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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Study Abroad: Budget for Australia

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Want to study in Australia? We have both good and bad news. Australia is one of the 10 most sought-after destinations for U.S. students who go abroad. And there are a few very good reasons. Many of its universities rank among the world’s top 100, and the country is home to a number of the 30 best student cities in the world. The government invests $200 million a year in international student scholarships and U.S. students are exempt from foreign language requirements.

The bad news is all about the price tag. The average cost of a year of independent study in Australia is expensive, reaching as high as $40,000 including tuition and living expenses. The infographic on hotcoursesabroad.com breaks down tuition for undergraduate and graduate degree programs and some sample living costs in different countries. But if you need more information about the pros and cons of studying in Australia, keep reading.

Key Takeaways

  • Although it is expensive, studying in Australia can provide a unique experience with no foreign language requirements.
  • The total cost of studying at the University of Melbourne for the 2020 spring semester was over $60,000 including tuition, books, meals, local travel, and excursions.
  • An Australian student work visa allows you to work while you’re in school.
  • Consider applying for scholarships and grants to offset the costs of studying abroad in Australia.

Is the Hefty Investment Worth It?

Before you even sit down to apply to Australian schools, there are some things you’ll need to consider. Are you going to complete your entire degree or coursework at an Australian school or are you going to study for one term through your American university?

Having said all this, is a study abroad experience worth the price? According to Daniel Obst, former deputy vice president of the Institute of International Education (IIE), the answer is a resounding yes.

“We know that employers are now looking for candidates [who] can negotiate local and international challenges,” he said. “These are the skills that will be essential for all careers.”

Strategies for Defraying the Cost

To help pay for your education in Australia, check out the excellent roundup of available grants for study abroad at IIEPassport. Keep in mind that federal law requires American universities and colleges to continue dispensing federal funds to students enrolled in approved study abroad programs.

Students enrolled in approved study abroad programs can receive federal funds from American colleges and universities.

Here’s another way to defray the costs. An Australian student visa allows you to work up to 40 hours every two weeks during the academic term and full-time during the holidays—an uncommon perk for students studying abroad. You’ll have to offset the earnings from the cost of the visa, which is about $400.

How to Choose the Right Program

Whether your study abroad experience proves enriching depends on your choosing the right experience for you. IIE Passport lists 398 programs of study in Australia available to U.S. students. StudyAbroad101.com lists 282, complete with Yelp-style reviews. For useful independent study information, check out the Australian government’s website. For a listing of Australian colleges and universities and the courses they offer, be sure to check out hotcourses.com.au. If you have a study abroad adviser on your home campus, take advantage of their expertise. The best introduction to the field is IIE’s “Student Guide to Study Abroad,” which costs $14.95.

Cost of a Sponsored Program

To give you an idea of a typical semester-long sponsored study-abroad opportunity in Australia, we’ve chosen the program at the University of Melbourne offered by The College of Global Studies at Arcadia University as an example. With a vast number of courses to choose from—400 subjects in the arts faculty alone—participants in the 2020 spring semester paid $45,300 for tuition and shared accommodations. Additional expenses—including books, meals, local travel, excursions, and others—are estimated at $15,880.

According to Caitlin Barnett, assistant director of Arcadia’s New Zealand programs, enrolling in a university on your own will save money, “but you will not have nearly the same support system before you leave and once you arrive.” That route is best ”for students who are very independent and willing to do a lot of work on their own.”

Now for the Budget Details

Here’s what you’ll need to budget for your stay in Australia—some extras that you’ll want and some of the necessities that you can’t avoid. Prices given are for Melbourne, but will not vary substantially in other cities except in Sydney, where higher rents boost the overall cost of living 17% higher.

Round-Trip Airfare

Traveling in economy class can cost as much as $2,000. Depending on when you book and how flexible you are about stopovers, as well as departure and arrival times, you may be able to get a better deal. Remember that many lower-cost fares come with strict cancellation and change policies, so figure travel insurance into your budget.


Living on campus is not the norm for Australian students. “Most Australians stay local for university, and many continue to live at home during their studies,” according to Erin Baldwin, senior programming manager at the American Council on Education and former education manager at the Australian Trade Commission.

The best solution for a foreign student is to rent a room in a private house—lots of homes near universities offer this option. You can also stay in a student apartment complex run by companies like Campus Living Villages and Urbanest. Both offer studios and shared accommodations to rent near campuses. But they’re not cheap. An inexpensive sublet may cost about $200 per week, but expect to pay as much as $400 or $500 a week for something else.

School Books

They’re generally less expensive than in the United States, and borrowing from the university library will save money. Budget about $80 to $120 for books and supplies.

Local Transportation

In Melbourne, trams are best. They’re easy to use and they go all over the city. In other cities, the bus, train, and ferry systems are all good forms of transport. Students pay about $3 for a full-day pass—half the full fare.

Mobile Phone

Buy a basic phone for about $40. A plan will cost you about $24/month for 500MB of data, plus calls and texts. If you unlock your own smartphone and buy a SIM card, service will cost about $32/month for 2GB of data, plus calls and texts.

Slush Fund

This is the money you hope you’ll never have to use. To be safe, put aside about $1,000 for emergencies, like a plane ticket home. If you’re on a sponsored program, the provider will usually be able to make an emergency loan.

Other Costs

  • Dinner splurge: At about $40 per person, they’ll have to be very good friends if you’re treating.
  • Surfing lessons: You can’t possibly return to the States without a selfie in a wetsuit. A two-hour group lesson for beginners costs about $50 or $120 for a private session. Renting a wetsuit will add another $8.
  • Trip to Sydney: It’s best to fly as it’s a 9½-hour drive overland. In mid-February, the fare will be about $226 round-trip, while you’ll spend about $60 less at other times of the year.
  • Beer in a pub: About $6, or $12 to $16 if you add food to the tab. A lot of bars have special student nights, so there’s no cover charge. You’ll also be able to score cheap pitchers and mixed drinks with your student ID.
  • Wine: In Australia, this will be a bag-in-a-box called a goon for about $8. A bottle will cost twice as much.
  • Coffee: $3.25 for a small.

The Bottom Line

Australia may be an expensive place to live and study compared to some other parts of the world, but many U.S. students are attracted to its high-quality universities, its wide-open spaces, and the exemption of foreign language requirements. And it’s not only U.S. students who gravitate to Australia—almost one in four university students in Australia are international students, opening up a global network of future contacts for you. Accommodations in Australia are pricey and you can keep other living costs in check by taking advantage of student discounts and following the lead of local students.

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