The finance formula: How to manage finances while studying abroad

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Karan Gupta, international education consultant, shares tips on how students can manage their finances while studying abroad

Studying abroad is an exciting, yet expensive affair . Most countries, other than the United States, allow international students to work off campus while studying. In the US, international students are permitted to work on campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week. While other countries, too, have a similar limitation on the number of hours, international students are permitted to find jobs off campus as well. For instance, in Canada, you can apply for a permit that allows you to work off campus for 20 hours per week during the academic session and 40 hours per week during vacations. The rules are not very different for students who wish to study in the UK and Australia.

By working on or off campus, you can expect to earn sufficient funds for your personal expenses and sometimes even living expenses. But very rarely will you be able to fund your entire education from this income. The work students typically do on campus includes working in the library, laboratory, dining halls, admissions offices, etc. Off-campus employment usually involves working in restaurants and at petrol pumps. The average minimum wage in the US is $8.25 per hour. Thus, working for 20 hours at the minimum wage can fetch you about $660 a month.


Students unable to work on or off campus can always apply for funding from the university itself. Most universities in the US and some in Canada and Australia offer students graduate assistant ships (GAs). A GA is an award which pays for your entire tuition fee as well as a monthly stipend which helps you take care of your living expenses. Students who get such assistant ships can work as teaching assistants (TAs) or research assistants (RAs). Typically, the job profile of a GA is to assist professors in grading papers, teach small classes and help with research. Assistant ships are extremely competitive and are granted to students with excellent grades and, at times, to those with work experience. Students can earn a stipend of up to US$1,200 per month.


If you do not land up with a GA or an on- or off-campus job, you can still apply to the university for merit- or needbased funding. Many universities offer scholarships to students with excellent grades. Such scholarships are evidently not only competitive but also based on need. Thus, if you can demonstrate that you actually require the funds, you may have a better chance at receiving them directly from the university. Such scholarships generally cover 10-75 % of the tuition fee.


Finally, if you have no other choice, you can apply for education loans in India. Several state banks offer education loans of up to Rs 30,00,000. The interest rate for these loans is around 11.75% and the repayment period starts one year after the completion of the course or six months after getting a job, whichever happens earlier. The loan must be paid within 12 years. The security required to obtain it is usually around 115% of the loan amount.

Banks in the US give loans to international students without security only if a citizen or green card holder with good credit history acts as their guarantor. The benefits of this loan include lower interest rates of around 7-9 % and repayment period of close to 25 years.

A good way to fund your education is a combination of the several options listed here.

If you wish to pursue your education overseas, make sure that you plan your finances before applying for admissions or at least before you leave the country.

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