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How much does it cost to study abroad?

Not only can an education be expensive, but it's also difficult to estimate its cost accurately, especially if you're planning to study overseas.

We can help you to budget for a study abroad and manage the cost up front.

Is studying abroad expensive

The cost of university, according to a report analysing data from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Center for Education Statistics, has increased 169% since 1980.1

You can see why it's important to do a cost estimate early on to see just how much you'll need to save for your child's education. You can then create a financial plan that will support them while adjusting for rising costs.

Some expenses to consider include:

  • tuition fees and study materials
  • application fees
  • passport and visa-related costs
  • healthcare
  • travel and insurance
  • accommodation
  • cost of living per country

Most universities post their tuition fees online. These can be different if you're a foreign exchange or international student. Then there are other available resources, such as cost of living calculators, that will help you to estimate other student fees, accommodation, and options for financial aid.

How to budget for a study abroad

When setting a budget, some people prefer to seek professional advice.  An adviser should be able to show you a realistic trajectory for your savings over the period of time before your child's education begins, taking into account factors like inflation, interest and the unexpected. They can then work out a long-term savings plan with you, including loan options and repayment plans.

An education consultant with international experience should be able to help you calculate the cost of a study abroad. They can also help with admissions and exam preparations, career guidance and networking opportunities with alumni, as well as visa applications if you're going overseas.

Through HSBC Premier, you can get access to our global education consultants, who offer study abroad guidance in some of the most popular destinations for international students, including the US, the UK and Australia.

Learn more: How to choose the right university

Set financial goals

Having goals is a good way to focus on the things that are important to you when you're setting a budget for a study abroad. Ask yourself what you imagine your life to look like in 1, 5 or even 15 years. Knowing where you want to be will help you plan on how to get there.

Next, set a date to achieve your goals and post these reminders where you can see them. With your goals clearly identified, pay into your savings first every month with a standing instruction and watch your savings grow.

Plan early to save big and reduce stress

Doing some research and setting goals will give you a clearer idea of how much you'll need to budget for. Early financial planning can help parents manage the rising cost of education and limit the strain on family finances.

Studies show that there's a strong connection between one's physical and mental health, and financial wellness. Boosting one factor may lead to far-reaching improvements across the others.

Learn more: For better wealth, boost your health: HSBC study

How to pay for study abroad fees


The simplest way to save for your child's education is to place your funds in a savings account to accrue interest, with a flexible withdrawal period. The earlier you start to save, the earlier you'll receive interest returns.

You can expect savings to be:

  • low risk, but with lower returns
  • easy to manage without help
  • liquid
  • inexpensive


If there are still some years to go before your child starts school, consider investing for higher potential returns, in accordance with your preferences and risk appetite.* The longer you can leave your money invested, the more time it has to grow and ride out any bad periods along the way.

You might find investing to be:

  • higher risk, but with higher returns
  • difficult to do without help
  • harder to access, if you need the cash
  • good for saving long term


There are a range of education insurance products that might suit your needs. You could choose a long-term insurance plan that will mature when your child reaches a certain age, or allows you to withdraw cash early to cover things like school fees or tuition. Keep in mind that you may be charged if you withdraw money before the policy matures.

Not all savings and investment products are created equal. Past performance is no guide to future performance of the funds and you can lose money. As with any investments, shop around for the best interest return you can get for your money, or discuss this with a financial adviser.

Explore other ways to fund a study abroad

International students can typically apply for financial aid during the admissions process. Some of the main study abroad destinations offer helpful financial incentives, such as scholarships, grants and bursaries, for international students. A professional education consultant can help you navigate these options.

Other than loans and financial aid, to save money you can:

  • choose a country/region with the lowest cost of living
  • start at a community college (and finish your degree at university)
  • look into tuition-free universities
  • take a gap year and work
  • do an apprenticeship and get paid while you study

If your visa allows it, you may be able to work while you're studying. Planning longer term? Some countries also offer good post-study visas for graduates.

Learn more: Tips on applying for scholarships

Organise your overseas banking needs

If you don't want to worry about overseas transaction or withdrawal fees and will be banking in multiple currencies while studying abroad, consider getting your banking organised before you go. Not only that, many schools will require you to have a local bank account set up for tuition payments.

We can help you open an overseas account in more than 30 countries and regions around the world. In many cases, you'll have your ATM card, access to the local currency and a multi-currency debit or credit card ready to use. The HSBC Global View service lets you link your eligible HSBC accounts online so you can keep an eye on your finances back home and abroad. With Global Transfers, you can easily transfer money between your globally linked accounts.

Ready to open an overseas account?

We can tell you the best way for you to apply for an overseas account. Simply select your current location and where you would like to open an account. We'll then walk you through the steps.


HSBC Holdings plc has prepared this article based on publicly available information at the time of preparation from sources it believes to be reliable but it has not independently verified such information. HSBC Holdings plc and the HSBC Group (together, "HSBC") are not responsible for any loss, damage, liabilities or other consequences of any kind that you may incur or suffer as a result of, arising from or relating to your use of or reliance on this article. The contents of this article are subject to change without notice. HSBC gives no guarantee, representation or warranty as to the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of this article.


This article is not investment advice or a recommendation nor is it intended to sell investments or services or solicit purchases or subscriptions. This article should not be used as the basis for any decision on taxation, estate, trusts or legacy planning. You should not use or rely on this article in making any investment decision. HSBC is not responsible for such use or reliance by you. Any market information shown refers to the past and should not be seen as an indication of future market performance. You should always consider seeking professional advice when thinking about undertaking any form of prime residential or commercial property purchase, sale or rental. You should consult your professional advisor in your jurisdiction if you have any questions regarding the contents of this article.

1 If Not Now, When? Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of data from the US Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics.

* Investment involves risks. Past performance is no guide to future performance. Investors must refer to the respective fund's offering documents for further details of the fund and the risks involved.