living costs in texas
A view of Austin's downtown skyline = free. Source: Shutterstock

From India to China, the Lone Star State attracts students from all over the world to its campuses. In 2018/19, it hosted as many as 81,893 international students, according to the Institute of International Education, an advocacy group for student exchange. This is a drop from the previous year and the 30 percent increase seen in applications from 2013 to 2016. Nevertheless, Texas continues to host the third largest group of international students in the US.

The University of Texas, Dallas at Richardson, with 9,401 students from abroad, hosts more than one-tenth of this group. According to its website, these students come from over 100 countries (including those from other UT Dallas campuses) to study in over 140 degree programmes, including 90 Master’s and doctoral programmes.

It’s not hard to explain Texas’ popularity. Fans will tell you it’s got the best of everything: a wide range of colleges, technical schools, and universities to choose from in these areas; the largest collection of Fortune 500 companies in the country; and a wide range of cultures and ethnicities, making it the second most diverse US state.

But how affordable is it? Below is a breakdown of the costs of studying and living in the state:

Tuition: US$27,640

For academic year 2019/20, the average tuition here for out-of-state students (US$27,640) is just slightly more than the US average (US$26,820), according to College Board. This is a premium of US$17,170, compared to in-state students, and a 10 percent increase from five years ago.

While fees in Texas are higher for international students compared to other popular states like New York, it’s significantly cheaper than in states like California and Vermont.

Rent: US$5,175-48,000 per year

Staying on-campus costs an average of US$5,175 for the state’s public four-year institutions and US$6,368 at private four-year colleges, according to data collected for academic year 2017/18. This is cheaper than the national average, which is US$6,227 and US$6,967 respectively.

A one-bedroom apartment in Austin’s city centre would cost between US$1,300-2,100, while those further from central would cost US$895-1,400, figures from Numbeo show. You’ll stand to get a pretty decent-sized unit (possibly even some of the biggest nationwide), according to RentCafe, which analysed the maximum square feet you can get if you were to spend no more than 30 percent of your income on rent.

Food: US$2,994 per year

The MIT Living Wage Calculator estimates that an adult with no children would need around US$2,994 per year to cover food costs in Texas. The Calculator determines the minimum amount necessary to meet basic needs without dipping into poverty or relying on outside help, or suffering consistent and severe housing and food insecurity.

Compared to San Francisco, food in Texas is 21 percent cheaper, according to figures from NerdWallet’s Cost of Living Calculator. Bread costs US$4.59 in the former but only US$3.44 in the latter. Buying milk, a 12-inch Pizza Hut pizza and a McDonalds Quarter-Pounder with cheese all burn a smaller hole in your pocket in Texas.

Transport: At least US$41.25 per month

A day pass for Austin’s Capital Metro is US$2.50, while a monthly pass costs US$41.25. Gas is cheaper in Texas too, compared to San Francisco, priced at US$2.50 per gallon, compared to US$3.82 at the West Coast city. The cheapest option, as with anywhere, is to walk or bike. A note of caution: for several consecutive years, Dallas was ranked the worst city for cycling in the country, though things are said to have improved. Austin, the residence of Lance Armstrong himself, is known to offer loads to cyclists.


The basics – electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage – for an 85m² apartment will cost around US$95-210.26 per month, while Internet would cost US$45-75 per month.

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