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Financial Resources

Managing your finances as an international student

Studying in the U.S. is a serious commitment and American higher education is quite expensive compared to that of other countries. International students (e.g. F-1, J-1 visa holders) must have the financial resources to cover their educational expenses while in the U.S. You are required to submit proof of sufficient funds to cover tuition, fees, and living expenses in order to obtain an I-20 or DS-2019. International students are not eligible for U.S. government-funded financial aid. Therefore, it is critical that you responsibly plan and manage your finances for the duration of your studies. 

Notes about the I-20

  • Estimated expenses on the I-20 are for one academic year (9 months). If you plan to stay in the U.S. during the summer, you should have extra funds for those additional living expenses. 
  • The estimates on the I-20 are not binding and you should be financially prepared in case expenses fluctuate over time. It is common for U.S. universities to raise tuition rates and/or fees on a regular basis. Inflation rates and changes in the global economy may also impact your costs.
  • Estimates for living expenses are based on average costs of local housing, food, and transportation. Your actual living expenses may be more and less than this estimate depending on your personal preferences and spending habits. 
  • Living expenses on the I-20 do not include expenses that are not directly associated with your enrollment in an academic program, such as a car, hobbies, personal travel, etc. You should plan your budget accordingly. 

Financing your education

Be sure to review CMU’s current costs of attendance and information about scholarships available to international students: 

International students are eligible to work on campus up to 20 hours per week during the semesters and up to 40 hours per week during breaks. Campus employment is competitive and limited so you should not count on paying for your educational expenses with a campus job. 

CMU partners with Flywire to facilitate electronic transfers of funds for you to pay your tuition and fees. Founded by a former international student, Flywire's mission is to save money for international students and their families that might otherwise be lost in bank fees and unfavorable foreign exchange rates.

You may set up an interest-free monthly payment plan through OneCentral for your tuition, fees, and health insurance charges. 

You will mostly likely want to set up a U.S. bank account. There are several banks in Mount Pleasant for you to choose from. PNC Bank has an on-campus branch

Creating a realistic budget

CMU’s Financial Wellness Collaborative provides resources to help students manage their finances including guidance on budgeting and an online toolkit designed to help students learn about managing their money. The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid also provides helpful guidance on budgeting

CMU’s mandatory health insurance for international students provides comprehensive healthcare at very affordable rates. However, you must still be prepared to pay for any out-of-pocket medical expenses such as deductibles, co-pays, or out-of-network costs.

Tips about off-campus living:

  • When you lease a house or apartment, you are entering into a legal contract. It is critical that you thoroughly read the terms and ask questions before you sign. You are encouraged to review the State of Michigan’s guide to renting.
  • Many leases require you to pay certain fees upfront, such as first month’s rent, security deposit, and an application fee.
  • Be aware that many property managers require that you sign a 12-month lease even if you don’t plan on staying in Mount Pleasant over the summer. It can be quite costly to break your lease early, so be sure to ask your landlord about your lease terms before you sign.
  • You should expect to pay separately for some or all of your utilities (electricity, gas, water, trash pick/recycling, cable TV, internet). Be sure to ask your landlord what expenses are covered in your lease and which you must pay for yourself. 
  • You will need to provide furnishings for yourself such as furniture, bedding, towels, and cookware.
  • You are strongly encouraged to get renter’s insurance to cover theft, loss, or destruction of personal property in the event of a fire, storm, or other covered event. Your landlord may be able to suggest a recommended plan. 

Other expenses to include in your budget are: cell phone plan and other technology, clothes, toiletries and other personal items/services, recreation, and travel.

All international students, whether or not they have U.S. income, are required each year to file a personal tax return to the federal government. CMU has arranged discounted access to an online tax preparation software tool called Sprintax which guides you through the tax preparation process, prepares the necessary documents and checks if you are entitled to a refund. You will receive information about this service from OGE. 

Other resources

CMU’s Student Food Pantry is a supplemental resource that provides food and personal care items for students experiencing food insecurity. The USDA defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. This can be a temporary situation for a family or can last a long time. Food insecurity is one way we measure not being able to afford to buy food.

First Impressions provides CMU students with free professional attire for interviews, job fairs, and other professional events.

CMU’s International Student Emergency Fund offers a one-time financial award to support students encountering an unforeseen emergency situation that impacts their ability to continue their studies.

International students who are facing severe economic hardship due to unexpected circumstances beyond their control may be eligible to apply to the U.S. government for permission to work off-campus. Students who think they may be eligible should speak to an OGE international student advisor.