Education, they say, is the key to success in life. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most expensive pursuits in life. In the United States, for example, the average student pays $33,215 per year for an undergraduate course, which translates into a whopping $132,860 for a four-year undergraduate degree. As a result, many students end up either dropping out of school, deferring their studies, or going into the job market to earn money to pay for their education.
Currently, the United States has the highest number of international students at an estimated one million. That means about 5 percent of all students in the US are from abroad, with the number on a steady rise every year. In a quest for quality education and greener pastures, many Africans have moved to the US and are thus a substantial component of the one million international students.
Not all these students are having it easy, though. The financial burden is quite straining for a number of them.
Nevertheless, it does not have to be that way. There are multiple ways to overcome the financial constraints. You must diligently examine the available options and come to a decision that suits your unique needs.
Below are some options available.
Despite not having enough funds to finance your education in the US as an international student, you can always apply for scholarships and grants. These funds run into billions a year and are availed by the Federal Government, State Governments, nonprofits, government agencies, and educational institutions. While grants are mainly disbursed based on the needs of every student applicant, scholarships primarily target students with high GPA. Some scholarships are, however, awarded based on a student’s excellence in sports and arts, among other talents.
To submit your application for either a scholarship or a grant, avoid companies that demand for some fee as a prerequisite for applications. You can make use of the College Board’s Scholarship Search system, which is free and comprehensive. Other platforms that offer extensive information about scholarships and grants include CollegeNet.com, Scholarships.com, Federal Student Aid, and Fastweb.com.
Truth be told, most universities and colleges in the US are very expensive. However, with a good search, you can get colleges that are surprisingly affordable. As you take this step, always give priority to government institutions because they are more reliable. Of course, there are myriads of other private colleges and universities that are also trustworthy. Even as you consider affordability, be sure to confirm the academic institution you choose is accredited. Some of the US universities that are affordable and open for international students include University of Georgia (Est. $30,392), Binghamton University (Est. $26,328), University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (Est. $28,910), Florida State University (Est. $21,683), and Asbury University (Est. $28,631).
University of Texas promises full scholarships to in-state students with family incomes under $65K by 2020.
If you do not have the financial aptitude to take care of your cost of education in the US, you may choose to take advantage of the many loan facilities available for international students. Most loaning institutions welcome both new and continuing students to apply. If you are lucky enough, you can secure a loan that pays off your entire tuition fee for the course. Either way, you are likely to get enough funds to finance your education if you do your search right.
Friendly loan terms are crucial if you are to have the peace of mind during and after your studies. Some loans have very stringent terms and may jeopardize your learning experience. Therefore, you have to exercise precaution and only go for what would work best for you based on your current financial state and forecast.
Federal Government loans are among the friendliest. They do not attract high interest rates and have amiable repayment terms as well. Repayment starts six months after your graduation. You would also be required to start making payments when you drop out of school or go below half-time enrollment. While direct subsidized loans demand proof of financial need, the direct unsubsidized loans are accessible to anyone regardless of their financial status.
Whichever direction you take, ensure you fill the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out about the loans available for you. For Federal Student Loans, the deadline is usually June 30th every year, while state loans usually have varying deadlines.
On matters student loans, exercise due diligence.
In case your documents allow you to work, this could be a very good way to cut down on the financial pressure that come with studying in the US. Still, you must be conscious of the fact that some jobs are so demanding that you would be forced to extend your learning period. Before you consider taking a job, therefore, ascertain its nature and the implications it would have on your studies.
If you are fortunate enough, you could land a job with a company that pays for your education besides giving you a little stipend at the end of every month. Some academic institutions also offer jobs that carry with them numerous benefits for employees who would like to further their studies. Such an institution may offer to fully pay for your school fees on specific terms. Make sure the terms are agreeable to you.
Serving as a correctional officer is another very beneficial position. On top of a handsome monthly package, the position offers flexible working hours, giving you ample time to balance work and study without major hiccups. You would also benefit from an extensive medical cover and 401k.
Balancing between work and study
Granted, studying and working may at times be very difficult, especially if your job is very demanding. This, coupled with the need to attend classes at the campus, might simply not be practical, especially if you are not working close to the school. In such a case, you may consider taking an online course. This option would save you the time you would typically spend commuting to the campus from your workplace.
Even as you work to lower your financial burden, do not let work to completely eat into your study time to the extent that you cannot continue with your education smoothly.
For a student travelling to the US either as a graduate or a continuing student, consider discussing with the US academic institution whether you qualify for credit transfers. In most cases, a transfer would help you get many exemptions that would end up cutting down on your tuition fees significantly. If you wish to transfer credits from a non-US university, have your papers examined by the World Education Services or Educational Credential Evaluators. Remember that even if you receive a credit transfer, the credits would not form part of your grade point average in the US university.
If you have an academic advisor, seek his or her advice on which courses would give you credit in the US institution. In case your former university has an existing relationship with your preferred US academic institution, you may get credit transfers without much ado.
At the end of the day, the research you put in and the reliability of the information sources you rely on to make your decisions will determine how much of the financial burden related to studying in the US will be removed. At every stage, keep on visiting the information and application platforms just to be sure that no changes have been effected that would invalidate your application.