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MAR 10, 2020 • 9 min read
The age old question of: ‘Why pay more when you can get the same thing for less or even for free?’ is a fair one. But before answering, try defining what ‘the same thing’ is. The truth is, the quality of a US university education - and the post graduate salaries that follow it - often varies dramatically from that offered by domestic alternatives.
While a world class US university education is more expensive than that provided by many other nations, few are aware of the lifetime of benefits a student gains from the US college experience, and even fewer of the international student financial aid opportunities available.
Want to know more? Check out the following Top 10 reasons why a US university education is more than worth the investment.
One look at the QS World University Rankings and you can see why US universities have earned their reputation for excellence. Of the world top 10, US universities take up 5 spots, including the top four in MIT, Stanford, Harvard and Caltech. Of the world Top 50 they claim 19 spots! Considering these rankings are decided using criteria such as academic and employer reputation, student faculty ratios, international student and faculty numbers and quality of research output, this means these universities are kicking goals in multiple educational areas and beyond.
Drawn to the first-class facilities and academic reputation, the aptitude of the students and the generously funded research projects that secure international acclaim, the world’s most respected academia take up teaching positions at the US’s world leading universities. Better still, these faculty teach all students - from freshmen to post-graduates – so that it is not uncommon for a first year student to be in classes run by Nobel Laureates. For example, MIT’s physics department boasts a faculty of nine Nobel Prize winners, Harvard’s faculty includes Nobel Prize winners in economics, medicine, chemistry and physics while Princeton has approximately eleven Nobel Prize winners on faculty – including the Nobel Prize winner in Medicine, Professor Eric F. Weischaus.
When most people think about university campus facilities, they think sporting fields or science labs - but the word ‘facilities’ covers a gamut of on-campus locations and services also including medical facilities, residential housing, dining areas, student societies and IT infrastructure. In all areas, US universities come out a good distance ahead of the great majority of their international counterparts - and not in a small way. Thanks to a philosophy that is dedicated to quality of student life (and healthy alumni donations!) - as well as competition between universities in facilities rankings - US college campuses are hubs of facility excellence. From the world class sporting fields, gymnasiums and swimming pools to the laboratories where Nobel Prize winners complete their research. From the 24-hour on-campus medical facilities to libraries that contain enough books to stretch around the globe. From the seamless internet connections and IT support mechanisms to the world class dining halls, US colleges take their facilities provision and maintenance very seriously. Add to this the millions of dollars spent on recreational clubs and organizations and you have a recipe for campus life where all students passions and needs are met.
US colleges base their entire application process on building classes that reflect cultural diversity. This is largely because US colleges understand that while their students learn from their world-leading faculty - they also learn from their peers who bring to campus their own rich experiences and perspectives. Studying with a student body from different cultural, economic and religious backgrounds sees students gain a new appreciation and respect for people of all origins and circumstances. Perhaps even more importantly, it results in students building an international network of contacts – many of whom remain important friends and connections for the student’s life and career moving forward. US colleges welcome international students - with some of the world’s most competitive universities boasting international acceptance rates as high as 15%. For example this year, Ivy League universities the University of Pennsylvania, Brown and Harvard reported international acceptances rates of 14%, 13% and 12% respectively.
Because of the international reputation enjoyed by many of these US universities, many equate this with a larger size of campus and student body, when in fact, the opposite is often the case. US private colleges in particular boast small student numbers and as such, low student faculty ratios. For example, the student faculty ratio at Princeton and Stanford is 5:1, at Harvard and Columbia it is 6:1, at New York University it is 9:1. This further reflects the small number of students admitted per year, in the case of the Ivy League and Stanford for example, often only between 1,000-2,000 students. Needless to say, the above statistics add up to high application numbers and as a result, low acceptance rates (as low as 4.5%). However, international students who have worked hard and prepared comprehensive applications to these universities have proven extremely competitive on the global stage – with Crimson students defying global acceptance percentages and raising their chances of Ivy League and Stanford acceptance rates to 4x the global population average.
The cost of a US university education may seem high compared to other nations. But recent data released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveals the reason for the cost is the high investment US universities make in their students. Beyond Luxembourg, US universities spend more money on each of their individual students than any nation in the world. Specifically, they spend an average of USD $27,000 per student on core and auxiliary educational services - and another USD $3,000 per student on research and development. While the UK comes in third at USD? $21,000 per student, other countries pale in comparison; Australian universities investing approximately USD $14,000 per student, New Zealand USD $12,000, Germany USD $10,000 and Korea USD $8,000. The figures reaffirm the high regard US universities place on the individual development of each student.
It is well known that universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth, just to name a few, boast powerful and generous alumni networks dedicated to giving back to their alma mater financially. But few may realise how key the alumni network is to a student’s future career and salary. Many alumni ‘recruit from within’, meaning they actively visit and invite soon-to-be graduates from their former universities to intern and eventually work at their current places of employment. Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg and Amazon all actively recruit from top university campuses. The University of Pennsylvania has more alumni working on Wall Street than any other university – it’s highly respected Wharton School of Business graduates often courted by several top firms all fighting for the world’s top graduate hires.
...which brings us to post graduate salaries. With these alumni connections and employment opportunities also comes the lifelong benefit of higher post-graduate wages and accelerated rates of promotion. In fact, graduates from the world’s most competitive US universities achieve salaries that are often $US50,000+ more per year than the average internationally based post graduate student. Just as one example, the average German law school graduate earns approximately $US63,500 per annum as a starting salary, whereas the average graduate from Columbia Law School has a starting salary of approximately $US162,000 per year. Therefore many parents see the cost of a US university education as an investment in their child’s future - with the returns achieved when their child embarks upon their chosen career.
The calibre of staff, the high student investment and the global network of alumni connections also result in competitive US universities being graced with the world’s most generous research budgets. These budgets often see all students - including first years - benefitting from, internationally respected research projects funded by substantial government and private enterprise grants and alumni donations. Of course, just as students enjoy an endless number of course options on campus, these universities also provide hundreds of study abroad opportunities as part of their curriculum. Having established relationships with major international companies, medical research institutions, law societies and other places of business, they also help their students gain valuable work experience and networking opportunities via annual summer internship programs located all over the world.
Once again, thanks to the generosity of alumni donations, many US universities offer substantial financial aid to their international students. Within the Common Application there is a section that asks if the student would like to apply for financial aid - and once checked, the university then asks for information on a family’s finances so that if aid is awarded the amount can be calculated to meet that student’s needs. The beauty of US university financial aid is that it does not have to be ‘paid back’. It is in effect a ‘grant’ or ‘gift’ from the university which enables a student to study free from the stress of having post-graduate debt (last year alone 70% of Harvard students were on some form of financial aid). Perhaps even more significant is the many millions of dollars available to international students in US College athletic scholarships. Hundreds of US universities are willing to subsidize the education of talented athletes regardless of their country of origin - and these athletes not only receive assistance in funding, but are also supported by some of the best coaches in the world in universities with unparalleled facilities and support mechanisms. Worth noting is that Crimson Education has helped their students gain over $US68 million in the past 5 years, with some Crimson students attending US universities on 100% financial aid packages.
Of course, every family has their own decision to make when it comes to how much they spend on their child’s university education. But the pure numbers of applications and the low acceptance rates that exist as a result of this high demand is evidence of the high value students, parents, and employers place upon a world class education.
For a personalised assessment of where you (or your child) may stand when it comes to US university application, admissions and financial aid you can book a free one consult with one of our academic advisors here.