i20-fees-9 months 12 months course duration usa

The Breakdown: Tuition Fees + Living Expenses vs I-20 (9 and 12 Months)

My I-20 mentions that the total cost for the Masters is $35000 for 12 months. And the tuition fee is $22,000. I’m having a hard time to wrap my head around the finances. $350000 for just 12 months!! I don’t understand this. Also, the credit system is going over my head. Could you please break it down for me? (From the Comments Below)

You are not alone Vaishnavi.

Things can get overwhelming when the student receives their I-20 on hand.

$35,000 is a lot of money when converted to Indian Rupees or your local currency.

Let me break things down for you.

Before that, here’s another question from

I’m a little confused here with the fee system at Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla. It says $28,500 for 9 months.

Bank manager asked me this when he saw the $28,500 per yr in the I-20. He thinks that this is the fee for 1 year. How will I know the tuition fee for 2 year? Also, is it possible to finish the course in a year or not?

That’s two questions from two different students.

Pay close attention to 12 Months and 9 Months.

Why do one I-20 list for 9 months and another list for 12 months?

I20: 9 Months vs 12 Months

Universities in the USA follow semester or quarter system.

Detailed Analysis – What is the Difference Between Semester vs Quarter System

To explain 9 vs 12 months on the I-20, I’m going to use the Semester System as an example.

  • Spring Semester: January to May (5 Months)
  • Summer Semester: June to August (3 Months – Optional)
  • Fall Semester: End of August to December (4 Months)

Now, let’s do the math for 9 and 12 months.

  • 9 Months: Spring + Fall Semester
  • 12 Months: Spring + Summer + Fall

Note: Summer Semester is optional for International Students. You can skip those 3 months and travel around or work in summer or do an internship.

When the I-20 is issued, some schools make it for 9 months and another issue for 12 months.

  • 9 Months = 2 Semesters = Fall and Spring
  • 12 months = 3 Semesters = Fall, Spring and Summer

In above case,  I-20 is issued for 9 months, with total fee of $28,500 ($15,992 Tuition + Living + Books + Insurance)  for total of 18 credits.

Credits are Explained below.

For total tuition fees calculation just consider $15,992.

Living, Books fees will vary and most of the time Tuition and Others (Insurance).

What is the Total Fee for 2 years

Requirements to get a Masters from US universities will be listed on the department page. In the above case to complete M.S. student have to complete 30 credit hours.

  • 18 credit will cost $15,992
  • Cost per credit = 15,992 / 18 = $888
  • Total Cost for 30 Credits = $888 x 30 = $26,650

Then you add the cost of living and other small fees to above total.

If you were to complete Masters by paying out of state fees, your total tuition fees will be $26,650.

In the first example, I-20 shows for 12 months.

If the student were to skip the summer, the Tuition Fees will be loess by a few thousand dollars.

What is the Duration of MS in USA – 1 or 2 Years?

Whereas in the USA, usually, the Master’s degree will not take an exact 2 years to complete.

If you are from India, B.E. will take 4 years and each semester will have a fixed number of courses that you have to complete to get B.E. degree. But, that’s not the case while studying in America.

Depending on how many credits you take and which semesters you take will determine the total time to complete M.S.

You will be required to take at least 9 credits per semester for Graduate School and 12 or 15 Credits per semester for Bachelors Degree.

You can take more, but it will be tough to manage workload with 9+ credits per semester.

Example time-line to complete 30 Credits

  • Fall 2020 – 9; Spring 2021 – 9; Summer – Break; Fall 2021 – 9; Spring 2022 – 3 (& Graduate)
  • Fall 2020 – 9; Spring 2021 – 9; Summer – Internship; Fall 2021 – Internship + 3 credits; Spring 2022 – 9
  • Fall 2020 – 12; Spring 2021 – 12; Summer 2021 – 6

Follow this Flowchart for Masters Degree Graduation – Course and Duration to understand how a typical Masters Student’s Path would look like.

You have more flexibility to take courses you like and at the pace you like.

Total Tuition Fees vs Duration of your Degree

Your total expenses are split into two components

  1. Tuition fees (Cost paid per Credit)
  2. Living Expenses

Now, refer to the following table from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

university of Minnesota twin cities tuition fees i20

The highlighted Tuition Fees are per Semester.

