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Are You Optimistic or Pessimistic About Financial Aid?

The New York Times' "The Choice" blog has been holding a Q&A about financial aid, and we asked their financial aid expert (Mark Kantrowitz of whether he had any advice for international students. He gave a matter of fact (and not-so-rosy) picture of what foreign students can expect in terms of assistance:
Before a student can obtain an F-1, J-1 or M-1 visa, the student must demonstrate that he or she has sufficient resources to cover the cost of his or her education. An F-1 visa requires the student to demonstrate that he or she has enough money to pay for the first year of study, though some colleges will require students to demonstrate that they have enough money to cover the entire stay in the United States. Students entering on an M-1 or J-1 visa must demonstrate that they have enough money to cover the entire stay in the United States.

Don’t count on being able to earn the rest of the money after you arrive in the United States. International students and their spouses are not allowed to work while in the United States on a student visa except in very limited circumstances.

The financial resources can include financial aid from the college. But financial aid for international students to study in the United States is extremely limited.

A list of United States colleges that provide financial aid for international students can be found at

International students are not eligible for federal student aid from the United States government. Private student loans may be available, but generally require a creditworthy cosigner who is a United States citizen or permanent resident.

There's no disputing the fact that studying in the U.S. is expensive, or that most international students will have to pay much or all of their way - according to the latest data, 63% of funding for international students in the U.S. is provided by the student and their family. But lest you give up all hope, an additional 23% of funding is provided by colleges and universities, and you can find out which schools are giving that aid to their international undergraduates in a list compiled by the OACAC (or by looking at the College Board International Student Handbook 2012).

- See also: A side-by-side comparison of colleges with the lowest net cost for international students and American students

- Find out what routes our bloggers pursued to finance their education

Also, it's not quite true that international students can't work in the U.S. All F-1 visa students are allowed to work on campus for up to 20 hours a week when school is in session. Our blogger Sebastian actually has TWO campus jobs at the University of Kansas, and Summer works part-time job at Cornell's dining hall. The University of Pennsylvania offers a pretty clear explanation of the various rules about working as an international student.

So what do you think? Are you optimistic about affording a U.S. education, or not so much?

There are tons more questions and answers in the New York Times' series, and you can see all of them at They're definitely more geared towards American students, but you may find a gem or two for foreign students (let us know if you do!).