Many schools overseas have much cheaper tuition for some degrees than their U.S. counterparts, especially for graduate school. And while studying at a foreign school is a great educational experience, you may wonder how to pay for it.
Well, how about with regular U.S. financial aid? That's right—some foreign schools (but not all) are set up to receive student funding from the U.S. federal government. You can find out which qualify by reviewing the 2017-2018 list or by searching for the federal school code.
Are You Eligible?
You should be able to receive Stafford loans or PLUS loans for your overseas education as long as you are a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen and the U.S. Department of Education considers your school eligible. You cannot receive Pell grants, Perkins loans, and other forms of U.S. federal student aid for enrollment at foreign schools.
Also, you must be attending the school "in person." You are ineligible for federal student loans if your program involves any form of distance or online learning or classes.
Financial Aid Process
Your first step should be to contact the school's financial aid or overseas study office. There may be additional steps to the normal financial aid process that you'll need to take care of, so it's important that you know early on what you'll need to do. You don't want to travel by planes, trains, and automobiles, only to find out that your aid didn't come through. These offices will also have a good idea of other types of aid or payment plans for U.S. students attending their university.
Simplify your experience by applying early for financial aid. That way, you can ensure your aid is available before your tuition is due. Many countries will not allow you your student visa until you can show that you have at least enough funds to support yourself during the school year and get home once the year is over.
Remember, many non-U.S. schools are unfamiliar with the U.S. financial aid process—so allow extra time for your loan to be processed.
Before You Go
Another piece of advice would be to collect local numbers, email addresses, and websites for the Direct Loan program, CPS (which processes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and your loan servicers. Toll-free numbers won't work outside of the United States and having this contact information could be helpful if you ever have any problems with your financial aid.
Budgeting is always important, but even more so when attending a foreign school. Due to fluctuating currency exchange rates, you may find that the $10,000 you borrowed is suddenly only worth $9,000. Family emergencies may result in additional travel or communication expenses, or you may find that the cost of living in the country you are studying in is more than you expected. You should always build a good cushion and emergency fund into your budget for the academic year.
And don't forget to update your loan servicer with any new contact information and in-school information. You wouldn't want to come home to find your student loans in default because they didn't realize you were still enrolled.