School fees

talking-about-school-feesI’ve always been curious about how parents afford international student tuition for their children who study outside of Nigeria. I learned that the reason international student tuition is so high is because the government (at least in Canada) subsidizes tuition costs for citizens (and permanent residents? Not sure) while international students must pay the unsubsidized cost.

In my corner of the world, the cost for one year of college as an international student is approximately $12,000 Canadian dollars, and university is more than that, closer to $20,000 CAD per year, not including books and lodging. I can say right now that if my parents had had to pay that kind of money for my schooling and that of my siblings, we would not have received an international education and maybe I’d already be an entrepreneur by now, having had to hustle! As it happened my sister and I were able to pay our own way through university by working during the school year and in the summer, made easier by the fact that our tuition was about half of the international student fee, and we lived at home so we didn’t have to pay rent. It would have been nice to be able to focus completely on my studies rather than work 20-25 hours per week as a full-time student, or to experience life in another city or country while learning so much about yourself living away from home, but in the end everything worked out (I supplemented my earnings with student loans).

So my naive question is: Are those who send their kids out of the country for school wealthy, or have they been saving for a while, or are loans the answer? Are there many scholarship options for international students? I’ve noticed in quite a few cases that if one child goes abroad for school the siblings follow, and the thought of having, as a parent, tuition costs of that magnitude per year is scary to me. Education is important but if I were in the position my parents were and we had lived in Nigeria, I know I wouldn’t have been able to come to Canada for school, and I probably wouldn’t have even looked outside of Nigeria for fear of the cost. Like in any country I know Nigeria has schools offering an excellent education, though the timing would no doubt be affected by strikes! My dad was able to get some good scholarships from the Nigerian government decades ago to cover most of his international student tuition for his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, but those days are long gone I suspect!

So, if this isn’t too touchy a subject, please educate me on how people pay for international school fees: are there some ways to avoid these huge costs, or some countries with a more affordable level of international education? If you were an international student, were you able to help pay the tuition after some time?

27 thoughts on “School fees

  1. Good question!

    Because I went to private school that cost approximately $20, 000 per year and my roommate and her sister attended, both Nigerian. Plus there were many other Nigerians and out of “countryers” who attended my school.

    Back in the day, when our dads came for school, the naira was at par with the Pound. Yep. The Pound. So that helped too…

    • You’re right that our parents’ time was soooo different! Scholarships were different and wow, with such a strong Naira you’d know that if you can afford to school in Nigeria then you can afford to school abroad. In my dad’s case he didn’t have the money so he applied for scholarships until he got one.

      There’s a part of me that’s averse to debt
      so I just couldn’t consider pricey institutions.

  2. Giiiiiiirl this is my number one topic. There’s very little scholarships available for international students o! Sad but true. But each school is different. Harvard type schools have larger endowments and thus more money available for scholarships…but smaller colleges have less money to give. so when you see nigerians sending their children to colleges as international students, chances are the parents are very wealthy. Schools also tend to give “discounts” to legacy students (students whose siblings or parents also attended) so that’s why you see some parents sending all their children to one school. BUT not every university does that. As for student loans…those can be tricky. Private vs. Public loans, depending on your residency status. We talked about the heavy burdens of loans in our “Chop my Money” post here –
    Fact is, student loans are skyrocketing and affecting people’s choices in careers and even their personal lives! So heaven help you if you have to attend a school in the US (which are MUCH more expensive than Canadian schools) on student loans. Your debt will easily hit the 6 figure range depending on how expensive the school was. Keep in mind that private universities in the US don’t differentiate between fees for international students and fees for residents. Everyone is the same there. It’s only the state funded schools that differentiate.

    • Hi Naijawife—thanks for stopping by! Your comment was illuminating—I didn’t know about legacy student discounts or the different categories of loans. As I mentioned on Twitter maybe you should start a website navigating people through the process of getting and repaying loans!

      I remember reading your post about the burden of loans and I thought it was great that you were upfront about your loans because it’s better for your partner to know what they’re getting into and I don’t think it would be a deal breaker for most people, especially when love is involved.

