The first words a baby should utter should be “College
Fees”! Parents need to start early rather than later to plan for the
actual cost of a college education. The “real cost” consists of tuition
costs, fees, books, supplies, room/board, services, transportation, meal
costs, a trip home and recreation expenses. You must add on at least three
percent per year to costs for inflation and tuition fees are often closer to
a five percent increase per year.
For a US citizen who qualifies for Federal and State
Financial Aid and can live with a relative, the financial planning is
completely different, so this article then is mainly for the international
US education is the most expensive in the world with the
UK fast catching up. Perhaps the first question for an international student
should be, “Do I need to go to the USA?” Consider Australia, Canada, New
Zealand, the UK, Singapore and International colleges attached to
universities in your own country. There is also Websters University in
Thailand which offers an American degree for half the cost of one in the
USA. Even if your parents can afford to send you to the USA you should try
to get the best deal for them. The absolute fundamental issue is whether you
can afford to go to the college you choose. If you cannot afford it you
Remember many colleges and the American Consulate require
proof in the form of certified financial statements that you can pay for the
entire period of study before they will admit you or grant you a student
If you are an international student and not a US citizen
but require financial aid to study in the US what can you do? Here are seven
points to help you.
1. Look for support from your government, sponsorship
from businesses that will employ you (cadetships) or religious
organizations. Missionary students get generous scholarships in some
2. Investigate “exchange programs”. There are two
plus two programs that give you an American Degree for a greatly reduced
price. They involve two years in Thailand and two years in the USA
effectively halving the price of an American degree. Rajiravudh University
(Bangkok) has a wonderful program with Milwaukee School of Creative Design
that gives graphic/communication design students two years in the States at
a $5000 a year reduction for an American degree. Other universities in
Thailand also have exchange programs at greatly reduced fees.
3. Look at community colleges! Community colleges now
teach the first two years of college at $7000 a year instead of $30,000. You
can transfer to third year college after two relatively cheap years of
4. Scholarships and Aid. US colleges are under pressure
to give aid to American students first. What aid in the form of scholarships
is available to international students is limited, rarely covers the whole
cost and is competitively sought after. Nonetheless if you are an
outstanding student, colleges do want you and will give you substantial
support. Remember, you are a valuable commodity, to use business terms, and
a consumer in the academic market place. This gives you an edge in
bargaining and bargaining is the name of the game. Find out what aid your
college of choice offers. Then ring up and negotiate! Talking to someone on
a first name basis works far more effectively than email. At my school we
have had international students (Burmese and Thai) receive full scholarships
covering all the fees for four years to Bucknell USA and Trent Canada. Most
good international students can put up a strong case for some fee reduction.
Brilliant sportspeople or musicians can also gain good scholarships.
Remember however, that if a college where the fees are $40,000 a year, gives
you a $15,000 a year scholarship you are still paying $25,000 per year which
is $10,000 a year more than it would cost you to go to Australia without a
scholarship! Don’t get carried away with winning a scholarship. You might
still be paying far more than you need to. Private foundations and
international organizations provide some scholarships but these require a
highly competitive application and much work to access.
5. The simple truth is more than 60 percent of foreign
students in the US pay for their college education themselves. 15 percent
receive assistance from their home government. The other 25 percent, get
some form of scholarship or assistance. See your College Counselor to set up
your scholarship search. There are many books and sites that can help you. I
use both Peterson’s and collegeboard material and have a number of
relevant books. There are many others but beware! Unless these books are
dated 2005-2006 they can have out of date information. There is a real
problem of information overload rather than lack of information in getting
money for college. There are also numerous websites but www.college
board.com is where you can do free scholarship searches, and get much sound
6. Often the contacts your College Counselor or your
school has made over the years can be of great help to you. Many schools
have a special relationship with American colleges. Checking which students
from your school have already attended the college and mentioning them
7. Loans and Work. Most Americans finance their education
via a loan. Your parents can negotiate a loan for you and service it till
you start working, then you can take the payments over. It is not the best
option but it will pay the bills. Colleges can help with advice here or you
can organize it privately with your bank. Many students have a job that
helps fund their degree. Good Colleges will reserve on-campus jobs for
What if the USA is too expensive?
If it is, then Australia is the ideal alternative for
Thai students with good universities , (much cheaper than the States,) and a
nine hour flight to Sydney or a six hour flight to Perth. Australia has a
wonderful service called IDP that organizes everything for you, including
visa and accommodation. IDP is financed by all the Australian universities
and there is an office in Chiangmai at Australia House. Try www.idp.com or
call 0 5381 0552-3. Australia allows you to earn $6,000 tax free under a
student visa and grants residency to students who stay for a few years. It
is a great deal which should not be ignored by Thai students. 66 percent of
Thais overseas are studying in Australia.
To summarize: To pay for an overseas education for
1. Expect to pay for an overseas college or university. Start saving!
2. Explore scholarships and aid both here and abroad and with private
3. Look at 2+2 schemes and exchange programs between Thailand and the US.
4. Look at community college options
5. Look at working part–time and loans.
6. Check out other countries, such as Australia.