Som the tuition fees per year will be calculated as follows

  • 9 Months –  18 Credits (9 per semester) = $13,206 X 2
  • 12 Months – 24 Credits (6 credits in Summer) = ($13, 206 x 2) + ($1422 x 6)

Irrespective of when you will finish Masters Degree – 1 year or 1,5 years or 2.5 years, the total tuition fees part will not change.

Generally, I don’t recommend to finish Graduate School or Bachelors Degree in less than 2 or 4 years.

Please make use of your summertime for Internship.

Answer to the First Question – $35,000 for 12 Months

I posted that question in the Facebook Group and here’s are a couple of detailed answers that can help you.

tuition fees living expenses i20

And one more answer.

i20 fees credit system duration of masters

I hope these two detailed answers help you in decoding the fees structure.

Summary: I20 vs Tuition fees 

  • Duration of study can be 9 or 12 months per year
  • Some students take courses in summer to finish the degree faster
  • I recommend taking 2 to 2.5 years for Masters, especially if you are entry level graduate.
  • The Tuition fees are set by the Number of Credits required for graduation.

Related Articles in this Tuition Fees Series

  1. Difference Between In-State vs Out of state Fees for International Students
  2. How to Calculate Total Tuition Fees from the Form I-20 (this article)
  3. What is Credit Hour, Duration of Degree and Tuition Fee?
  4. How to Pay the Tuition Fees to the College – 4 Options
  5. Total Cost of Studying Masters (MS) Degree in the USA

Similar Posts


  1. Hi Raghu, thank you so much for this post.
    I have a query. Kindly share answer.

    For PHD program, I20 issued for 9 months with specifying estimated average cost and university funding for 9 months.
    1) Do we expect a question from visa officer about the funding for remaining 3 months?
    2) If so what would be our reply.
    3) Do we need to show personal funds for the remaining three months?
    4) Is bank statement for FDs and liquid cash will suffice the proof of funds for the remaining three months?

    Thanks in advance

    1. 1. Nope
      2-4. Doesn’t apply.
      If you FD and Cash, get a statement and keep it with you. It helps.

  2. Thank you so much Raghu for clear explanation of many concepts in this website. It helps a lot to understand many things.

  3. I’m scared and confused my i20 total was $ 45,731for 9months my consultant is not giving me any explanation regarding this. I applied for ms in health care administration. Please help me understand why it costs so much for 9 months.

  4. Hi
    Thank you so much for your support
    I am a graduate student in US. My i20 states fee for 9 months. My educational loan from Indian bank wants for 2 years. What do I do to document my 2 year tuition fee and living expenses?

    1. Tell the manager, this is standard US Immigration Process and thousands of students who got the visa and loan use this format. And I-20 is Standard US Immigration issued format.

      1. Thank you so much for your kind reply
        Since my application is after a semester and my i20 is not covering the total cost, its becoming complicated. The bank manager is very helpful and I am trying schedule of expenses from my Uni. Hopefully I get good help.
        Best regards

  5. Hi! My I-20 mentions that the total cost for Masters is 35000$ for 12 months. And the tuition fee is 22000$. I’m having a hard time to wrap my head around the finances. 350000$ for just 12 months!! I don’t understand this. Also the credit system is going over my head. Could you please break it down for me?

  6. In 2016 I was planning to attend my sisters graduation
    But my visa was rejected so I’m bit worried whether now my F1 visa will be approved or not

  7. My fee structure in I20 says $ 29,817 for 9months . Can u please explain me the fee structure

  8. Hi Raghu,

    Greetings to you!
    I have a query on the expected cost mentioned on I20. I am on H4 currently and have got admission in a US university. I understand that I20 is needed when you try to convert from H4 to F1 or to get an F1 through travel and reentry. Now, suppose I pay the entire fee before my classes start maintaining H4 visa status. After a few days of classes, I want to get an I20 to get the F1 visa. So, in a situation when the fees is already paid, what amount would the university show on the I20? Would it include the tuition fee or not? Would it just be the cost of living plus books and other such things?

