5 Ways To Finance Your International Higher Education Degree

Rising costs have made students and their families rethink ways to finance a foreign education

By Emmanuel Smadja


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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the market to study abroad is set to thrive in 2022 and beyond. There is a surge in demand from students seeking to pursue higher education in foreign countries, which have made students, and their families, rethink how they could finance the cost of a foreign education.

Here are five ways for students from India to fund their overseas education, without breaking the bank.

Family savings

Across the world, families have been known to support their children's overseas education. However, even if family savings are available, this usually comes at the cost of depleting the family's hard-earned nest egg. Since the cost of foreign education can be prohibitive, not many families in India are in a position to fund the entire cost of their child's education in a foreign country. Therefore, family savings are seldom enough to completely cover the cost of an overseas education. Further, our research suggests that female students are generally far less likely to have family savings made available to them than their brothers.

Funding college through scholarships

International students should actively seek scholarship opportunities that could offer a free (or highly discounted) path to a foreign university. Several universities offer such scholarships as part of their financial aid packages, specifically tailored for international students. "Full ride" or fully funded scholarships cover a student's full tuition costs and living expenses. Several of these scholarships are also offered by internationally recognized programs and foundations such as The Fulbright Foreign Student Program and The Aga Khan International Scholarship Program, among others. Websites like International Scholarships are meant to aid students explore scholarship opportunities.

Part-time employment

Almost every foreign university provides opportunities for students to work on-campus while they are studying. This could include working with professors or in administrative departments like career services and admissions. These positions tend to be advertised broadly and both international and domestic students alike are generally welcome to apply.

Students working part-time must not only balance work with education, but also what their visas allow. In the US, international students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week, but only on-campus, with the university serving as their employer. Canada has a similar 20-hour limit but allows students to seek employment off-campus as well. These limits only apply during regular semesters, and not during summer holidays or co-op employment terms.

Co-op programs

Students aspiring to work while studying overseas may want to consider co-operative education (co-op) programs. Co-op programs allow students to gain practical, hands-on, professional experience in an industry that relates to their field of study, alongside pursuing their degree. The most famous co-op program was started by Canada's University of Waterloo in 1957, where students alternate between study and work terms, thus, allowing them to partially cover the cost of their education through employment.

In addition to helping students to pay the bills, engineering co-op students at Waterloo make over C$25/hour (INR 1,500) in some of their final terms. Co-op programs help students gain practical skills, tap into their university's network of employers, and position themselves favorably for full-time employment after graduation.

Applying for student loans

Taking an education loan continues to remain a popular choice among students who are aspiring to study abroad. Even amid the pandemic, the demand for loans to study abroad has continued to rise. According to a recent survey, the average loan ticket size for students pursuing an overseas education has increased from INR 30 lakh to INR 35 lakh.

There are two types of education loans that students can consider: secured and unsecured. The former is with collateral as a security and requires the student or borrower to pledge tangible or intangible security, such as immovable property or insurance policies. It is estimated that about one-third of students from India who study abroad take property-backed loans. Lenders may also request a cosigner on the loan, such as a parent or legal guardian, who pledges to pay back the loan.

Due to the burden of such secured loans, students may prefer unsecured loans instead, which are collateral and cosigner-free. They should consult with a university's financial aid department to draw up a list of trusted "preferred lenders" who offer favorable terms for students, thus, reducing their financial burden—and stress levels. Universities often publish a list of trusted lenders who their students have successfully used in the past to finance their education. This serves as an easy reference for students comparing different lenders.

Thanks to the variety of financing options available, financial barriers are no longer a significant obstacle to bright students seeking to pursue a foreign education. A high-quality overseas degree is no longer exclusively for the wealthy. However, students should make sure to devise a financing strategy and find creative ways to fund their overseas education. They may also seek professional guidance and conduct extensive due diligence before choosing the best financing options that will help them realise their dream of earning a foreign degree.

Emmanuel Smadja

CEO and Co-founder, MPOWER Financing

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