How Financial Aid for Study Abroad Works

The Cost of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad in Guadalajara might cost you less than studying in Paris.
Studying abroad in Guadalajara might cost you less than studying in Paris.
Marvin E. Newman/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

How much it costs to study in another country can vary a lot. It depends on a few major factors, including the type of program, the duration and the location.

Studying in Paris is going to cost more than studying in Guadalajara. Cost of living is higher in Paris, and the U.S. dollar is weak against the euro, while it's strong against the peso.

On the other hand, studying for an entire school year in Guadalajara will probably cost more than studying for a summer in Paris.

Then there's the type of study program: Is it research oriented? Is there much travel involved? Is it university-based, or will the student be living in a hut in the jungle? Traveling around France for a year to study dialects will most likely run a bit more than staying put at the Instituit Catholique de Paris while pursuing a degree in art history.

Still, you can get a ballpark figure for the purposes of planning, and planning is crucial. There are no last-minute deals on study abroad.

In reality, a study-abroad year at Instituit Catholique de Paris is probably going to run about the same as a year at a private university in the United States -- perhaps $20,000 to $35,000. For instance, for the 2007-2008 academic year, a student studying at University of Bologna in Italy via University of Indiana paid about $20,200 [source: Pappano]. That same (nonresident) student would have paid $21,400 to study in Bloomington [source:].

It seems logical, since the student is working toward the same number of college credits. But there's a weird little twist: A U.S. student studying at Bologna not through University of Indiana paid about $1,740 for that year [source: Pappano]. Going to college in Italy (and lots of other places) is way cheaper than in the United States. But study-abroad programs through a U.S. home school are often much more expensive than going it alone -- chalk it up to things like language lessons, cultural preparation, orientation, support services and the other perks of a school-sponsored trip that make it a lot easier than an independent one. That extra cost, however, can make study abroad as financially crippling as study domestic.

When you add to those tuition expense the cost of travel, visa and other paperwork, and potentially higher living expenses in a country where the dollar is weak, it can be even more difficult to pull off.

Luckily, there's help out there. Potentially a lot of it.