  9. I was in the same CATCH-22 situation as described earlier – The Bank needs an I-20 for approval of educational loan whereas the university requires the financial guarantee for the student to complete his studies to issue I-20.
    In such cases, after all the documents for the loan is submitted, some banks agree to issue a letter of intent to disburse the loan, which normally suffices theUS university. However in the letter of intent, it is sufficiently clear that in case the documents are not in order during the processing, the bank reserves the right to reject the education loan. It is easier to get the intent letter approved if a precedence is shown to the bank manager. ( I have samples of letter with me, but there is no provision of attaching it in this thread)
    However such letter of intent is not sufficient for the VISA, and loan approval is required.

  10. Hi Raghu,

    I am presently on H4 and have an employer, who is willing to sponsor my H1-b petition in Apr 2017. If my petition doesnt get picked up in the lottery, I plan to join a university for Fall 2017. 

    1. Would there be any conflicts because of applying H1-B and F1 ?

    2. Will this increase the chance of my F1 COS getting rejected ?

    3. Is it better to just apply for F1 to avoid complications?

    Please suggest, Thanks.

  11. Hi HSB,

    Indeed a very useful post. However, I have one silly query. When the university sends a admit, do we need to show financial statement of amount worth i20 or twice the i20? i.e, if the i20 amount is 35k$, do we need to show a bank statement of 70k$ or 35k$ in order to receive i20?

      1. In my case the college tution fee along with other expenses of college (excluding boarding and lodging) mentioned on website is USD 48,000. Its a 9 months course. The total expense in my thinking would be around USD 58,000 or so (Adding around USD 1,000 p.m. for boarding and lodging). However, the I20 mentions USD72,000? Why is it so? Is it a common practice by universities to keep buffer allowance while mentioning I20 amount?

          1. It does not clarify the same. I assume it is for the duration of course which is 9 months.

          2. You can’t assume here 🙂

            I-20 will have that info: 12 or 9-month study. Else I have to see the I-20.
            Other option is to call the grad school and ask them.

  12. Hi Raghu,

    I am a regular follower and I highly appreciate all your support for aspiring young students to pursue their Graduate degrees in US.

    I got admit from University of Texas at Dallas for MS in Business Analytics program for Spring 2016. The ISSO office asked me to show the Financial affidavit and Proof of Funds to issue I-20. I am opting for an education loan from State Bank of India for my studies. ISSO is okay to issue i-20 if they get a letter from Bank stating that my Education Loan approved. In my recent discussions with the Bank Manager, it appears like they’re expecting an I-20 as one of the required documents for Education Loan application. Can you please throw some light on the process, does the Admission Letter (I didn’t receive yet) would be sufficient for the loan application? If not, can I provide the estimated expenses to the Bank to process the loan?

    Highly appreciate your advice. Thanks in advance!

    1. Only Credila would issue you loan with admission letter. National banks require I-20 for loan approval.

      1. Hi Raghu,

        Thank you very much for the response. In the university’s website (UT Dallas), I found that they would need a Financial proof (in my case, they asked a letter from bank that my loan has been approved) to issue I-20. I believe this is the same case for most of the universities. Wouldn’t this be a dead-lock situation?

          1. Raghu, your answer is confusing. On one side you are saying that only Credila will give loan approval letter before receipt of I20. On deadlock, you say that people have been going to US for years like this. If no bank other than Credila gives loan approval letter without I20 then only people who are taking loan from Credila will be able to go US through this route. Otherwise, it is a deadlock as explained by Kiran. Please clarify.

          2. I see the confusion. I gave the reply to Kira for his context.

            National Banks in India Ned i20 to issue loan. They don’t consider admission acceptance letter is proof of admission.

            Students send bank statement to get i20 and that’s how I came and everyone else came ti US, by sending bank statement and receiving i20.

            But Credila is only known bank to me who can issue loan based on admission acceptance letter ( without i20).

            You can refer to other related articles to Learn more.

          3. I see the confusion. I gave the reply to Kira for his context.

            National Banks in India Ned i20 to issue loan. They don’t consider admission acceptance letter is proof of admission.

            Students send bank statement to get i20 and that’s how I came and everyone else came ti US, by sending bank statement and receiving i20.

            But Credila is only known bank to me who can issue loan based on admission acceptance letter ( without i20).

            You can refer to other related articles to Learn more.

