Schools That Are Actually Cheap: Affordable Options Under 10,000 USD/Year

This content was contributed by Kavita Chandran, University Counselor at UWC Changshu (and from Malaysia!)

Malaysia, known for its “Truly Asia” tagline, is well known as a popular tourist destination in Asia. A leader in industrial growth and political stability for decades, Malaysia is also one of the top study destinations for students seeking to obtain an internationally renowned education. It is strategically located, making it easy for domestic and international travel to other parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas, and international students can easily mingle with domestic students of diverse backgrounds.

Most universities are located in the city center of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital. English is commonly used not only in education, but also in this multicultural country: in fact, it is possible to live in urban areas of Malaysia only knowing English. Malaysia hosts 100+ globally recognized public and private institutions, including foreign branches of reputable universities from the U.K, Australia, and Ireland – some have their own overseas branch or work in partnership with a Malaysian institution. 

Annual tuition fees for undergraduate programs range from USD 4,000 to 6,000. Cost of living is also affordable in such a cosmopolitan city, with an estimated range of 400-600 USD per month to live really comfortably as a student. 

This multicultural country gives a chance for international students to meet domestic students. Students have the option to study in English at the undergraduate and graduate levels both at private and public institutions. Malaysia is also a great and affordable place to pursue a medical degree: students can enroll right after finishing high school, and the degree is recognized in a lot of countries around the world. 

The universities below are recommended from professional experience; they are institutions that are well known to best support international students and are reputable outside of the Asia region.  

Highlighted Universities:

  • Universiti Malaya: Located in Kuala Lumpur, Universiti Malaya is a public research university and Malaysia’s oldest and highest ranked university. Notable alumni include three Malaysian prime ministers! It offers a wide variety of Bachelor’s degrees, ranging from Dentistry to Education to Economics and Administration. Universiti Malaya offers a multicultural and multinational learning environment with over 27,000 students (14,000 of whom are undergraduates) who hail from over 80 countries. 

  • Universiti Sains Malaysia: USM is a public research institution in Penang, Malaysia with extensive English-language offerings in the Sciences, Arts, Engineering, and Health Sciences. USM was chosen by the Malaysian Minister of Higher Education to implement the Accelerated Programme for Excellence (APEX) and is leading initiatives to integrate sustainable development into the educational system in Malaysia. 

  • Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia: UKM, also known as the National University of Malaysia, is a public university located in Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor, south of Kuala Lumpur. UKM is a highly ranked university and has roughly 17,000 students. They offer a number of programs for international students, including programs in the Faculties of Law, Education, Information Science and Technology, and Medicine. They have particularly strong programs in the fields of education, politics, engineering, law and mathematics. 

  • Sunway University: A relatively young, private university based in Sunway City. Undergraduate programs range from Business Studies to Computer Science to Digital Film Production and generally last three years. Sunway has a special partnership with Lancaster University and graduates of many of their degrees also receive a degree from Lancaster University. The university has an international atmosphere with 2,000 international students from over 80 countries and even offers a few scholarships particularly for international students

  • Xiamen University Malaysia: A branch of the Chinese university, Xiamen University offers all of its courses in English, with the exception of Chinese Language and Chinese Medicine. Programs include Engineering, Arts, Sciences, and Management, among others. Tuition is around USD 5,800/year and some merit scholarships are available. Accommodation on-campus is available to students for around USD 80 – USD 90/month for a twin room.

  • Swinburne University Malaysia: A branch of the Australian university and a great, cost-effective way to get an Australian degree. Swinburne University’s Sarawak campus has 4,000 students from over 40 countries and prides itself on its diverse and vibrant community. The university offers Bachelor’s degrees in Business, Engineering, Design, Science and Computing and students have the option to spend a semester at their Melbourne campus. Tuition costs range from USD 7,600 to USD 10,200/year and there are a number of diverse scholarships available.

A reminder as you continue your research: countries and cities with high cost of living, but low tuition fees

You might be tempted by low tuition fees in several locations around the globe, but research how much it will actually cost to live in that city. For example, you might find attractive tuition prices for colleges in Switzerland that keep you within the <10K budget, but it’s recommended to budget 2000 USD/month to meet your living expenses. There are wonderful programs in Barcelona, but remember to budget about 1000 USD/month on average just in accommodation, food, transport, and personal expenses. In Sweden, you would also need to budget about 1000 USD/month to cover food, accommodation, local travel, phone/internet, and other personal expenses. 

While you look into ways to make your education affordable, consider the high cost of living (notably, housing, and meals) of certain cities and countries that can make it very challenging to live off of 1000 USD/month. Here’s the scoop about The 25 Most Expensive Countries to Live in, Ranked to use as a guideline in your research.

Even if you went home for the holidays and had everything paid for your stay while at home, you would still need around 9,000 USD for a nine-month academic school year—plus enough money to cover your flights home.

So, in these circumstances, ask yourself: will you have enough money to cover your tuition and your living expenses, especially if you’re spending about 10,000 USD per year just on living expenses?

If you’re very attached to a particular country or city with a cost of living outside your budget, have a concrete plan for how you might cover these expenses. Can you find a very affordable homestay? Can you find scholarships that will lower your tuition cost so you can focus just on your living expenses?

Remember that you need to be able to support yourself outside of your home country in the event you’re not given an accommodation grant and also possibly for visa purposes (see above in notes about Italy), not just take into account low tuition costs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *