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2 Tuition Options International Students Should Know About

Elektra Tsakou’s passion to be a pilot led her to the aviation program at Eastern Michigan University. The fact that she could pay as an in-state student — not as an international student — sealed the deal.

“The international fees and tuition can be and are ridiculously high. As an international student, we bring a lot of money to the country, but we don’t get the same benefits as other students,” says Tsakou, an aviation management technology major at EMU who hails from Greece.

While paying for college in the U.S. as an international student can be expensive, tuition options can help applicants narrow down university choices based on costs.

[Read: What International Students Should Know About the FAFSA.]

At some U.S. colleges, international undergraduate students can pay what’s known as banded tuition, a single tuition rate for a certain number of credits. Banded tuition differs from the more widely used model of charging students by the credit hour.

Other schools, like Eastern Michigan, offer flat-rate in-state tuition, which allows international students to pay the same rate as all other students.

Here is a breakdown of both tuition options for prospective international students interested in studying in the U.S. to keep in mind.

Banded Tuition

Public schools like Bemidji State University in Minnesota and Purdue University–Fort Wayne in Indiana — as well as most public universities in Indiana — offer students the banded tuition option.

“This is something we promote with prospective international students when they, or their family and/or advisers, ask about tuition at IU,” says Seth Walker, associate director of international admissions recruitment at Indiana University–Bloomington.

Through banded tuition, undergraduate students pay one rate for tuition when taking between 12 and 18 credits per semester at an IU campus. Walker says he explains to families that banded tuition offers students many advantages.

“The two we often highlight are the enrollment flexibility offered by banded tuition, which allows students to explore different areas of study without justifying additional cost, and the opportunity to keep one’s degree attainment within a four-year timeline without any additional credit hour costs,” Walker says.

Southwest Minnesota State University similarly offers the banded tuition option, which allows students to take between 12 and 18 credits per semester for the same cost: $3,748.40. Students who take fewer than 12 credits a semester will be charged on a per credit basis. Those who take more than 18 will pay the banded rate for the first 18 credits and then charged the per credit rate for each additional credit, according to the school’s website.

Juan Tavares, director of international student services at Southwest Minnesota State, says his team has heard very positive comments about banded tuition from international students. Seven percent of SMSU’s students are international, he says; in fall 2018, the school enrolled 184 international students, with the majority from Nepal, Taiwan and Nigeria. He also notes that the school offers in-state tuition.

“We asked all new entering (international) students that came this January why they picked us. Two items: in-state tuition and banded tuition. They can take 18 credits for the cost of 12. That’s two classes for free each year since most banded tuition models go up to 15 credits,” Tavares says.

[Read: 10 Universities That Offer International Students the Most Financial Aid.]

Flat-rate In-state Tuition

Flat-rate in state tuition is offered to undergraduate international students at public schools like Lake Superior State University in Michigan and Minot State University in North Dakota.

And some universities, like Bemidji State and Southwest Minnesota State, offer both banded and in-state tuition options to international students. Tavares says students do not need to choose between the two, as both options are automatically applied to all students.

“SMSU is one of the most affordable four-year institutions in the U.S. right now. Our international students pay in-state tuition, which is approximately a savings of $7,000 per year,” Tavares says. This means all students, domestic and international, pay the same tuition rate of $7,496 per academic year, he says. The estimated total cost of attendance at SMSU for 2018-2019 is $16,675, including tuition, fees, and room and board, according to the school’s website.

Eastern Michigan charges in-state tuition at a flat rate of $413.60 per credit hour for 2018-2019, which is a reduction of 60 percent from the tuition rate international students were charged in the prior academic year, according to the school.

“We recognize that the costs of higher education are an issue for all students and families whether from India, China, Saudi Arabia or wherever,” says James Smith, president of Eastern Michigan, which has nearly 700 international students. Smith says he understands that students from around the globe seek to be a part of high-quality learning experiences at an affordable price and says “this is the precise direction we have taken with the global rate.”

[See: 10 Places International Students Can Search for U.S. College Scholarships.]

With Minot State’s flat in-state tuition rate, international undergraduate students pay an estimated cost of attendance of around $15,670 for a year, which includes tuition, fees, housing and food, and health insurance.

“Our affordable costs allow access to a quality education to students across the United States and the globe. I believe offering international students the same in-state tuition rate helps them feel welcomed and appreciated,” says Katie Tyler, director of enrollment services at Minot State.

Tsakou says because of Eastern Michigan’s flat rate in-state tuition, she is able to continue her aviation studies. “I couldn’t possibly afford to pay hundreds of dollars every year. If it wasn’t for EMU, I would have to return back home,” she says.

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