US vs. UK College Costs
How Do College Costs Stack Up Across the Pond?
Cost a very important factor to consider for most students applying to college, especially for those interested in schools in both the US and the UK. In order to adequately budget for a college degree, applicants need to not only account for tuition costs, but also related expenses such as application fees, tuition, the cost of living in certain cities, and more. US colleges can be pricey, however, it’s not a guarantee that attending university in UK will be less expensive in the long run.
So how do US prices compare to fees in the UK, a popular destination choice for US students who wish to study internationally? Similarly to the US, international students studying in the UK will not have access to the same funding options and tuition prices as domestic applicants, which makes proper cost considerations even more essential. Keep reading for a side-by-side comparison of college related costs in the US and the UK to ensure you find the best-fit universities for you.
When it comes to application prices, the UK system is a far less costly option. Students apply through the UCAS, the universal college application in the UK, and pay £13 (~$17) to apply to one school and £24 (~$32), to send an application to multiple schools. In the US, colleges charge individual application fees, which vary depending on the school. According to data collected by US News and World Report, in 2017 the average application cost per school was $43. However, students applying to colleges in the US can request application fee waivers if they qualify financially, and some smaller colleges might waive applications fees for certain applicants.
Depending on the institution, tuition can vary dramatically between the US and the UK. In the UK, the government sets a maximum tuition cost for domestic students, which universities cannot exceed. In 2017, the cap increased from £9,000 (~$11,946) to £9,250 (~$12,288). However, according to data from the World University Rankings published in the Times Higher Education, international students studying abroad in the UK can expect to pay £12,000 (~$15,938) in tuition, well above the capped rate.
In the US, there is no tuition cap, and instead, prices are tiered. In-state tuition at a public university is least costly (at an average of $9,970 annually according to the College Board), followed by out-of-state tuition at a public university ($25,620), with private institutions deemed the most expensive ($34,740), before scholarships and aid are considered.
While sticker prices at US universities can be much higher than UK institutions, it’s important to remember that students don’t necessarily pay that price. Many colleges take into consideration students’ ability to pay, and can offer institutional scholarships to international applicants, dramatically decreasing the family’s expected contribution. College Navigator is a great tool to research the average cost of US universities, and all US universities have a college cost calculator on their website to help both US and international families better estimate what they might have to pay.
Cost of Living
Cost of living is one of the most important factors to consider when creating a monthly spending budget. The prices for everyday items such as food, toiletries, and transportation vary greatly depending where you reside, so don’t expect prices on a college campus to mirror those of your hometown. Generally, living in a large city can be more expensive, whether it’s in America or the UK. According to the 2018 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey published in The Economist, New York and Los Angeles are the 13th and 14th most expensive cities in the world, respectively. In contrast, the UK’s most expensive city to live in is London, which is ranked 30th. While those rankings can make it look like the US is much more expensive, it’s important to remember that there are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the US, with many in smaller cities and communities with a significantly lower cost of living. When evaluating the cost of living, including rent, utilities, groceries, and more, a cost of living calculator can help put these figures into a better perspective. While major US cities might be more expensive than comparable UK cities, smaller US cities can be similar or even lower in cost of living.
Salaries for Recent Graduates
ROI is one of the biggest considerations for college-bound families, and US universities can offer some of the great ROI when it comes to securing jobs after college. At US universities students have the opportunity to pursue advanced courses, network with professors and alumni, and gain hands-on experience through internships and part-time work. Post graduation, the average starting salaries differ significantly in the US versus the UK. According to Bridgewater Resources, the average annual wage for recent graduates in the UK is 21,000 (~$27,520) while the average for American college graduates is $50,390, based on research from Korn Ferry. Students can also research starting salaries and ROI for specific schools using PayScale.
When it comes to applying to college, cost is just one of many factors to consider. Students should strive to build a balanced list of schools that are good fits socially, academically, and financially. The US and the UK have some of the best universities in the world, so it’s important to do thorough research to make sure you’re applying to the schools that are the best fit for you!
Want to learn more about the US admissions process? Check out our Video Library for tips on essays, applications, and advice for international students applying to US universities!