Cheapest Cities in USA for PhD Students

The United States of America has always been an attractive study destination for international students. Although, it is believed that, attending an American university can be extremely expensive, and many students rely on financial aid, loans, and scholarships to fund their studies. Due to the high cost of living and studying in the USA, doctoral students devote their time looking for the cheapest cities in USA for PhD students. In the same vein, they research the cheapest schools in the USA to do a PhD and also affordable housing for PhD students in the USA.

As more and more students seek to study abroad, the USA has gradually become a global marketplace for higher education. It is cited as a great study destination, with over 40 of the 100 best global universities, high investment of money into research institutions, and a wide range of courses of study. Even though it sounds very interesting to step foot in the United States, the USA has never been known as a cheap place to live, especially for students.

Read: Why Pursue a PhD in the USA?

This article will offer some insight and information on the cheapest cities in the US for PhD students. By examining the tuition fees, overall cost of living in each city along with PhD student funding rates, we can begin to determine the most affordable places for pursuing a PhD in the US today. We consider PhD student living conditions to mean the amount it costs to obtain basic necessities over the course of full-time study for a year. This includes housing, food, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and fees.

Factors Considered in Ranking the Most Affordable Cities in the USA for Students

When students consider pursuing higher education in the United States, they give significant attention to the issue of affordability. With the increasing cost of living and tuition fees, potential students need to determine which cities offer the best value for their money. This allows them to manage their financial resources effectively.

Various factors contribute to a city’s affordability for students, including housing expenses, job opportunities, access to student discounts, and amenities. With this in mind, the following factors are considered important and were noted during our ranking of the cheapest cities in the USA for international students to live in.

  1. Housing Costs

When we talk about the most affordable cities in the USA for PhD students, the first thing that comes to mind is the affordability of housing/accommodation in these cities. If you are looking to save money, housing is a potential area to consider. Consider the average cost of rentals in the city you intend to live in and make a sound conclusion.

Related: How to Secure Affordable Housing as an International PhD Student

  1. Cost of Living

When choosing the right city in which to pursue a PhD, one major factor to take into account is the cost of living. The cost of living and average rent are correlated. We have considered cities that will not cost you your life savings to maintain a standard living pattern. Consider the amount of stipend you receive from your school, and calculate what your average cost of living should be. Do not live in cities that will consume over 20% of your total PhD stipend.

  1. Cost of Transportation

Many places in the United States are car-dependent, but students in expensive cities can benefit from good public transportation. A student-discounted monthly public transportation pass takes a sizable chunk out of the budget, but in expensive cities, it may be possible to live without a car, so factoring in gas, insurance, and parking costs is important.

  1. Food

The cost of feeding and groceries is another consideration if you are looking for low-cost cities for students in the USA. What will it cost you to feed very well and comfortably? What about proximity to markets or stores to get these foodstuffs? Consider all these when looking out for affordable cities in USA as a PhD student.

  1. Students Discounts

There are cities known to offer considerations to PhD students and the numerous businesses and services in these cities not just serve the requirements of students, but also furnish them with special deals and discounts. These encompass a wide range of options, such as entertainment choices, dining experiences, and affordable groceries. If you need cities with favourable student conditions, consider these cities.

Read Also: How to Survive as a PhD Student in USA

Top 10 Cheapest Cities in USA for PhD Students

The cost of living in the USA can easily burn a hole in the pocket and PhD students still like to save a few bucks every month, maybe for other unforeseen circumstances or emergencies. Choosing the cheapest city in the USA that best fits your lifestyle and comfortability, without compromising your living standard, can be a bit complex deal.

Here we are to help you out. We have compiled a list of the top 10 cheapest cities in the USA for PhD students based on the factors listed above. This data has been collected from numbeo and is up to date as at the first time of this publication. Here they are:

S/N City Estimated Average Tuition Fee ($US) Estimated Average Living Cost ($US) Estimated Average House Rent Rent/Month ($US)
1. San Diego 16,000 1,394 1,900
2. Pittsburgh 25,000 1,208.0 900
3. Baltimore 22,000 1,200 1,100
4. Atlanta 27,000 1,339 1,350
5. Miami 31,000 1,263.2 2,100
6. Houston 30,000 1,119.3 1,500
7. Dallas 31,000 1,228.4 1,400
8. Philadelphia 30,000 1,250.0 1,450
9. Chicago 31,000 1,298.5 1,950
10. Boston 35,000 1,428.7 2,500

Related: 10 Tips to Save Money As A Doctoral Candidate in The USA

Let us look at these cities exhaustively and see why they are ranked among the most affordable cities in the USA for PhD students, not just PhD students but international students in the United States.