      2. That is not true. I got a loan from Nationalized bank (SBI) with admission letter. How can the banks wait for I20 to issue the loan when we know that college with not issue an I-20 without the proof of funds.

        1. SBI is very manager sensitive. Majority of banks will not issue the loan with only the Admission letter.

  13. Hi HSB,

    Could you please list up for the Cheapest Business school , and give a little idea about the Bank Statement containing the minimum amount and how long old should it be.


  14. Hi,
    pls inform me about the total credit distribution for undergrad program.
    A.K.M Lokman

  15. Hi,
    Pls inform me about job facilities for Students in USA.
    And how can they get part time job easier process ?
    Can they take help from University for their job?
    I will be pleased if you Ans me.

  16. Hi, I am an Indian national and currently deputed in Johannesburg, South Africa by my current employer since Feb 2010. I have received admits from Buffalo, Binghamton and Arkansas. I wanted to ask
    whether I can undergo my visa interview at the US consulate in South Africa or I have to come to India (my home country for the interview)?

    Really appreciate a response from you. Thanks & Regards, Prasad

  17. sir,
    my doubt is about instate n out state. how can the fee be less for in state students… n who r considered as in state students…?
    thank u

    1. I have a very small mistake on my passport address page.
      for eg : the building number/house number which is 506/92 is printed as 06/92.
      With this address my passport has reached hme with no issues.
      Will it cause any problem during my iterview or during my stay at US??
      please reply…urgent

  18. Hi ,

    My i 20 shows amt $ 25,000 as first year tuition and expenditure .
    my course is of 2 years duration.

    For first year i have $ 30 ,000 in my saving account ( thru family funds and personal savings ) and for second year my company is sponsoring me…
    now wht do i have to show apart from my company s sponsorship letter…???
    plz guide me … am gonna have my interview in less than 15 days.



  19. Hi everyone,
    My name is Ben. My GRE score is 1160 and TOEFL is 80. My aggregate is 69.30% and have no backlogs. I got an I20 from LIU Brooklyn. I have my visa interview in Hyderabad on 13/July/2011. What are my chances of survival. Please do reply.

  20. I have got I 20 from USP..The amount of tuition and fees for 12 months mentioned on my i-20 is $ 32,180…The tuition rate per credit mentioned on website is $ 1339. So if i take 18 credits in 12 months then the amount should be around $20400. so how come it is 32180 in i-20? can anyone explain me the distribution?

  21. hello.. i have completed my mechanical engineering with 70% marks and i want to do masters nd to continue my field may i know how many master degrees shpuld be provided me by CANADIAN universties… and also i wanna know about total fees structure pls inform me as i m a fresher for all this……


  22. I have problem in calculating total cost in the following cases :

    Course :- Master of Science in Computer Science

    1) University Name :- Middle Tennesse State University

    Fees : – $9240 for 12 hrs

    2) University Name :- University of Northern Varginia

    Fees : – $375 per credit hr (42 credits)

    3) University Name :- Syracuse

    Fees :- $1117 per credit/unit

    4) University Name :- Georgia Institute of Technology

    Fees :- 11871 Total for 12 or more Semester per Credit Hours

    5) University Name :- New Jersey Institute of Technology

    Fees :- $1137 per credit hr ( number of credit hrs are not given)

    Please say how to calculate total fees of the course in each of the above case!!!

  23. HELLO HSB,


  24. Hi,

    My question is related to the above mentioned post. I have got i-20 from Rochester Institute of Technology. Here quarter system is prevalent. My i-20 shows $33000 for first nine months(Three Quarters) . The credit hours considered are 12-18 for one quarter. And per credit hour costs $924. I don't know what would be total fees for two years for completing the course. Whether it would be $33000*2=$66000


    $924*45=$42000 where 45 are total credit hours required to complete the course.

    Please sort out my doubt and also state that which to choose Rochester Institute Technology / Missouri university of science and technology

  25. Hi all,

    I am not sure whether it is the right place for asking the VISA related questions.I got my VISA interview on Friday , so please can any one help me by answering these questions.

    – Why USA ?

    – What if your VISA is rejected?

    – Any body language to be maintained while answering the questions?

    – My GRE mark is 950 , TOEFL – 87 so will there be any problem in that one ?

