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Affordable Cities in the USA for International Students

ACAlpina ChariOct 20, 2023

Affordable Cities in the USA for International Students

The United States of America is one of the most popular destinations for international students looking for academic excellence in a multicultural and vibrant environment. 948,519 international students were studying in the United States in the 2021/22 academic year. The main reasons why international students choose to study in the USA are the high quality of education, the diversity of programs and institutions, the quality of life, and the employment opportunities.  However, studying in the USA can also be very expensive, especially for international students who have to pay higher tuition fees and living expenses than domestic students. The best student cities in the USA, such as New York and Los Angeles, have a very high cost of living, which can make it difficult for many students to afford their education and enjoy their stay. Fortunately, many affordable cities in the USA offer great quality education without breaking the bank. These cities have lower tuition fees, lower living expenses, and higher affordability than the megacities. They also have other advantages, such as cultural diversity, friendly environment, and attractive attractions. 

In this article, we will compare some of the most affordable cities in the USA for international students, along with their top universities, average tuition fees, and average living expenses. 

Most Affordable Cities for International Students in the USA 

San Diego 

San Diego is one of the most affordable cities in the USA for students who want to pursue high-quality education without breaking the bank. San Diego has a lower cost of living than other US cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego is 1,885 USD. The city also offers various options for public transportation, such as buses, trolleys, and trains, which can help students save money on commuting. San Diego also has many free or low-cost attractions and activities for students, such as the beaches, the parks, the museums, and the festivals. The city also has a diverse and delicious cuisine, which can cater to different tastes and budgets. San Diego is affordable and provides students with a high-quality education. The city is home to some of the top universities in the world, such as the University of California, San Diego, San Diego State University, and the University of San Diego. 

San Diego is a city that balances affordability and quality education for students who want to have an unforgettable experience in the USA. It also has a pleasant climate, a friendly atmosphere, and a rich culture that make it an ideal place to live and learn. San Diego also has many housing and employment options for students who want to stay in the city after graduation. The city has a strong economy that is driven by sectors such as biotechnology, tourism, defense, and manufacturing. The city also has a low unemployment rate of 6.2%8, which is lower than the national average of 6.8%. 

Top Universities  University of California, San Diego, San Diego State University, and the University of San Diego. 
Average Tuition Fees  19,637 USD
Average Monthly Rent  1,885 USD
Transportation Pass  72 USD

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St Louis 

St. Louis is another affordable city for international students in the USA. It is located in Missouri and has a rich history, culture, and entertainment scene, as well as professional sports teams in baseball and hockey. St. Louis is home to some of the best academic institutions in the country, such as Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, University of Missouri – St Louis, and Maryville University of Saint Louis. These universities offer a wide range of programs and majors for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as scholarships, financial aid, and support services for international students. St. Louis has many student-friendly amenities, such as housing, transportation, dining, and recreation. Students can find various student accommodations in St. Louis, from dormitories and apartments to lofts and houses. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in St. Louis is 856 USD, which is much lower than the national average. Students can also use public transit, such as buses and light rail, to get around the city cheaply. St. Louis has many restaurants, cafes, bars, and grocery stores that cater to different tastes and budgets. Students can also enjoy the city’s attractions, such as the Gateway Arch, the St. Louis Zoo, the Science Center, the Art Museum, and the Botanical Garden. St. Louis has a low cost of living compared to other major cities in the United States. St. Louis’ cost of living is 12.6% below the national average. This means that students can save money on expenses such as housing, utilities, food, health care, and entertainment. St. Louis also has a low sales tax rate of 4.225%, which is lower than the national average of 7.12%. 

Top Universities  Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, University of Missouri – St Louis. 
Average Tuition Fees  27,777 USD
Average Monthly Rent  856 USD
Transportation Pass  78 USD 

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Philadelphia 

Philadelphia is one of the best places for international students who want to study in the US and enjoy a low-cost and high-quality lifestyle. It has consistently ranked as one of the cheapest student cities in the US, with lower tuition fees and living costs than many other popular destinations. Philadelphia also has a rich cultural and historical heritage, with many landmarks and attractions to explore. According to a report by QS Best Student Cities, Philadelphia ranks 8th in the US in terms of affordability for students. The average tuition fee for international students in Philadelphia is 38,900 USD per year, which is lower than many other US cities. The cost of living in Philadelphia is also reasonable, depending on the lifestyle and preferences of the student.  Another benefit of studying in Philadelphia is the availability of student amenities and services. Many universities in Philadelphia provide on-campus or off-campus housing options for students, with furnished apartments and private rooms for rent. Students can also access health services, counseling services, academic support, career services, and recreational facilities at their campuses or nearby locations. Philadelphia also has a convenient transportation system, with subway, bus, and train routes that connect the city and its surroundings. Students can easily travel to other places of interest, such as New York, Washington DC, or Boston.

Top Universities  University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Drexel University, Thomas Jefferson University. 
Average Tuition Fees  38,900 USD
Average Monthly Rent  1,600 USD 
Transportation Pass 96 USD

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Dallas 

Dallas is a vibrant and diverse city in Texas that attracts many international students every year. Dallas is also a relatively affordable city compared to other major metropolitan areas in the US. The average cost of living in Dallas for students is around 1,782 USD per month, which includes rent, tuition, transportation, food, and other expenses. The average tuition fee at a public university in Texas is around 26,800 USD per year for out-of-state students. Private universities can be more expensive, but they also offer scholarships and financial aid for eligible students. Some of the top universities in Dallas are Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas Baptist University, and the University of Dallas. Dallas also provides many student amenities and services to support the academic and personal development of students. For example, UT Dallas offers counseling, health, wellness, diversity, accessibility, and career services for students. Dallas College offers free resources and services for students, such as tutoring, library, advising, and financial aid. Dallas also has a low cost of living compared to other major cities in the US, with an average rent of around 900 USD per month for a one-bedroom apartment. International students can find cheap housing options near the campus or in the suburbs, where they can enjoy the green spaces and parks. Furthermore, Dallas has a convenient public transportation system that includes buses, light rail, and commuter trains that connect the city with other nearby areas. Students can also use car-sharing and fueling services offered by the university or the city. In addition to these services, Dallas also has a rich cultural and social life for students to explore. The city has museums, parks, lakes, music venues, sports teams, restaurants, and shopping centers that cater to different tastes and interests. Dallas is also known for its BBQ, Mexican, and Tex-Mex cuisine that students can savor. 

Top Universities  Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas Baptist University. 
Average Tuition Fees  24,900 USD
Average Monthly Rent  900 USD
Transportation Pass  96 USD

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Houston 

Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States and the largest in Texas. It is home to more than 2.3 million people, including over 100,000 international students who attend various colleges and universities in the area. For international scholars seeking a world-class education, Houston is home to prestigious institutions like Rice University, and the University of Houston, a Tier One research university. Not only do these institutions offer high-quality education, but they also provide opportunities for scholarships and financial aid, further enhancing the affordability of studying in Houston. It is also one of the most affordable cities in the US for international students, with a lower cost of living than many other major cities. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Houston is 1,106 USD per month. There are many options for finding affordable housing in Houston, such as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, public housing, low-income tax credit apartments, rooming houses, and nonprofit or private programs. Houston stands out as an exceptionally affordable city for international students, offering a plethora of cost-effective advantages that make it an appealing destination for higher education. The city boasts a remarkable affordability index, with the cost of living estimated to be 11% below the national average, according to data from the Council for Community and Economic Research. This favorable financial landscape is further reinforced by the fact that Houston has no state income tax, allowing students to retain more of their earnings. The city also has an excellent public transportation system, which reduces commuting costs, and a thriving job market that can provide part-time work opportunities to further support student finances.

