Figuring out if and how you can pay for school is daunting for everyone. And, we admit it, doing so as an international student in the USA is even more frustrating because your options are limited. But there are still lots of ways that will give you the financial stability you need to get your learning on.
Home country sources
Even though you’ll be attending school in the USA, your home country may be able to help you financially. Local banks may offer loans, so pay a visit to the nearest branch to find out what’s available. However, you should be aware that these banks typically require a co-signer or significant collateral. Their loan may also have a high interest rate because university costs are much lower outside the USA and student lending therefore requires high-cost infrastructure to maintain.
You should also check if your home country government or local organizations, businesses, foundations, and religious groups offer loans, scholarships, grants, etc. Your compatriots want you to succeed!
Since you’ll be in the USA for a long-period of time, it might make more sense to you to get financial aid from an institution here. However, it’s important to note that international students coming to the USA do not qualify for U.S. federal financial aid or government sponsorships such as the Pell Grant or work-study programs, so your options may be more limited.
Banks like Discover, Citizens, and Wells Fargo do offer student loans to international students but also require a US-based co-signer, whose credit history is used to make a credit decision (and to determine the loan amount and interest rate).
Make sure to check with your school’s international student center and financial aid office – both can offer advice specific to your situation. And visit an EducationUSA center near you to get information directly from the U.S. State Department-sponsored network.
Private student lenders
Large private student loan lenders also provide loans to international students, but tend to require a U.S.-based co-signer to make a credit decision and to determine the interest rate charged.
Luckily, two private student lenders offer student loans to international students without requiring a co-signer: MPOWER Financing and Prodigy Finance. Instead of considering co-signers, both use proprietary credit algorithms to evaluate a student’s future earnings potential and debt capacity.
Quite a few organizations and websites offer scholarships for international students. Be aware that most of them are also open to domestic students, so the competition is strong, but they’re definitely worth researching. Because there are several types of scholarships, you might just be eligible for one.
Most colleges and universities offer part-time on-campus employment opportunities that allow students to make extra money while studying. But because of visa rules, jobs for international students are limited for both on- and off-campus positions and the number of hours worked is also regulated, so consider this income as a bonus but not as a reliable part of your financial planning.
This is so awkward, but if you run out of options from institutions you may have to turn to your family for financial help. But don’t worry, you won’t be the only one.