As an international student from China, I know that for any average family, higher education in the U.S. is expensive, and even more so when you are studying in Manhattan. If you are as blessed as I am to have the opportunity to study at a prestigious college such as NYU, then congrats. But, the blessing comes with a price, and it’s a very high one.
Before I came to the U.S. with my parents’ financial support and nothing more, I was convinced that there were no financial resources for international students pursuing a master’s degree in the arts compared to the sciences in the U.S. There is some truth in my conviction. Compared to students who are U.S. citizens, it is much more difficult – if not impossible – for international students to receive state or federal grants or financial aid. For many U.S. colleges and universities, the surge in overseas student recruitment is largely attributed to the fact that the average international student would pay a larger share of out-of-pocket tuition than the average American student.¹ In fact, as international students are taking up more and more seats on campus, they are also making a growing portion of revenue for the universities. With increasing enrollment of Chinese students who are frequently backed by family funding, American universities are benefiting not just in terms of academic diversity, but financially as well.
Yet, my conviction is only half right. Not long after I first met my roommate at our expensive on-campus dorm, I found out that she was here on a Fulbright scholarship which covered her tuition and insurance fee. I was upset because I had never even heard of the Fulbright Program before and had lost an opportunity to fund my education in ways other than family support. Yet on the other hand, I’ve come to realize that we, international students, need not be too pessimistic as there are still some sources of funding resources. We just need to explore them more diligently.
Schools and programs usually provide their own financial support international student financial aid, although options of this kind are limited. So alternatively, you can turn to your home country or certain international organizations for financial aid. Organizations and companies from your home country may have programs that provide partial or full scholarships to students studying abroad; but bear in mind – there may be some stipulations involved. For example, you may have to return home to your country once you have graduated.² In terms of international organizations, other than the Fulbright Commission, the United Nations, Soros Foundation, and World Health Organization among others, also grant aid to international students.
So research and apply for financial aid and scholarships from your school, your home country, and international organizations. If after exhausting those avenues, there is still a funding gap that cannot be filled by family funding, student loans can be your last resort. Two main loan resources provide funding for international students: International Student Loan and Study Abroad Loans. Carefully evaluate how much money you or your family can provide towards your education, since every dollar you can pay directly is one less dollar you have to borrow.³ Also, bear in mind that international student loans are credit-based, which means you will need a credit-worthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) as a co-signer.
Last but not the least, there are various grants and payments from on-campus employment that can relieve your financial burden while you are studying. While not enough to finance your university education, these sources can work as a perfect supplement to other funds. In my personal case, for example, the NYU Wasserman Center Internship Grant and the on-campus job as a teaching assistant certainly helped to ease my financial stress. In addition, you can certainly apply for the Residential Assistant (RA) positions. Other than on-campus housing expenses and other compensations, such as meal plans, Residential Assistants are allowed the opportunity to become friends with other student residents from all over the world. Woohoo!
¹ Kia Farhang and Roy Aker, “University courts Chinese students, reaps benefits: U.S. universities are benefiting from record-high Chinese enrollment.,” Minnesota Daily (October 16, 2013)
² IEFA, “Private Student Loans for International Students,” http://www.iefa.org/resources/loans (accessed July 16, 2014)