#1. San Diego

Extremely well renowned around the world for its breathtaking beaches and excellent weather conditions, San Diego has won itself the nickname of “America’s finest city.” Along with the numerous tourist attractions that keep the city filled with life, the world-class zoos, Wild Animal Park, and SeaWorld are definite hotspots for PhD students. Public parks and beaches can be options to enjoy the view and relax the mind without any cost.

The average monthly budget for a single student in San Diego is approximately $2,364. This includes $1,440 for accommodation outside of the center, $300 for food, $47 for internet, $33 for bills, $19 for mobile phones, $90 for public transport, $20 for health and medical insurance, and other costs.

Why San Diego is Cheap for Students:

  • Average Tuition Fee – $16,000
  • Average Living Cost – $1,394
  • Average House Rent Rent/Month (In City) – $1900

Major Universities in San Diego for PhD Studies

  • San Diego State University
  • University of San Diego
  • University of California, San Diego
  • Ashford University
  • Alliant International University

#2. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is another cost-effective city in the United States for any PhD candidates and international students at large. Rent here is well below the average, ranking 64% lower, and the overall cost of living is 11% less than the national average at $1,200 a month. If you can handle the nasty weather, you will be rewarded with a colorful, sometimes quirky city that offers a mix of cultural, entertainment, and outdoor attractions.

Pittsburgh’s shifting economic gears have managed to keep the city affordable for students and locals. Known for its higher education industry and growing medical/technology industry, the city has managed to retain the multicultural atmosphere while keeping its position among the cheapest cities in the USA for international students.

Why Pittsburgh is Cheap for Students:

  • Average Tuition Fee – $25,000
  • Average Living Cost – $1,208
  • Average House Rent Rent/Month (In City) – $900

Major Universities in Pittsburgh for PhD Studies

  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Duquesne University
  • Point Park University and many more

#3. Baltimore

Baltimore, known as the largest city in the state of Maryland, is a city that draws many international students and visitors because of its historical roots in the independence of the USA. As a smaller city compared to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston, Baltimore’s cost of living is quite low and suitable for a student.

According to the ACCRA index, the cost of living in Baltimore is 4% below the national average. Baltimore has the advantage of being less than an hour’s drive from both Philadelphia and Washington, DC, giving students more options for entertainment and day trips. Studying in Baltimore is a good option for international students as it is one of the most inexpensive cities in the USA for students and number 3 on our list.

Why Baltimore is Cheap for Students:

  • Average Tuition Fee – $22,000
  • Average Living Cost – $1,200
  • Average House Rent Rent/Month (In City) – $1,100

Major Universities in Baltimore for International PhD Studies

  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Maryland
  • Coppin State University

Check Out: Working in the USA: Best Guide for International PhD Students

#4. Atlanta

One particularly affordable c

Cheapest Cities in USA for PhD Students - Atlanta
Cheapest Cities in USA for PhD Students – Atlanta

ity for students, yet academically rich choice is Atlanta, Georgia. The city has many offerings for someone with a doctoral pursuit. With over a dozen schools in the immediate downtown area and over 40 more surrounding in the metro area, Atlanta is an educational hotbed.

Considered the economic hub of the South, Atlanta ranks as a very affordable place to complete a PhD degree. Atlanta boasts a low cost of living and relatively low housing costs, making PhD life easier. Apartments and rental properties are also relatively cheap, with a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costing around $1300 per month and $1100 outside the city center.

In terms of activity, Atlanta offers a busy city life with numerous entertainment and dining options. With a large public transportation system, students can also save money by not having to use a car and take advantage of student discounts.  Atlanta is an extremely inexpensive and student-friendly city.

Why Atlanta is Cheap for Students:

  • Average Tuition Fee – $27,000
  • Average Living Cost – $1,339
  • Average House Rent Rent/Month (In City) – $1350

Major Universities in Atlanta for PhD Studies

  • Georgia State University
  • Emory University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology

#5. Miami

Miami is an incredibly diverse city, making it a captivating destination for international students to immerse themselves in various cultures. It serves as a bustling hub for South American and Caribbean influences. The majority of individuals you encounter in Miami predominantly speak Spanish, offering an excellent opportunity to learn a new language or explore the feeling of being in another country while still in America.

In terms of affordability, Miami is the most expensive city in the USA for PhD students in our list of inexpensive cities in the USA for students, although it is relatively more manageable when compared to other major cities in the United States. For a 1-bedroom apartment, you can expect to find rentals ranging from $1,850 to $2,500.

