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Off to University…Empty nest..Empty Wallet? College cost and financing options.

Off to University:
Empty Nest …Empty Wallet?!

– College Costs and Financing Options

Whether you say
goodbye at the
airport, train station
or accompany
your child all
the way to the hallowed gates of
their university, a child going off
to college is a tearful affair. Years
of studying, hard work, discipline,
hope and savings, sometimes as
much as USD$65,000 during the  first year alone, can disappear in
a swirl of congratulations and excitement.
Eventually the children
will come back home whether it
is for work, holiday or a family occasion,
but the money? It will be
followed by more until as much as
US$240,000 has been spent on
obtaining a post-secondary education
for a single child.

Of course the total cost of an
undergraduate education varies
signif icantly depending on the
country and the type of school.
Average tuition (school fees only,
not including other costs such as
room and board, books, etc.) for
a four-year course of study for an
international student in the United
Kingdom ranges from US$6,500 to
US$35,5001. The same course of
study will cost between US$5,600
to US$17,7002 in Canada, US$5,600
to US$17,7003 in Australia and US$21,000 to US$45,0004 in the United States.
Domestic students generally enjoy a significant cant discount on tuition versus
international students, but parents should be aware of the fact that many
countries are changing their qualification cation standards for national students and
granting domestic status only to those students who have been actually living
in country for the 2 to 3 years immediately prior to college matriculation5.

Given the expense, parents should dedicate time to understanding what
the costs and the financial aid possibilities are at each of the colleges their
child is considering for application. College costs and the financial aid packages
students receive can vary significantly from college to college and from year
to year. Additionally, it is important to look not only at the  first year financial
picture, but also at the full 4-year financial requirement, especially if other
children will be going to or leaving college over the same period as this can
have a meaningful effect on the amount your family is expected to pay (“”EFC””
Expected Family Contribution in the USA).

The primary component of college cost is tuition. This figure can be found
easily enough on college websites. It is worth noting, however, whether tuition
is based on academic terms (a fixed fee per semester) or credit hours (fees
per courses / credits taken). If tuition is based on credit hours, you may see
additional fees run into the thousands of dollars if your student takes more
than the prescribed number of credits per term. Room and board refers to
costs associated with accommodation and meals. Housing costs are dependent
on the living situation chosen by the student and options vary from campus
dormitories, apartments and co-ops. Hint to parents: Generally speaking,
having your child live with a roommate is a wonderful experience and is less
expensive than living alone. Food costs vary according to the dining plans offered.
Most universities require that 1st year students buy a meal plan (usually
a fixed rate for 5-day or 7-day a week access to campus cafeterias and dining
halls) to ensure that students have the opportunity to eat healthily. Books and
supplies, computer & software, transportation and personal expenses are also to be considered. While tuition makes up a significant fixed portion of total
college costs, personal and transportation costs can increase dramatically if
parents do not set guidelines for spending (this is especially true for international
students who may want to return to their home country frequently due to
homesickness or attempt to match their new friends’ spending levels in order
to achieve popularity). I’ve seen students spend significant portions of their
available funds on entertainment and dining, leaving their far-away parents
confused and concerned about what appears to be uncontrollable costs.

Because the prices for colleges vary widely, families need to invest the necessary
time to understand the “total” cost of attending college and consider
their financial options carefully. In general, there are three sources of outside
(non-family) funds for post-secondary study: scholarships and grants (free
money) and loans. While the vast majority of funds are allotted for students
hailing from the county itself, a great many colleges have separate funds available
for international students. Families should make themselves aware of any
deadlines for paperwork and know that most colleges require families to submit
an International Student Certification of Finances. In addition, families seeking
financial aid must complete an International Student Financial Aid Application.
Both of these documents should be submitted at the time your student
submits his or her application. Finally,
you should also know that there are
a few need-blind colleges in the USA
(even among the elite universities such
as Harvard), which are committed to
making it financially possible for any
accepted student to attend, regardless
of financial ability.

Home country colleges and universities
usually offer the most in terms of scholarships, grants and loans. While
most international students fully pay their own fees without assistance, there
are limited financial options for students at overseas colleges. Students should
always look to the government of their passport issuing country as many offer
scholarships to promising students or those pursuing studies in especially
needed fields. Families and their children should also explore scholarships and
financial aid offered by government, business associations, private companies
and their targeted universities in the desired country. Australia, Canada, the
United Kingdom and the United States offer a breadth of possibilities to
students who are well prepared and apply early. Many sources of financial
aid, however, have early deadlines and students should plan to submit their
financial aid applications at the same time that they submit their college applications,
if not earlier. Students with financial need, especially strong grades
and an excellent command of the English language should consider applying
to the honors programs at their desired college as these programs sometimes
offer academic scholarships to exceptional students. Be forewarned, however,
that many financial awards have strict grade requirements and students whose
grades fall below the minimum limit may lose their funding. Some countries allow
foreign students to work on, or even off campus, under certain circumstances.
Work, however, should not be relied upon for significant funding as hours are
limited and schoolwork is demanding. Students should check with the International
Student Affairs office before taking any type of job as some countries
may consider it a violation of the provisions of the student’s “education” visa.

A final word of caution; be sure to carefully review all financial information
and documents before submitting anything. It is critical that you retain hard
and soft copies of all materials submitted for your own records, as documents
can be lost. Please know that any mistake on these applications is very likely
to result in paperwork being sent
back and awards being reduced or
denied. So do your research, be
precise and be early.

Finally, try not to let financing
concerns drive the college matriculation
decision too much. Choosing
a college is one of the most important
decisions that your child will
make, and with thorough research
and careful planning, you should be
able to find an excellent fit college
that also fits your wallet.

Families seeking further information
on available scholarships or
financial assistance can refer to the
following websites:

Australia: http://www.australia.edu/admissions/Financial-Aid
Canada: http://www.canadian-universities.net/Campus/International-Students.html
UK: http://www.scholarship-search.org.uk

http://www.iefa.org/international-
student-loans

http://www.edupass.org/finaid

Sources:

1- educationuk.org

2- studycanada.ca

3- studyinaustralia.gov.au

4- nced.ed.gov

5- guardian.co.uk

6- Sources 1-4 combined.

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