International students face higher costs of attendance, but still find UB a cheaper option

The cost of living abroad


When Peter Pranata visited a college fair at his school in Indonesia, UB stood out to him. Pranata, a sophomore industrial engineering major, said he ultimately chose to go to UB because of how cheap it was compared to other international schools.

Students from around the world, like Pranata, study abroad because they feel U.S. schools provide a better foundation than what they could get at home – and they find UB to be one of better options to get the most bang for their buck, even with annual increased fees.

UB is ranked among the top-20 U.S. universities in enrollment rates for international students, with 6,504 international students currently enrolled. In-state residents pay close to $9,000 in tuition fees whereas out-of-state residents like international students pay more than $22,000 for tuition and more than $39,000 when including housing, food and other fees.

International students pay a mandatory $100 international student fee and about $1,200 for international student health insurance.

International students in Western New York contributed more than $194 million to the economy in 2014, with UB’s international students contributing majority of that with more than $140 million, according to the Association of International Educators.

Like Pranata, Fahad Hossain, a junior business administration major, said that he chose UB because of how affordable it was. Hossain, who is from Saudi Arabia, looked into UB after a relative recommended it. He saw it was cheaper compared to other universities he applied to in different countries.

“UB was, to be quite frank, quite cheaper,” Hossain said. “It’s more affordable while still having a good standard of education.”

Yingxue Bai, a senior business major, said she currently pays more than $13,000 to attend UB, which she said is reasonable for studying abroad but expensive compared to colleges in China – especially after UB increased its cost of tuition in 2012.

“Actually, our tuition is much lower than the other universities at similar ranking,” Bai said. “However, the continual increase of the tuition makes me feel kind of unsatisfied. As what I know, on average, students in China pay no more than $1,000.”

SUNY has been raising tuition by $300 per year for the past five years. UB says students should expect a 3 percent increase in cost-of-attendance expenses each academic year.

International students also have to account for communication costs in order to stay in contact with people from home. While apps like Skype or Facebook messenger give students the free option to communicate with people overseas for free, often times international students will purchase a new phone altogether to keep costs down.

Hossain said he wishes now he did more researching on phone plans when he first came to the United States especially because he said he thinks the phone carriers here are “more complicated” than in Saudi Arabia.

“I went from scratch – a new phone, a new carrier, everything,” Hossain said. “I just wish I knew more before going into it.”

Bai says she didn’t worry about paying for a phone plan – let alone a new phone – when she came to Buffalo. Instead, she said she uses a free app or the Internet to communicate with her family without costing any money.

Hossain said food is another expense that was cheaper back home in Saudi Arabia. When he came to Buffalo, he got used to buying food in bulk since it was expensive. But often times he bought too much so the food went to waste.

Pranata said both food and housing are more expensive here than Indonesia, which he said wouldn’t be an issue if he decided to stay home for schooling since he would be able to live with his parents.

But Pranata said he made the right choice when deciding to go to UB. He said that while Asian schools are more theoretical, American schools are more practical.

“It’s definitely more expensive, but at the same time it provides you with a better foundation,” he said.

Marlee Tuskes is a news editor and can be reached at