Financing student life in the US, the UK, and the Netherlands

Financing student life in the US, the UK, and the Netherlands

By 4 minute read

Going to college can be an expensive but worthwhile experience and an important route to a future career. Abdallah Belasy outlines the main costs of financing student life in the US, the UK and the Netherlands.

US – a land of opportunity but not free

In the US, students have the option to go to private or public community college. Private colleges tuition fees are significantly higher than community college, and whether the community college is in- or out of your home state also impacts the cost (with out of state colleges being more expensive). The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2020–2021 school year was USD 41,411 at private colleges, USD 11,171 for state residents at public colleges and USD 26,809 for out-of-state students at state schools, according to an annual survey published by US News.

To fund these tuition fees, students can get scholarships, use savings or take a loan, or a combination of all three. Scholarships are granted to students with good academic merit, students who excel in athletics,  and students with severe financial problems. However, recently a study carried out by the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) concluded that the percentage of students that eventually get a scholarship, is extremely low. Therefore, most students either tap into the 'Bank of Mom and Dad', which hopefully has been building up a college fund for years, and/or opt to take an official bank loan to finance their college tuition. 

As for accommodation, students in the US either stay in dorms on campus or choose to rent a room. Times Higher Education reports that on-campus dormitory rooms in the US averaged between USD 5,304 and USD 8,161 including all utilities and housing-related costs. Furthermore, the average apartment rent strongly depends on location and can range from USD 500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in a rural area, to USD 3,500 for a one-bedroom apartment in a city.

College may be the springboard to a future lucrative career; it is certainly a financial burden for individuals and families in the US. As of right now, 1 in 4 Americans have student debt - the average being USD 37,172 - which results in a significant student debt problem in the US. Americans now owe more than USD 1.53 trillion in student loan debt, based on the most current figures available to Nitro. The standard repayment timetable for federal loans is 10 years, but research suggests it takes four-year degree holders an average of 19.7 years to pay off their loans.

UK – the capped costs of 'going to uni'

The average cost of tuition fees in the UK is GBP 6,000 per year. The maximum amount is capped by the government at GBP 9,250 according to Study in UK. Students can finance their education by getting a scholarship, a grant, or taking out a loan. There are two types of state-governed student loans in UK: tuition fee loans and maintenance loans. The former is issued for covering your university fees, whereas the latter is awarded to cover household spend. In the UK, Scholarships are most often granted to international students, therefore most UK students need to take loans. On the other hand, grants are given out more frequently but under certain conditions. For example, that the student needs to work at the company that provided the grant for their study.

In the UK, the average student rent is GBP 126.42 per week, though costs vary massively says Save The Student. The vast majority of students in the UK live in student housing -  only 12% still living with their parents! As to the debt situation,  on average students in the UK face a debt of GBP 35,000 according to Mark In Style. What is unique about the loan system in the UK, is that if you have not paid off your debt after 30 years, the debt is automatically forgiven.

The Netherlands – a learning loan with 0% interest

In the Netherlands, the standard tuition fee for a three-year Bachelor program is EUR 2,143. However, the first year of your first Bachelor is half off (so EUR 1,043). Students currently cannot get a scholarship, so if they don’t have money saved up, they will need to take a loan. Students from low-income households do have the right for a so-called "aanvullende beurs", a monthly stipend in the form of a loan. Recipients who graduate  within ten years do not need to pay this money back.

According to research  by Nibud, renting a room costs on average EUR 426 a month. Fewer students live in student housing than in the past, which has to do with the changing scholarship system. According to data by the Statistics Netherlands (CBS), before the introduction of a loan system, 62% of University students moved out within 16 months of the start of their study. After the change, this percentage plunged to 45% - and is still declining. A total of 1,4 million people has student debt in the Netherlands and the average debt is EUR 13,700. However, students can pay this loan back with 0% interest.

Lastly, there are some miscellaneous expenses that are relevant for every country. Such as mobile phone bills, food, clothes, going out etc. These expenses vary from person to person but are roughly the same in each country. The Bank of Mom and Dad is often called upon to help cover these essential costs too, up to and even after graduation.

Students graduating


Abdallah Belasy

About Abdallah Belasy

I study Communication and Media at Erasmus University (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) and am currently an intern in Corporate Communications at Aegon. I love to write entertaining/informational articles about finance, student life, starting your career and other topics that are important to myself and other students.