This year, the number of international students across the world hit 4.5 million, more than double the mere two million recorded in the year 2000.

As developing countries continue to grow exponentially, both in terms of population and economy, more and more parents are finding it possible to send their children overseas to pursue their higher education.

Many parents do so with the hopes that the experience of studying abroad will furnish their children with the skills and knowledge to lead lives even more successful than their own, in addition to taking advantage of opportunities they may not have had back home.

This belief holds true for many Asian households in particular, as more than half of students currently attending universities outside their home country hail from Asian countries.

According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, the top four countries sending the largest numbers of students abroad are:

  • China: 712,157
  • India: 181,872
  • Germany: 119,123
  • South Korea: 116,942

Meanwhile, the top four countries that welcome the highest concentrations of international students are:

  • U.S.: 19 percent
  • UK: 10 percent
  • Australia: 6 percent
  • France: 6 percent

Often, especially when it comes to undergraduate students, parents will bear the brunt of supporting their children’s overseas education. Based on a HSBC report, an international student attending a U.S. university can expect to pay on average about US$33,000 a year in tuition fees.

In other popular study destinations such as the UK, Australia, and Canada, tuition fees range between an average of about US$26,000 and US$30,000. And that’s before adding accommodation costs, food, air fares and other expenses.

According to HSBC’s global head of international and cross-border, Trista Sun, doing your homework when it comes to financing international education is crucial and pays off in the end.

Here are the seven things Sun thinks parents often overlook when planning their child’s education abroad:

  1. Exchange rates
    Exchange rate fluctuations can have a significant impact on the amount you send abroad. A fluctuation of 5-10 percent on fees and expenses of US$70,000, for example, could make a difference of between US$3,500 and US$5,000. Over three years, that could represent a difference of more than US$10,000.
  2. Accounts
    Think about opening an account before your child goes abroad, as it may help make the transition easier.
  3. Extra costs 
    Watch out for extra costs. Fees and charges for transferring money or using an overseas credit card soon add up. Do some homework and find out what kind of payments universities accept. Some may allow you to pay in another currency or in instalments.
  4. Transfers 
    Check how long it takes your bank to transfer money. You never know when you might need to urgently send money to your child.
  5. Health insurance
    Look into which health insurance policies are accepted by the university and compare cost and coverage carefully.
  6. Unexpected life events
    It’s worth thinking about getting a protection policy so that if something happens to you, your child’s education won’t be disrupted.
  7. Planning
    Start planning early and be disciplined about saving. Putting aside US$10 a day for 10 years at a return rate of 2 percent could cover one or two years’ worth of university education in the most popular countries. Consider seeking professional advice.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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