Comparing Study Abroad Program Costs
Make sure you are not comparing apples to oranges!
Study abroad programs vary widely in cost due to many factors, including location, length, structure, and on-site support. Evaluation of these costs can be challenging, given that the “sticker price” of each program can include or exclude different aspects of program participation, such as airfare, housing, meals, daily living costs, planned excursions, etc. When comparing the costs of various programs, you want to make sure that you are accounting for the total program cost of each program.
Total Program Cost = Full estimated cost of program including all essential costs associated with program participation that can be covered by Financial Aid (tuition, fees, airfare, housing, books, meals, etc.)
Total Program Cost does NOT include personal travel and/or souvenirs
On each CGI program page there is a cost table that outlines the different costs associated with the program to give you an overall estimate of what each program costs – not just will be charged to your student account. Programs through the Learning Abroad Center or affiliated programs may present their program costs differently, so it is important to pay attention to these differences in your comparison.
Below is a chart to help you understand how to think about what the total program cost of a program might be and how to compare one program to another. This chart does NOT include any personal travel and/or souvenirs – you will need to budget these aspects separately, as Financial Aid cannot cover these costs.
PDF Download: Comparing Study Abroad Costs Worksheet
Per Credit Considerations
The number of credits associated with study abroad programs also varies greatly. Calculating nominal costs per credit is another way to compare costs between programs.
Below is a chart to help you understand how to think about the nominal cost per credit between programs. This has been calculated using the total incremental costs of each program.
Additional Financial Considerations
While studying abroad for a semester-length program may provide many students with a more “bang for your buck” option, there are further considerations regarding your personal situation to keep in mind when assessing program costs. Below is a list of several additional considerations.
- Employment: If you hold a job or work-study position throughout the semester, you should consider the loss of income from not working during your term abroad. Most countries will not allow you work on a student visa. This will adjust the financial impact of a semester-length program for you.
- Location-Specific Cost of Living: The daily cost of living varies greatly between countries (for example, what is the typical cost of items in a grocery store or a meal at a restaurant?). Expenditures in-country depend greatly on personal spending habits (for example, do you cook your meals or mostly go to restaurants?) as well as the city and/or country’s general cost of living. One resource for comparing costs of living between various locations is https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living.
- Pre-Departure and On-Site Support: Different program structures offer different services and levels of support (for example, will the program provider enroll you in your courses or will you need to navigate a host university’s registration system on your own?). Greater levels of support services generally increase program fees, however, it is also important to think about your needs and comfort levels when assessing the varying levels of support each program provides.
- Personal Travel & Souvenirs: If you plan to visit additional locations during your time abroad and/or buy many items to bring home, this is something you should privately budget for as it cannot be covered by Financial Aid.
- Optional Excursions: Some programs offer optional group excursions to popular sites and locations that are outside of the standard academic portion of the program. If you are planning to participate in these excursions, you should privately budget for as it cannot be covered by Financial Aid.
- Optional Pre-Program Language Sessions: Some programs offer optional pre-program language sessions. If you are planning to participate in a pre-program language session, this may or may not be covered by Financial Aid. Contact One Stop Student Services to discuss specific details of these sessions as they relate to Financial Aid.
- One-Semester Housing: If you are abroad for a full semester, you will not want to pay for two apartments/dormitories (one in MN and one abroad). Some considerations are sub-letting your apartment, signing a one-semester lease, or coordinating with a student going abroad the opposite semester as you.