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Universities for Expats in the United States Of America

Submitted: September 2013

“University” in the United States refers to a collection of specialized colleges and “College” refers to an institution that offers various degrees in a specific field. In the United States these two terms are used interchangeably, but both mean an institution that offers tertiary education. 

University/college education in the United States of America is attainable but comes at a high price. There are a number of costs to consider when considering to send a child to pursue higher education. Costs such as; administrative fees, tuition, books, and room and board if your child desires living on campus.

Sending your child to a university/college in the United States is a process that should begin with thorough research. You and your child should research the available choices to determine the right school for him or her. Your research should also consider accreditation and ranking. The United States university accreditation system is monitored and verified by non-governmental bodies that ensure that acceptable quality standards are met. If a school is not properly accredited the degree attained may not be recognized.  See the following link to search for higher education institutions (by state) and their accreditation status. https://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.aspx

Groups that produce college rankings consider a number of factors in their process. Consulting a ranking list as part of your research broadens the number of factors to consider when choosing a school for your child. Factors such as; cost, graduation rates, and acceptance rates.  See the attached link for college rankings and data. https://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/data

Financial planning is key focal point when considering a child’s pursuit of higher education. The average cost of an academic year is US$22,261.00 and covers a number of aspects of your child’s academic school life. Tuition fees cover the cost of teaching and may vary by a student’s chosen course of study. Sciences, Engineering and Computing often cost more and this should be considered when choosing an institution. General fees or administrative fees cover costs such as ID cards, library access, facility usage, laboratory supplies and various student activities to name a few. Most institutions present tuition and administrative fees as one cost and the average cost of tuition and fees combined is US$29,056.00 per academic year.

Other costs to consider are accommodation, meals, books, supplies, and miscellaneous expenses. Housing refers to on- campus room and board. Residing at home will save on average $9,205.00 per academic year. Tuition cost is exclusive of books and school supplies which may include items such as class materials and regular items such as stationery, folders and notebooks. On average, books and supplies will cost $1,200.00 per year. Miscellaneous expenses will vary by person as these costs include items such as clothing, personal items and transportation. It was reported that an average of $2,527.00 was spent per academic year for such items. 

The cost of tertiary education may be daunting, and financial assistance is available if necessary. This assistance may come in the form of scholarships, grants or financial aid. Financial aid comes in a form of a loan to be repaid after a student has attained his/her relevant degree.  The current Obama administration recently signed into law a new measure to tie student loans interest to the current market cost of borrowing which has been hailed as a measure which would drastically lower the cost of financing higher educationl. Scholarships and grants are awarded to students with stellar academic performance or athletic ability. Scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid. See the link to see information regarding federal student aid.   https://www.fafsa.ed.gov/

The admissions process will require effort and your child will have to prepare an application that underscores his/her strongest features. Each institution has its own criteria for admissions. You should consider these criteria when preparing applications, by visiting the institutions’ website.  Some common criteria include SAT or ACT scores, grade point average, extracurricular activities and an admissions essay.

SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and ACT (American College Testing) are standardized tests that assesses an individual’s competency to determine their readiness for tertiary education. The SAT is made up of three components; Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. ACT is made up of four; English, Mathematics, Reading and Science Reasoning. Note that not all tertiary institutions require the SAT for admissions. If your child has not done the SAT or the ACT, and needs to do so, there are a number of places that offer tutoring for the preparation of these exams. See the following link for one establishment that offers this type of tutoring. https://www.studypoint.com/sat-tutoring/

As an expat and by extension, a foreigner to the US, it is likely that your child would find the US university experience very interesting. The fraternities and campus camaraderie are two particularly unique selling points about the US tertiary education system. Further, the degrees often afford students the option to take a wide variety of course initially so as to enable them to get a feel for what pleases them.



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