      The thought of graduating with a five or six figure debt is depressing and I’m one of the people who would let the potential debt level affect what I decided to study.

  3. They scrimp and save to offer what they think is best for their kids because they believe a foreign diploma is superior to one in their own country. Or, the kids come from upper middle class to wealthy families and what the parentals are paying for university is more or less the same as what might pay for private high school (I don’t know how much private school costs in developing countries, but in Hong Kong, it is more or less in the $30K or so per year, I think. This is similar to “old line” private schools in Canada (think: Elmwood or Ashbury in Ottawa or Havergal, BSS, UCC in Toronto). For those who sent their children away for boarding school, international tuition is actually a break. Boarding in Canadian or American schools can be up to $60K/year).

  4. Ha….one of my nicknames in undergrad was SIS as per suffering international student :) So I took the SATs in Nigeria and the college I chose in Texas was because they offered a merit based scholarship that entitled me to In-State tuition and also covered most of that tuition. Then I had to worry about dorm and feeding. I did not get on the school meal plan because of costs, but I did stay in the dorm and pretty much all the money I made from on-campus jobs went to that. There were many rough patches…where relatives and friends had to bail me out and i just wanted to call it quits and go to Nigeria. It also meant I couldn’t afford summer classes so in the Fall and Spring I often took a lot of classes because that was when the scholarship applied. As for med school, loans were needed (private and not government), luckily I had extended family that were willing to cosign the loans since I wasn’t a permanent resident or citizen.

    • I had a very similar experience as MBP. The parents helped with their savings but I was looking for ways to cut tuition costs by working on campus, taking 18 credits in one semester (the price for full time attendance was the same whether you took 12 credits or 18 credits). I was taking classes in the summer at community colleges and working odd jobs that were not too regarding of work permits.

      Once I graduated and started working, I was able to help my parents with one of my sibling’s tuition/room/board etc…

    • I really appreciate you sharing your experience and shedding light on your reality as an international student, MPB.

      Was there a reason you opted for private loans rather than government loans?

  5. Parents that can afford to send their children to school in the Americas are usually middle/upper class Nigerians. I almost want to say that some of them have been saving money since the children were born, but these days nursery, primary, and secondary school can get into thousands of USD per term (@ 3 terms a year). So, I’m not sure if that counts anymore.

    In addition, some schools in the US offer in-state fees to international students that earn over a certain GPA. There are also some scholarships here and there. I do know that certain disciplines (science, engineering) have numerous grants and scholarships from the Nigerian government at the post-graduate level.

    • Thanks for sharing, Berry! I’m glad the Nigerian government still gives some grants and scholarships—I wasn’t aware. When you say in-state fees is that the rate that citizens would pay?

  6. It depends on the level of education you’re talking about. In the UK I know a lot of people who come for their Masters program (like I did) and families contribute to the tuition fee while you sort out everything else when you get here, i.e. feeding, accommodation and others by getting a part time job. But because it’s just a year it makes it more manageable, hard, but doable. Also school fees here in the UK have gone up massively since I did it so not sure if that has changed much, back in 2007 a one year fee was anything from £7k to £16k depending on your school and program, now it’s almost doubled! But I know a lot of people who saved up and sponsored themselves through the one year program…

    • Good point about the length of the studies, Tola! I was thinking about undergrad and internally freaking out but the cost of a one or two year program would be more manageable.

  7. I never understood why we were not travelling abroad ever summer or why my parents always acted like we had no money until it was time for us to go to university.

    My parents are very big on education and wanted to make sure that we got the best. So they invested, saved, cut down on unnecessary expenses and were able to provide my siblings an I with international education. When I first came to Canada, If I remember correctly believe the exchange rate was about $1 to 75Naira by the time I was graduating it was $1 to 150$ (Double)

    My bother and I came first and my the time my last sis and bro were ready to come.. we were working and they could live with us and my parents were able to save on the cost of living expenses.

    Converting Naira to Canadian is not beans…but I would pick Canada any day any time over other international destinations because though international tuition is expensive.. the benefits after out weighs the cost.

