What Do International Student Loans Cover

What Do International Student Loans Cover

When taking out a student loan it is important to know that the maximum amount that you are able to take out is the total cost of your education.

After taking the time to properly research your international program and the different ways to fund your travel, it is important that you are able to answer the question, “What do international student loans cover?” Understanding how these student loans work and what they cover will be important as you evaluate your budget, calculate the costs, and determine how you will bridge the financial gap in affording the educational program of your choice. This article will discuss what student loans cover and how funds are disbursed.

What do international student loans cover?

When taking out a student loan it is important to know that the maximum amount that you are able to take out is the total cost of your education. This will vary based on your school and the program´s cost of attendance as your school will ultimately certify the total loan amount you can borrow. However, if you will be receiving any additional aid (such as scholarships, grants, etc.) the maximum amount you will be eligible for will be equal to the cost of attendance minus the amount of aid you will be receiving.

It is usually quite easy to find out your school's cost of attendance, because it is often provided to you after your enrollment or can usually be found on the institution's website. Below is an example of a breakdown of what could be included in a US university's cost of attendance.


As you can see, a school's cost of attendance encompasses a variety of things.

Factors for Cost of Attendance


This will always be the main fee for each academic year. Be sure to check the period the tuition will cover (academic semester, trimester, or year).

Mandatory fees:

Most institutions tend to have mandatory fees; however they can differ from school to school. Mandatory fees can include expenses such as student center fees, student activity fees, recreation fees, residence hall activity fees, new student fees, etc.

Room and board:

This amount is based on living in on-campus university housing and purchasing a standard meal plan. If you plan to live off-campus be sure to consider the rent, utilities, transportation, etc.

Books and supplies:

An estimate of the amount to be spent on books for classes is included in this price, as well as supplies which could be lab costs, laptop expenses, etc.

Personal / Misc.:

Expenses such as food, leisure, communication are taken into account for this estimation.


Transportation costs can include such things as a parking permit, monthly bus pass, or metro pass.

Those who will be traveling as international students through a university sponsored program should also have access to a breakdown of their program costs. If you will be doing a study abroad program, it is important to be aware that there are instances where the cost of your program is more or less than the actual amount of a semester or year at your home university. Be sure to contact your international student advisor or study abroad advisor to get the true cost. This adjusted cost of attendance is what the loan amount may be based on.

Some of the costs that are incorporated into study abroad program that can also be covered by your loan include:

  • Books and supplies
  • Heath insurance
  • Personal expenses
  • Tuition
  • Airfare
  • Room and board

Using Student Loans to Pay for School

It is important to realize that your loan disbursement (when you receive the money for your loan) are normally sent directly to your school. They are often sent out to the schools 2-4 weeks after all necessary paperwork has been submitted, but not processed by the schools until a few weeks before the start of the new semester. This can however vary by school so it's important to get in touch with your Financial Aid department about the process and timing of when the funds are given out.

Typically, schools receive payment directly from the lender and then the school processes all the mandatory payments first, and then gives the student the remaining money. Miscellaneous items such as books, supplies, food, transportation, and personal expenses are included in the cost of attendance; therefore there is the possibility that you will be left with an outstanding amount while the funds are still be processed by your school. If you pay this out of pocket, this outstanding amount can usually be given to you as a refund check.

Like with the disbursement of the loan, each school also has a different method of distributing refund checks, so check with your school on the details. If you are on campus within the time period of distribution, you would need to go speak directly to the financial office to see how to continue on with the process. If you will be doing a study abroad program it is possible that you may have already left the country at the time when funds are typically disbursed. It is important to look into how the money could be distributed so that you may receive it in a timely fashion.

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