US Scholarships & Tuition
Tuition and fees can be both confusing and misleading. The information provided on university websites is often complex, so students must read the fine print carefully. For example, “tuition” refers to courses only. It does not include other additional fees that are often charged to a student. nor does it include living expenses.
In order for you to calculate tuition, you must first understand the meaning of five concepts:
- Credit hour
- Semester vs. Quarter
- Full-time vs. Part-time
- In-state vs. Out-of-state
- Additional Fees
What is a credit hour?
Credit hour is the unit by which an institution measures its course work. Most courses are 3 credit hours. For a more detailed explanation of credit hours, please refer to a good article on this subject by Purdue University.
Semester vs. Quarter:
This refers to the duration or length of time that a class meets in order to complete the requirements of a given course. Some universities are based on the semester system (14-17 weeks) while others are based on the quarter system (11 – 12 weeks). Purdue University, for example, uses a 16 week semester, while Rochester Institute of Technology uses an 11 week quarter system.
Example: If you took a class in Statistics at a 16 week semester university then that class will meet for 3 credit hours (50 minutes each hour) for 16 weeks for a total of 48 credit hours. The hours that you take each week for a class are referred to as semester hours (in this case 3 hours.) So you would have taken 3 semester hours for Statistics. A graduate course work consists of 10-14 courses or 30 to 42 semester credit hours while undergraduate consists of 128 semester hours or roughly 42-43 courses over a 4 year timeframe. Similar logic is applicable to the quarter system.
Many universities calculate tuition by units or credit hours. For example, a university may charge $400 per unit or credit hour for graduate students. One course is usually 3 units/credit hours and hence the tuition or cost for one course is $400 X 3 credits equaling $1200. If a graduate student takes 9 semester hours per semester, the tuition fee will be 3 X $1200 or $3600.
Many universities will charge flat rate tuition – for example, the college might charge $3600 per semester for full-time tuition. However, full-time at that school might be considered anywhere from 12-18 credit hours. In such a case, a student enrolling for 18 units is paying $200/unit, but a student enrolling for only 12 units is actually paying $300/unit. When comparing costs, it is important to look at the tuition separately from the other costs of attending a particular institution and to be sure you understand exactly how the tuition fees are calculated.
Full-time vs. Part-time:
A student can attend university full-time or part-time. Most international students on an F-1 visa are mandated by the US Immigration authorities to attend full-time. A full-time undergraduate student must take a minimum of 15 semester credit hours (5 courses) while a full-time international graduate student must take a minimum of 9 semester credit hours (or 3 courses.)
In-State vs. Out-of-State:
Out-of-state tuition is what a student is expected to pay to attend college/university when they are not a resident of that state. Since all international students by definition are not residents of the U.S., they automatically fall into this category.
Out-of-State tuition is as a rule of thumb, 2.5 to 3 times the in-state tuition.
Other expenses to be considered:
Room and board (food) – each school will offer its own particular variety of lodging and meal plans. If you have the option of living off-campus, you’ll need to make a realistic budget for yourself to figure the cost of this expense.
Mandatory and major-specific fees – these are fees charged in addition to the tuition. They may be used to fund student activities, building projects, student health insurance, technology, transportation, and other assorted quality of education/life considerations within the institution.
Non-mandatory fees – these additional fees may include parking, late fees, additional activities, and so on.
Books, academic materials – Textbooks are a significant expense that will need to be factored into the cost of attending your college/ university of choice. Books may range in cost from $25 to $250+ for just one text. In 2009/10, the average annual expense for books and supplies at a 4-year college was $1122.00. It is worth asking about used textbooks at the college bookstore, and checking online as well.
Personal expenses – these will include such things as laundry, phone, clothing, and entertainment. Students need to budget this carefully as these expenses can add up quickly. In 2009/10, the average annual expense for students at 4-year schools who lived on campus was just under $2000.00.