The basics
THE USA: Student Finances

Tuition fees in the USA

Our tuition fee guide for international students in the USA


The US university system, while revered across the globe, is incredibly unique, and can be difficult to get your head around. Not to mention the fact that American tuition fees are notoriously high.


There is no government standard for fees in the US, and so they are uniquely set by an institution. Fees are also subject to change based on departments within a university, demand, specific subject costs and expected salary levels once students have graduated. 


There are a number of different tertiary institutions in America: public sector, two-year institutes called community, technical or city colleges, public ‘state’ universities and private universities. Whilst tuition fees vary based on a multitude of different factors, this is the main distinction students can draw between cost brackets. Private universities are typically the most expensive, followed by state universities and then community colleges.


The fees below are a guide; we always recommend checking with the institution or department for the exact fee for the course you’re interested in.


Note: US $1= £0.72 = €0.81 as of March 2018.



Unlike many educational models in the UK and Europe, disciplines such as Law and Medicine are not offered at undergraduate level in America. Students instead complete a general degree in a study area, for example a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science, and then a major in the relevant area.


Costs of undergraduate degrees in America vary wildly between institutions, and can be quite high for international students. On average however, international student tuition at undergraduate level is calculated to be between US $16,320 - US $34,656 per year.


If you’re looking to study at a private institution, your estimated tuition fee per year would be from US $15,000 - US $30,000. At some universities, the figure might even soar above US $40,000 per year. Top-ranked university Harvard charged students US $38,891 for the 2013-2014 academic years.


Public institutions are likely to charge between US $10,000 - US $20,000 per year, whilst average tuition costs at a community college are calculated at around US $2,527 per year.


At a community college you will receive an associate’s degree instead of a bachelor’s, but you can use this qualification as the first half of a bachelor’s and then transfer to another university for another two or three years. Many universities have ‘need-blind’ application options, meaning that students are considered based solely on their academic ability as opposed to their financial means. Details should be pursued on specific university websites.


Learn more about associate’s degrees and transferring



Again, estimated tuition costs vary immensely based on a number of different factors. Professional programmes such as the MBA, JD or MD will however typically be more expensive than a master’s or a PhD programme.


The average cost for a master’s degree at a public university was calculated to be US $28,375 per year, and US $38,665 per year at a private university. The expected range of tuition fees for an entire master’s programme ranges roughly between US $23,520 - US $79,317.


A PhD programme was shown to cost an average of US $32,966 at a public institution, and US $46,029 at a private one.


If you come across a course on our site that you are interested in, you should be able to get a rough idea of how much it will cost you. You can also follow our links to get in touch with the institution directly to answer any questions you might have.


Once more, we always recommend you confirm the fees for a specific course with the institution or department themselves. This information is available on our site or you can contact the institution themselves through us.


Useful Links

Find a scholarship in the USA

Student living costs in the USA

Study in the USA


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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.