2.1.2 Do you have the financing?
The challenge of financing higher education in America or Canada shatters many dreams. The total cost of education in America is extremely high, ranging from $15,000 to $45,000 (approximately Rs. 7.5 lakhs to Rs. 22.5 lakhs) per year. The total cost includes the costs of tuition, fees, room and board, and books and supplies. The cost depends on such factors as: whether the school is private or public (meaning government funded), its reputation and prestige, and its geographic location. The cost of education in Canada is much less than it is in America – but still very high compared to India – and the quality of education is quite good. The total cost of higher education in Canada ranges from Cdn$15,000 to Cdn$30,000 (approximately Rs. 5 lakhs to Rs. 10 lacks) per year.
As you can see, the costs are indeed extremely high, particularly when you consider that the Bachelor’s program in America and Canada is 4 years long, the Master’s program 2 years and the PhD program 3 years. Note that the PhD program typically takes longer than advertised, and sometimes several years longer.
For the fortunate few wealthy students, you can skip the remainder of this section, if you like, although you may gain some insights by reading it. For others – the vast majority – the challenge is monumental but it is not always insurmountable. You have options, but primarily for graduate (Master’s and Doctoral) studies in certain programs.
First is the prospect of securing financial assistance. Getting admitted is much easier than securing financial assistance. Financial assistance comes in many flavors but if you secure full financial assistance, you can study in America or Canada and survive. You will be poor by North American standards, but you will be getting your education. Your prospective school is the primary, if not the only, source for financial assistance. Financial assistance is more readily available for technical programs such as those in Engineering and Computer Science than it is for other programs. Regardless, the competition for financial assistance is fierce. The demand for financial aid by prospective students far exceeds the supply of money. The critical determinants of how well you will compete for financial aid are your academic performance and your performance on a standardized entrance exam. You must have superior academic performance. You must also score well on the entrance exam through dedication, motivation, and hard work. Your academic performance is the primary indicator at this stage of the high-level analysis to determine whether you can potentially finance your studies.
Second, you can explore the possibility of support through personal means and contacts. Your own family might be able to contribute some money. You may have a close relative who lives in America or Canada who is willing to offer you free room and board. Obviously this is only possible if you study in your relative’s neighborhood. The relative may be willing to offer you some money as well, even if it is in the form of a loan.
Third, you may be able to secure some loans. Some financial institutions in India offer loans for studies abroad. Note that you can not obtain any loans from your school or financial institutions in America or Canada.
You may wish to combine the Second and Third options. This combination may become even more palatable if your school offers you partial financial assistance.
A note on employment: As an international student in America, you are implicitly allowed to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week. These are menial jobs, should you be lucky enough to find one and have the time, given your course load, to undertake one. Earnings from this form of employment will barely make a dent in your total cost of education. The situation in Canada is different. You are not allowed to work at all as an international student, unless you have obtained an official authorization to work. You will get this authorization only if have been offered financial assistance, and such authorization would explicitly prohibit you from working on something other than your financial assistance-related tasks.