    *Very good post Jummyoflife*

  8. This is a good one, Jummy. Very informational!

    Me o, I paid through my nostrils and worked my back to get through college. Still, I had to supplement my efforts with loans. Sometimes I bemoaned my status in the American society—, the system doesn’t encourage savings for college students. As a college student living alone with house, car, and utility bills to pay, you have to be mighty frugal to have a tush savings account.

    Never took vacations, took summer classes to graduate on time…I soon began envying my peers from Naija who flew all over the weekend at the mere mention of Spring Break or Fall Breather. Summer nko? Ahh, na world tour.

    The experience made me appreciate every nickel, dime, and dollar. Also got a head start on those pesky “Related Experience” sections in job applications. Lol :D

  9. Good topic, Jummie. I came abroad as an international student to attend university by God’s grace and by the hardwork and determination by my parents. God bless them. Funny enough, in SS3/Grade 12 when all my mates at school were taking the SATs, I didn’t consider taking it because I never felt my parents had it in mind to send us abroad for school. I was shocked when they asked why I hadn’t told them about taking the SATs!! LOL!!
    Anyway, I have a few friends who came as international students as well and I wouldn’t say our parents are VERY WEALTHY but I do know that our parents value quality education and thus chose to deprive themselves of certain luxuries in order to send us abroad. I’ll never know the extent of the sacrifices they made to ensure their children got the best education or if they had to ever borrow to pay our school fees because that’s not something a parent will normally discuss with their kids.
    My parents provided all I needed and I did my part by cutting costs wherever I could by not living on campus and not buying meal plans but buying my own groceries and opting for cheaper off-campus housing. I also got a very part time job on campus without the knowledge of my parents sha oh. Haha!

    On the flip side, I know of students who come from VERY WEALTHY homes, infact their pocket money could pay someone else’s international school fees! Some of these parents are politicians in Nigeria and others are entrepreneurs/professionals who are doing pretty well for themselves.

    Sorry for the epistle, I hope its thrown a bit more light on the issue for you. :)

  10. i think the bulk of those you find paying those huge bills are either the big guns who don’t work for the money… alot of people still get the scholarships sometimes, quite a number of them but not enough to justify the quantity of Nigerians seeking tertiary education abroad. It’s all in an attempt to make the opportunities better for their wards. With degrees from abroad, the employ-ability becomes better so to say.. but majorly the source of such funds are neither saving nor hardwork, i will call it smart work or what do you think? Public officers, politicians, and a few business men that are trying to guarantee the future and prospect of their children… The funny thing is there are schools that are that expensive even here at home…

  11. I like your idea gng…I might just do it! Looking back I wish I’d tried Canada. Seems much more affordable! P.s. “in state tuition” is for residents of the particular state where the state funded university is located. E.g residents of Texas (green card holders and citizens alike) are entitled to in state tuition at the university of Texas. But they can’t get in state tuition in California.

  12. Erm, the honest answer? Most of the parents of these kids are wealthy or government officials. With the government officials, their access to the state coffers are almost unlimited. But there are also more wealthy Nigerians than we actually think there are. I think these two groups comprise at least 50% of intl students and that’s why at the Uni I went to the UK, a good number of these students could fail and repeat, two or three times and their parents didn’t even notice. Sometimes they’d tell their parents they were changing courses. True say, if you worked really hard for your money, that ish wouldn’t fly but I saw many int’l students get away with this kind of thing.

  13. My friends and I came to canada as international students. Our parents are regular nigerians (some wealthier than others) and managed somehow to pay our tuition. Till this day, my dad says its a miracle how he was able to pay our tuition without borrowing. Safe to say, God paid my tuition :)

    ps: there are VERY few scholarships available to international students in canada. Things are changing now though. International students do not need work permits to work off campus anymore and i hope this makes a big difference for them.
    Canada is good for granting permanent residency and citizenship to their international graduates sha… so thats a plus.

    • Ooh, thanks for your comment and for providing info that others in Canada may find useful.

      God is good—so glad your parents were able to make an education abroad happen for you. :)

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