Financial Aid

Written by Overseas Education Consultant and Study Abroad Career Counsellor in Mumbai, Karan Gupta


There are two kinds of universities in the US – public and private. Public universities are state funded and hence do not offer financial aid to international students. However, their cost of tuition is not very high and average state school tuition costs are around $15,000 per year. Private universities, on the other hand, are privately funded and hence can offer need based financial aid to international students. However, the cost of tuition at private schools is higher than that of state schools and average private school tuition costs are around $30,000 per year. Keep in mind that financial aid is need based, extremely limited and international students will need to file a Foreign Student Financial Aid Application (FSFAA) in order to qualify for funding. Most of the Ivy League schools and liberal art schools in the US offer financial aid to international students. Most financial aid offered is for undergraduate students and very few graduate schools in the US offer financial aid to international graduate students. Universities in other countries generally do not offer financial aid.

Some universities state that the financial aid process is ‘need-blind’, which means that the financial aid process is independent of the admission process. However, check the financial aid policy with your university before applying. For instance Stanford University’s website states, “Stanford is committed to need-blind admission for U.S. citizens and permanent residents of the U.S.” What this means is that if you, being an international student, apply for financial aid to Stanford, your application will be at a significant disadvantage and you may not get admission because of your financial aid application.

Scholarships and Graduate Assistantships

Scholarships are offered to both undergraduate and graduate international students. Private as well as state universities can offer scholarships to international students. Scholarships are direct tuition discounts and most scholarship awards require that students maintain a ‘good’ academic performance at the school. (usually a ‘B +’ average). Scholarships are awarded strictly on merit and financial need does not play any role in awarding of a scholarship. Schools award scholarships ranging from $500 per year to the entire tuition cost. For instance, the University of Texas at Dallas, a third tier university, awards scholarship awards to international undergraduate students that can cover the entire tuition, living expenses and airfare.

“At Clarkson, we do not offer need-based financial assistance to international students. In reviewing international students for admission, we will review all completed applications without considering need.  If we are to the point where a student will be academically admissible, we then have to request the student's financial documentation before we issue the official letter of acceptance and the I-20 form.  We will consider admitted students for partial merit scholarships.  These scholarships are based solely on the merit of a student's application” says Patti Bailey, Director of Transfer and International Admission at Clarkson University.

Graduate Assistantships, as the name applies, are offered to graduate students and are classified as teaching assistantships (TA) and research assistantships (RA). If you receive a TA you would be required to teach for 20 hours per week and carry out the responsibilities of an assistant teacher. If you receive an RA, you would be required to research for a professor or an academic department. Graduate assistantships pay entire tuition and you also receive a monthly stipend and hence your cost of education is nil. Naturally such awards are extremely competitive and very few students are awarded graduate assistantships.


There are primarily two kinds of loans available to fund your education abroad. Indian banks offer the first loan and the maximum amount you can borrow is Rs.20 lacs (some banks have a ceiling of Rs.15 lacs). The interest rates are approximately 11% and the repayment period is 3-7 years after the completion of the degree or when you get a job (whichever comes first). You will need to mortgage a security to the tune of about 150% of the loan amount with the bank. Some banks also offer a loan of upto Rs.7.5 lacs with the same interest rates and repayment period as the Rs.20 lac loan. The bank will check your family income and assets before granting this loan but will not need a collateral security.

US institutions offer the second type of loan and you can borrow up to the entire cost of your education and living expenses (provided that the cost of education is less than $45,000). The Teri loan is an example of a loan offered by US institutions to international students. The interest rates are between 7-8% per annum and the repayment period is within 20 years of taking the loan. No security is needed but you will need a co-signer or a guarantor to avail of this loan. The co-signer must be a US citizen or a permanent resident of the US, with a good credit history, having lived in the US for at least 2 years. Applying for this loan is very simple and can be done on or

Before you decide on your universities, carefully evaluate your options and then decide which universities to apply to. Applying to the ‘right’ schools will ensure that you get some form of funding for your education overseas. Remember, you can almost always find a school that is willing to let you take a free ride.


Karan Gupta is the leading international education and career consultant in Mumbai, India. Since 1999, he has given career counselling and has helped thousands of students with study abroad and get admission and visas to universities and colleges in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore and EU and also helps them get scholarships, loans and financial aid. In addition to aptitude tests and career counselling, his firm also provides training and coaching for the GMAT, GRE, SAT, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE exams. Karan Gupta is the best study abroad career counsellor, consultant and career guidance expert in Mumbai.


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