300 – AU$1,900) per month.
  • Shared Apartments: Sharing an apartment with other students is a budget-friendly option. Rents can vary depending on location and apartment size, but expect to pay around $600 to $800 (around AU$960 – AU$1,300) per month for a room in a shared apartment.
  • Private Apartments: This offers more flexibility but can be more expensive. Rents can vary considerably, so thorough research is crucial.

Health Insurance and Medical Costs

Having health insurance is crucial in the US healthcare system. Here’s what to consider:

University Health Insurance Plans: Most universities offer student health insurance plans. These plans typically cover basic medical services but might have high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Expect to pay around AU$1,600 – AU$3,200 per year for a basic student health insurance plan.

  • Additional Health Insurance: Consider purchasing a supplemental health insurance plan to cover deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Prices can vary depending on the level of coverage, but expect to pay around $50 to $100 (around AU$80 – AU$160) per month for a supplemental plan.
  • Unexpected Medical Bills: The US healthcare system can be expensive. Budget extra for potential unexpected medical bills, even with insurance.

Textbooks and Study Materials

The cost of textbooks and study materials can vary significantly depending on your program. Here’s a ballpark figure:

  • Estimated Range: Budget around $1,000 to $2,000 (around AU$1,600 – AU$3,200) per year for textbooks and course materials.
  • Cost-Saving Tips: Utilise the university library extensively, explore used textbook options online or through student societies, and consider e-textbooks where available.

Transportation Expenses

Getting around can add up, so factor in transportation costs:

  • Public Transportation: Major cities in the US have extensive public transportation networks. Monthly passes can be cost-effective, with prices varying depending on the city and zones covered. Expect to pay around $80 to $120 (around AU$130 – AU$190) per month for a public transportation pass.
  • Car Ownership: Owning a car offers more flexibility but comes with additional expenses like car purchase or lease payments, gas, insurance, and parking. Costs can vary greatly depending on the vehicle and your driving habits.
  • Biking: A budget-friendly and healthy option, especially in college towns with good cycling infrastructure. Consider purchasing a used bicycle or utilising university bike rental programs.

Meal Plans and Dining Costs

Eating well is essential for academic success, so consider your dining options:

  • University Meal Plans: Some universities offer meal plans, which can be convenient but might not be the most flexible option. Prices can vary, but expect to pay around $500 to $700 (around AU$800 – AU$1,100) per month for a basic plan.
  • Self-Catering: This gives you the most control over your budget. Grocery shopping costs can vary depending on your dietary needs and cooking habits. Budget around $300 to $500 (around AU$480 – AU$800) per month for groceries.
  • Eating Out: Eating out regularly can significantly increase your expenses. Factor in occasional meals at restaurants or cafes, with an average entree costing around $15 to $25 (around AU$24 – AU$40) per person.
  • Remember: These are just estimates, and your actual costs will vary depending on your lifestyle choices, university location, and program requirements.

A Final Word: Budgeting and Planning for Success

Thorough research and careful budgeting are crucial for a financially sound postgraduate experience in the US. Explore scholarship opportunities, compare living expenses in different areas, and choose the accommodation and dining options that best suit your needs. With careful planning, you can make the most of your academic journey at a prestigious US university.