    – Abt me : BE aggregate 71% , no history backlogs , no gap in studies, 2 yrs working experience, no bank loan,.



  26. And ya by the way,

    i have applied for MSEE

    my undergrad is Electronics & Communication Engg.

    Not sure i posted the query at the right please but kindly excuse or let me know where to post it but ya your expert view would have huge impact both on me and my career

  27. Hello HSB,

    I saw the flow chart that you have created , I must say that it was very very helpful cleared most of my doubts but here I have 1 doubt about thesis , do you have to be like really born intelligent to complete a thesis or will hard work suffice because I am no born intelligent the reason why I am asking you this question is I just don't want to complete my Masters studying few more subjects.

    Thank you

    1. So, you are like me 🙂 Anyone can complete thesis. I have to write a blog post on this topic.
      FYI – Completing thesis or course only doesn't make much difference when it comes to job search.

      1. Thanks a lot HSB,

        Ya job in USA is the ultimate dream but I am looking for something extra you know and I believe by doing thesis or project one can gain that extra bit of knowledge( proof 8th sem BE) .

  28. hi

    i got an admit from CSU LB in the i-20 it is written as 12,000$ for 12months what does it mean ? and how much loan should i apply for?

    1. In public universities, if you are a resident of the state in which the university is located (for example, if you are a Texas resident and apply to University of Texas at Dallas), then you pay 'in-state fees'. In-state fees are much lower than tuition for out-of-state fess. Of course, international students on F-1 visa (who do not live in the US) pay out-of-state fees.

      In private universities, everyone pays the same tuition fees.

  29. hello
    after applying to the universities,how much time will it take to get the i-20.and for jan-2011 when is the right time for applying to the universities, have the universities started taking the applications.i am taking my gre in july so suggest me the time for me to apply to the universities

  30. U know what, i am on cloud nine. HSB has finally replied to me GOD ! JUS JOKING MATE…thanx for writing back.you are my own little AMAZON ! i am having sleepless nights[applied for fall2010] ,got to ask many things from you ? should I or you follow the [one reply a day is enuff] principle ? jokes apart..i am in a dilemma but wasnt sure you would reply my query ever.i would only post my query after getting the nod from ya.mine is genuine problem.have some compassion please ?

    1. When do I reply
      – If questions are unique and not answered previously in blog post, I will reply to that.
      – If its related to something, for which finding answer involves your effort, but you are posting without any research, I will not reply
      – If you post question unrelated to the article, I don't reply to the comments (usually)

      1. HELLA MR.HSB ! thanks for writing again.well i have been doing my quota of research for the F-1 VISA and every other thing related to it..so here is my question and ya i would'nt be taking a shower lest you reply my query,you mean the world to me !ok here it goes

        Already applied to 5 UNIZ for fall 2010,got one I20 so far.
        written the Gre twice in 2 months without prep.
        First gre score – 730
        Second gre score – 890
        toefl -90
        UG aggregate – 78 %
        good sop and lors
        have some computer courses certificates
        good co-curricular and extra-curricular activities
        well,here is my problem.i am currently waiting I20 from my most preferable UNI.i would schedule for the VISA intervw the day i got it.my query to you is about my VISA CHANCES !!! will i get a FI VISA with the above said credentials. i know the GRE scores are low but i have seen people getting through with scores touching 800 as well. kindly encourage and i shall not forget you.

        1. I have seen students get visa without GRE Score. So, you can get Visa, provided you answer the questions right.

  31. You have mentioned combinations starting from Fall 2010. Can u tell few combinations similar for Spring……Like if i m starting in Spring 2011, then how its goes ??

  32. OWW, Now i got the idea how to interpret the I20.ok here is my query MR.HSB !

    My I20 says that the normal length of the study is 29 months [i applied for MSEE].why have’nt they wrote either 24 months [2 years] or a maximum of 36 months[1 year grace] ?.i am in quandary and your expert view on this would definately help.

    1. Universities have their way of issuing I-20. 29 months is the average for the department. Some of them might finish the course in 20 months, while others will take 40 months (part time, department transfer, ..) all you have to worry is how much it would cost to you based on total credits required to complete the degree.

      While applying for loan, bank managers will not understand this. Just follow what is in I-20.

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