The basics
THE USA: Student Finances

Student living costs in the USA

Our guide to living costs for students studying in the USA

2323

American is an incredibly big place with very different costs of living across different states. Each college has its own distinct personality, and so no two study abroad experiences are likely to be the same. However, whilst US tuition fees are generally considered quite high, the cost of living is thankfully considered quite low. This overview of likely living costs in the US will help you get an idea of what your study abroad adventure might cost.

 

Note: US$ 1 = £0.60 = €0.73

 

Accommodation

University life in America is very much centred on campus, particularly for undergraduates. Almost all universities, with the exception of smaller, privately owned or specialist colleges offer students on-campus accommodation they are able to apply to and secure before arriving. Rental agreements vary immensely depending on the university and which city it’s in, but universities considered more prestigious or located in or near expensive cities will generally charge more. Rent for on-campus accommodation almost always includes utilities, and sometimes subsidised meal plans too. For example, Cornell University charges students US$ 9,180 per academic year for a single room, inclusive of utilities; meanwhile Pennsylvania State University charges US$ 2,595 per semester for a shared room in a residence hall and US$ 3,060 for a two-bedroom, shared suite with a bathroom.

If you’d prefer to live away from the hubbub of campus life, your university can help you organise off-campus accommodation, or point you in the right direction to secure a room in a shared house or flat. However, particularly for undergraduates, American college life is a key and unique part of American culture, and you should think very seriously about passing up the opportunity to experience it.  

Prices of off-campus housing and privately rented properties vary specifically depending on the state you’re in, the type of property and how close to the city you are. For example, you might pay US$1,800 per month for a studio apartment in New York that would cost about $1,040 in the city centre of Colorado. Students looking to rent privately should consult state-specific rental property sites, or ask their university to point them in the right direction.  

 

Living Costs

If you aren’t living on campus, it’s almost impossible to predict how much you’ll be likely to pay in rent.  Fortunately, other living costs in the US are more consistent across the nation.

  • Internet (if not included in rent), monthly...US$50
  • T-mobile, unlimited talk, text, web, 500MB of super fast data, monthly...US$ 50
  • Utilities (if living off campus or not included in rent), average, monthly...US$ 162

 

 

Transport

Each state in America has its own public transport system with a separate set of fees and services, so taking an average might not be a good indication of what you might pay. Many college campuses are also located far away from city centres, so you’d be unlikely to use public transport day-to-day anyway. Still, this small comparison of fees across a few cities should give you a rough indication of transport costs in the USA. 

  • Local subway or bus ride, single fare, New York ... US$ 2.50
  • Unlimited Ride MetroCard, 1 month, New York, student discount...US$112
  • Unlimited Ride MetroCard, 1 month, New York, student discount...US$ 56
  • Local bus, rail or streetcar ride, Utah...US$ 2.50
  • Student 30-Day Pass...US$ 62.75
  • Single fare purchased in advance, weekday, metro, zone 1...US$ 4.75
  • Student City Pass, per semester, Philadelphia...US$ 327.60

 

Food

There are astronomical degrees of choice when it comes to buying food in the USA. And the good news is that it’s all generally quite cheap. A number of supermarket chains operate nationally, like Wal-Mart and Target, that make the task of feeding yourself extremely easy.

  • Milk, 2.3L (.5 gallons)... US$ 2
  • Loaf of white sandwich bread, 624g (22 oz.)... US$ 1.30
  • Chicken breast fillet, 680g (24 oz.)...US$ 9.49
  • Spaghetti, 454g (16 oz.)...US$ 1.48
  • Coca-cola, 2L...US$ 1.90
  • White rice, 907g (32oz.) ...US$ 1.49
  • Eggs, 12pk...US$ 4
  • Olive oil, 482ml (17 oz.) ...US$ 8
  • Big Mac ... US$ 4.20

 

Misc. Costs

Most student social life in American is centred on campus, so you’ll be likely to find that most of your nights out will be at your local fraternity or sorority house instead of downtown at a bar (remember, you have to be 21 years of age before you can drink or buy alcohol). Still, should you feel like venturing off campus, you won’t find yourself far out of pocket.

  • Pint in a bar or restaurant...US$ 3.25
  • Cappuccino in a cafe...US$ 3.50
  • Bottle of water, 300ml...US$ 1.30
  • Eating out, mid-range restaurant, three courses...US$ 25
  • Bottle of wine in a restaurant, mid-range...US$25
  • Movie ticket, without student discount...US $ 8.40

Now that you have a rough idea of how much things cost in America, why not start browsing courses in the USA now?

 

Useful Links

How to pay for university in the USA

Find a scholarship in the USA

Watch our Google Hangout about living in America, including costs of living, how to travel around and more courtesy of a professional homestay company

Search for a course

USA
Study level*
About Author

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.

Free

'Study in the USA' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the USA into one handy digital book.