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5 Myths (and the truth) about Paying for College

LAUNCH founder Lauren Joyce Hensel reveals common misconceptions behind university costs...and the correct approach to paying for higher education.

Is College Cheaper for International Students?

I am going to be frank with you - education costs money in every country.We hear from many families who avoid applying to the US because of rising “sticker prices.” Sticker prices are what the total cost of attendance would be without any merit or need-based aid.

We hear from other families who believe the UK will be cheaper because their child holds EU citizenship but fail to account for the potential effects of Brexit on higher education pricing. And yet we hear from others who are shocked that their Dutch residence permit does not qualify them for the statutory tuition fee (the fee paid by a Dutch citizen).

We see posts and advice in well-meaning education groups, but, more often than not, the advice we read is outdated. Other times it is factually wrong. To help families decipher myth from fact about the costs of higher education across the globe.

Myth #1 - We can’t afford university in America.

Fact - There are over 4500 universities to choose from in America who offer quality programs at a variety of price levels. If you are dead set on the “Ivy League” schools (please note Ivy League is only the name of the athletic conference), you will only receive need-based aid as merit is not available at these schools. On the other hand, some private universities are actually more affordable than state universities as they have more potential to offer larger merit packages. The aid you receive is based on either merit or need (the amount your family has the ability to pay).

Myth #2 - University in Europe is cheaper

Fact - While tuition costs may be a bit cheaper overall, the prices vary drastically depending on the institution. Some schools consider residency for tuition rate while others consider citizenship. Some schools are located in high cost of living cities while others are not. These are, among other factors, important aspects to consider when applying to schools overseas. When we work with families, we aim to uncover all direct and indirect costs to the family and decide which school is the best fit overall.

Myth #3 - My friend’s child received a full ride to X university (usually an Ivy League school)

Fact - This needs to be approached with critical curiosity. For example, there are lots of nuances in these statements that we hear from families. First a full ride can look different depending on the university. For some US-based universities this could mean full tuition, for others it can mean full tuition, room and board. Others may even cover books and fees. However, this is typically not the case. Second, Ivy League institutions do not offer full rides in merit scholarships. The Ivy League, which is just the name of the athletic conference, instead offers need-based aid. This means they offer financial aid packages on what a family can afford. Third, you may neve know exactly what was on the student’s application, the talents that student has, the donation history of the family, the legacy status of the family, and the many other factors that go into the admission decision. Furthermore, you may not be fully aware of the family’s financial situation. The situation becomes even more complicated when a student is a recruited student-athlete as my first point applies. Full rides mean different things to different schools and different sports. LAUNCH’s advice? Approach these comments with critical curiosity, and do not take them at face value.

Myth #4 - I live in X country, so university will be super cheap

Fact - This is something that can vary dramatically depending on where you live. Per Myth #2, what universities look at to determine tuition rate can vary dramatically. I live in the Netherlands, but because I am here on a specific visa, my children will have to pay overseas tuition fees. Furthermore, if they choose to live off campus, I am having to pay for either an apartment on the free market or privatised student house - that has a LONG waitlist. Both options are going to cost more than on campus student housing at some fabulous universities in the United States, where I can be sure housing is guaranteed, food is cooked each day, and there are supports in place to help students succeed. It is important to not just look at the tuition number the the cost physically, socially, emotionally, and materialistically on the entire education journey. Does your student have loose spending habits? Do they need three lattes a day to keep the cranky away? Do they need the newest sweatshirt from Supreme? Think deeply about where all the money will go and how often you will be asked for additional funds.

Myth #5 - I have great grades, so I think I can get a scholarship to Boston University

Fact - THink again about this statement if you are an international student. Many universities across the United States do not award scholarships or financial aid to international students, so you need to be prepared to pay the full cost in some cases. Some well-known universities who do not provide ANY aid - merit or need-based - to international students include

  • Auburn University (AL)

  • Boston College (MA)

  • Boston University (MA)

  • Clemson University (SC)

  • College of William and Mary (VA)

  • Georgia Institute of Technology (GA)

  • Penn State University (PA)

  • UC - Berkeley (CA)

  • University of Colorado - Colorado Springs (CO)

  • University of Georgia (GA)

  • University of Maryland - College Park (MD)

  • University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (MI)

  • UNC - Chapel Hill (NC)

  • University of Washington (WA)

Finances may feel uncomfortable for your family, but we encourage families to discuss restrictions and limitations early and clearly to their students. Furthermore, we actively encourage you to embrace potential opportunities where you might not find them. Do you have an IB Diploma? Then you should explore the University of Malta, where your tuition fees are typically less than €1000 per year and living costs are affordable. Want to attend a UK university? Look for schools with campuses on mainland Europe such as University of Gibraltar, Lancaster Leipzig, or Arden Berlin. They tend to be more affordable than their UK-based counterparts for all students. Unsure where to look or what to do, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with LAUNCH!


Author Bio

Lauren Joyce Hensel is an accredited Independent Education Consultant and active member of the International ACAC. She was a collegiate volleyball player at Illinois Institute of technology, where she also coached. She worked for 10 years in college admissions before founding LAUNCH Education Advisors. Lauren holds a masters degree in Public Policy and is pursuing a PhD in Education and Social Justice from Lancaster University in England.

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