Financial Planning for International Students

Planning to attend university is an exciting time, but preparing for expenses in a foreign country can feel overwhelming.

While immigration documents, like the I-20, do provide estimated average costs for attending Rice University, it outlines only the most basic costs required to attend Rice University for one academic year (fall semester and spring semester). It does not account for varying indirect costs, nor individual circumstances, like lifestyle, housing selections, differences in airline ticket pricing, winter/summer living expenses, and other expenses that could result in higher or lower actual expenses.

To best prepare for living in the United States, we strongly recommend creating a budget plan prior to arrival that is specific to your lifestyle and circumstances. Below we have provided a list of the different costs you should anticipate, along with a sample budget template to assist you with your budget planning for attending Rice.



Your tuition costs will be billed directly to your student account, in accordance with your program’s tuition rates.

See for your specific program’s rates, as tuition rates vary across programs.

School Fees

Student fees are fixed charges for athletic, activity, and health and wellness fees that are billed directly to your student account. Actual total billed amount of fees may depend on your final course selections.

See for details.


Housing costs vary greatly among students, as students choose from on-campus housing, graduate housing, apartment rentals, or live with relatives or friends in the Houston area.

On-campus housing: Students residing on-campus are billed an amount for the semester - see for details regarding costs.

Note for undergraduates: On-campus housing costs for undergraduates does not include housing for winter break, nor summer break ( Students are expected to return home or move off-campus during those breaks and should budget for those breaks accordingly.

Also, undergraduates living on-campus have strict move-in dates, so be sure to factor in costs for temporary housing if arriving prior to campus housing being available. See for temporary housing resources.

Off-campus housing: Students residing off-campus should plan for related costs in transportation to campus, utility costs, and startup costs like security deposits, furniture needs, etc. A detailed resource for off-campus housing is available at


Meal plans may be purchased each semester. Actual total billed food charges may be different based on the meal plan options you select. See for undergraduate and graduate options.

If you plan to live off-campus and will not purchase a meal plan, be sure to factor in separate estimated costs in your budget.

Health Insurance

All students are required to have health insurance for the duration of their program. Student health insurance may be purchased on a semester or annual basis and will be billed directly to your student account, unless you are eligible and approved for a waiver from the Rice student health insurance plan.

Details on costs, enrollment, and waiver eligibility are available at


For international students, Rice estimates $1500 in travel for the year. Rice does not charge travel fees, charges, or costs. Actual expenses will vary by student.

To estimate your actual cost per year, consider the following:
• Price of a roundtrip ticket from your home to Houston
• Transportation from the airport to Rice (as high as $70-$100)
• Transportation within Houston, costs will vary depending on needs like transportation to campus, grocery stores, activities, etc.


For international students, Rice estimates $2850 in personal costs for the year. This is not a cost Rice will charge, as actual expenses will vary by student.

This would include items such as laundry, telephone, grooming, and entertainment.

Books & Supplies

Rice estimates $1400 in books & supplies for courses. The MBA program estimates are higher due to technology requirements.

Actual expenses will vary by student and will be dependent on the course/program the student is enrolled.


U.S. law requires all individuals living in the United States to file tax forms to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Non-residents for tax purposes may be subject to taxes on any income earned in the U.S.

Students receiving scholarships, grants, fellowships/research assistantships will need to prepare for tax withholding. The U.S. government charges taxes on monies received for living expenses such as room & board, incidentals, and health insurance. Amounts received in financial aid will be reduced by tax withholding.

Students receiving a scholarship/fellowship should be prepared to pay 14% tax on the taxable portion of their funding.

Students receiving a research assistantship should be prepared to pay between 17%-30% tax. This will depend on the amount of funding received and other factors.

Actual amounts will vary. Students from countries with a tax treaties may be eligible for tax discounts.

More details can be learned at and during tax season webinars held in early spring.

Please note that OISS does not have an international tax specialist on staff and cannot give tax advice.

School Breaks (Winter and Summer)

Students must budget for the summer and winter breaks.

Undergraduate students are not currently permitted to stay on-campus during winter or summer break, so budgeting for flights to return home or short-term housing must be considered. See for short-term housing resources.

Winter break (mid December through mid January) – OISS estimates that staying in Houston for winter break may cost up to $5000, as short term housing, food, transportation, and incidental costs add up quickly.

Summer break (May through August) – OISS estimates that staying in Houston for the summer may cost up to $10000 for short-term housing, food, transportation, and personal costs. Planning ahead may lower that amount if subleasing or finding roommates is a possibility. Extended stay hotels with the very basics cost between $80-$100/night.

Immigration Expenses

International students should prepare for costs related to their immigration status. These include:

I-901 SEVIS Fee for F visa applicants: $350
DS-160 visa application fee: $185
Visa Reciprocity Fee (applies only to certain countries, amount varies).

Relocation Costs

Moving to Houston may come with the need to make initial purchases to get setup. These will vary from person to person but include needs like personal items and clothes for Houston life (e.g., rain boots, umbrella, winter clothes, bedding, cell phone, computer).

In addition to the funding listed on your immigration document, it is recommended have access to around $2000-$5000 in a bank account and $500 in cash upon arrival. This money will assist you in purchasing the necessary personal items listed above, as well as transportation, meals, temporary housing, and possible initial rent payments for off-campus housing (first month's rent and security deposit).

Medical Expenses

While all students are required to enroll in health insurance, medical care will still incur additional costs for doctor visits, medication, and unexpected hospital visits.

Budgeting for regular medical care and preparing for emergency medical care should be considered. For cost share estimates for your health insurance plan, see Plan Information on


Sample Budget

Note: Amounts shown below are for example purposes only. Please use the links in the dropdowns above for current year values to determine your budget for the next academic year. Be sure to include additional line items that fit your individual circumstances.

Sample Budget





Note: off-campus housing may need to factor in monthly utility bills for electricity, gas, water, internet, etc.

$10,500 on-campus housing


$4800 meal plan

Health Insurance



$1500 roundtrip flight
$700 Houston transportation


$2800 (entertainment, daily life, laundry, cell phone bill, Netflix)

Books and Course Materials

$1500 for 5 courses and lab


$4000 on scholarship

Winter Break

$1500 roundtrip ticket home/Rice

Summer Break

$1500 roundtrip ticket home/Rice

Immigration Expenses
(may not be recurring annual costs)

$350 F-1 SEVIS fee
$160 visa application fee
$200 visa reciprocity fee

Relocation Costs
(may not be recurring annual costs)

$3000 (new phone, computer, bedding, pillow, umbrella, winter jacket)

Medical Expenses

$1000 (regular medication and 3 doctor visits



Financial Support

Opportunities for financial support for international students can be limited. Options need to be carefully researched and may have strict deadlines for applying. It is also important to note that it can be quite difficult to secure additional funding after arriving in the U.S.

Rice Undergraduate scholarships – apply through the Rice Office of Financial Aid

Rice Graduate scholarships & fellowships – managed by academic department. Inquire directly with programs regarding availability and eligibility

On-campus work – limited availability and governed by immigration regulations. F-1 and J-1 visa students may not accrue more than 20 hours of on-campus work per week while school is in session.

Off-campus work – opportunities are governed by immigration regulations and limitations. Please see for details.

Private education/student loans – in the United States, most education loans will require a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen as a co-guarantor on the loan.

EducationUSA Resource guide – additional resources, tips, and recommendations from EducationUSA