Top Universities  Rice University, University of Houston
Average Tuition Fees  23,100 USD
Average Monthly Rent (Single Bedroom) 1106 USD 
Transportation Costs  60 USD

Atlanta 

Atlanta is one of the most affordable destinations for international students in the USA. According to the QS Best Student Cities 2023 ranking, Atlanta is ranked 57th in the world and offers a high quality of life, a rich culture and history, and numerous internship opportunities with well-known companies like CNN, Mercedes-Benz, Coca-Cola, etc. Atlanta is also home to some of the top universities in the US, such as Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, Georgia State University, and Morehouse School of Medicine. These universities offer a wide range of academic programs and scholarships for international students. One of the main advantages of studying in Atlanta is its affordability. Compared to other major US cities, Atlanta has lower tuition fees and living costs. The average tuition fee for international students in Atlanta is 27,100 USD per year. The cost of living in Atlanta ranges from 1,200 USD to 2,200 USD per month, depending on the type and location of housing. There are many cheap housing options in Atlanta for international students, such as apartments, dormitories, homestays, and shared rooms. Atlanta also offers many student attractions and activities that can make studying more fun and enjoyable. Students can visit museums, art galleries, historic sites, parks, and gardens that showcase Atlanta’s culture and heritage.

Top Universities  Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, Georgia State University, and Morehouse School of Medicine
Average Tuition Fees  27,100 USD
Average Monthly Rent  900 USD 
Transportation Costs  117 USD

Tips for International Students to Save Money in the USA

Apply to universities smartly. Some colleges and universities in the USA do not require an application fee, which can save you some money when applying to multiple schools. Also, some schools offer in-state tuition rates or scholarships to international students, which can significantly reduce your tuition costs. 

Work at school. If you have an F1 visa, you can work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and 40 hours per week during breaks. This can help you earn some extra money and gain valuable work experience. 

Budget and cut down on unnecessary expenses. It’s important to plan ahead and track your spending habits. You can use apps or tools to help you create a budget and stick to it. Try to avoid impulse purchases and non-essential expenses, such as eating out, buying new clothes, or subscribing to multiple streaming services. 

Live off campus. Living on campus can be convenient, but it can also be costly. You might be able to find cheaper housing options off-campus, such as renting a room, sharing an apartment, or staying with a host family. However, you should also consider the transportation costs and safety factors when choosing where to live. 

Leverage student discounts. As a student, you can enjoy many perks and discounts at various places, such as movie theaters, museums, restaurants, shops, and even airlines. Make sure to have your student ID with you at all times and ask for student discounts whenever possible. 

Opt for used textbooks. Textbooks can be very expensive in the USA, especially if you buy them new. You can save money by buying used books from fellow students, online platforms, or local bookstores. You can also rent books or use digital versions if available. 

Consider meal plans. If you live on campus, you might be able to sign up for a meal plan that suits your needs and preferences. This can help you save money on food and avoid wasting time and energy on cooking. If you live off campus, you can still cook your own meals and pack your lunch instead of eating out.  

Conclusion 

In conclusion, there are many benefits of choosing affordable cities in the USA for international students. These cities offer high-quality education at world-class universities at relatively cheap tuition rates. Moreover, these cities have lower costs of living compared to other popular destinations, which can help students save money on tuition, housing, food, and transportation. Additionally, these cities have student-friendly amenities, such as cultural attractions, recreational facilities, and public services, that can enhance the student experience and well-being. Additionally, many universities in these cities offer financial aid for international students, such as scholarships, grants, or loans, that can reduce the financial burden and increase the accessibility of higher education. Also, there are many cheap universities in the USA for international students that provide quality education at a more affordable price. Therefore, affordable cities in the USA are ideal for international students who want to study in the USA without breaking the bank. For more information, reach out to us at OneApply. Book your free video call appointment now! 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most affordable cities for international students in the USA are San Diego, St Louis, Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta. These cities have a low cost of living and offer various attractions and opportunities for students.

Some of the benefits of studying in an affordable city in the USA are having less financial stress and more flexibility; being able to explore the culture and history of the city; enjoying a diverse and friendly environment; having access to various recreational and educational activities; and having more opportunities for networking and career development.

International students can save money while studying in the USA by applying for scholarships, grants, and financial aid; choosing a cheaper accommodation option such as sharing a room or living off-campus; using public transportation or biking instead of driving; cooking at home or eating at cheap restaurants; taking advantage of student discounts and free events; and budgeting wisely.  

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