Miami, Florida is known for its sunny weather and beaches and there are several top universities within the city, including the University of Miami, Florida International University, and Nova Southeastern University.

Why Miami is Cheap for Students:

  • Average Tuition Fee – $31,000
  • Average Living Cost – $1,263
  • Average House Rent Rent/Month (In City) – $2100

Major Universities in Miami for PhD Studies

  • University of Miami
  • Florida International University
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • Keiser University

#6. Houston

Houston is known for its relatively low cost of living compared to other major cities in the US like New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. According to Numbeo’s Cost of Living Comparison between Houston and San Francisco, Houston is 48.12% cheaper than San Francisco without rent. Houston is a great choice for your studies if you are looking to maximize your stipend.

The average rent for a one-bedroom in the city is about $1500. This falls to $1000 if you’re willing to stay in the suburbs and commute in. These prices are quite reasonable for a major city and are notably lower than other cities of a similar size. The city offers competitive food prices and a wide range of cuisines brought by its diverse residents.

  • Rent Index: 36.39
  • Cost of Living Index: 48.76
  • Groceries Index: 40.53
  • Restaurant Price Index: 40.4
  • Local Purchasing Power: 142.28

Why Houston is Cheap for Students:

  • Average Tuition Fee – $30,000
  • Average Living Cost – $1,119
  • Average House Rent Rent/Month (In City) – $1500

Major Universities in Houston for PhD Studies

  • Rice University
  • University of Houston
  • Houston Christian University

#7. Dallas

Dallas is the third most expensive city in our top 10 list of the cheapest cities in the United States for PhD students. However, the cost of living is still 3% lower than the national average. Student rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1400. Dallas boasts more PhD scientists and engineers than any other city in the US and is home to a large number of universities, research institutes, and hi-tech companies, attracting many international students.

The amenities include a fairly comprehensive array of shops and services necessary for daily living, many of which are fairly cheap and offer coupons for students. An efficient mass transit system, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) provides transportation around the city and the areas surrounding Dallas. The transit cost is free to students upon presentation of their identification cards.

Why Dallas is Cheap for Students:

  • Average Tuition Fee – $31,000
  • Average Living Cost – $1,229
  • Average House Rent Rent/Month (In City) – $1400

Major Universities in Dallas Include:

  • University of Dallas
  • Texas Christian University
  • Dallas Baptist University
  • Southern Methodist University

#8. Philadelphia

Philadelphia is one of the most historically significant cities in the US, and the relatively cheap cost of living for its population makes it an attractive option for a PhD student. Student tuition is discounted if you study at a local institution. There are many universities and hospitals in the city, so you can easily find a research position to gain experience for your future career.

Because of the many students and professionals in the area, it is relatively easy to locate an apartment within a reasonable distance from your institution. The public transportation system in Philadelphia is inexpensive and extensive, so you can save money commuting to your destination instead of by car.

Why Philadelphia is Cheap for Students:

  • Average Tuition Fee – $30,000
  • Average Living Cost – $1,250.0
  • Average House Rent Rent/Month (In City) – $1450

Top Universities in Philadelphia

  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Temple University
  • Drexel University
  • Thomas Jefferson University

#9. Chicago

Chicago has over 22 ranked universities in the QS World University Rankings and is home to Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Chicago is an incredibly attractive city that always manages to draw in a diverse range of individuals, including students who are either beginning or continuing their higher education. This is largely due to the city’s fast-paced environment and unique atmosphere, which offer a wide array of possibilities and attractions for everyone.

With over 400,000 students residing in Chicago, it is abundantly clear that this city is a place of great interest for individuals from all around the world who wish to pursue their studies. This is not only for regular international students but also for professionals seeking to further their education.

Why Chicago is Cheap for Students:

  • Average Tuition Fee – $31,000
  • Average Living Cost – $1,300
  • Average House Rent Rent/Month (In City) – $1950

Major Universities in Chicago

  • The University of Chicago
  • Loyola University Chicago
  • University of Illinois Chicago
  • DePaul University
  • Northwestern University

#10. Boston

Boston is home to some of the most prestigious universities and research institutions in the world, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, thereby providing a dynamic academic atmosphere that may hold promising funding prospects. Hence, it’s not surprising that it has become a smart choice for doctoral students. It is not the most inexpensive city, yet it is financially accessible for doctoral students.

The presence of neighborhoods that can be traversed by foot as well as the availability of the T public transportation system help to significantly reduce transportation expenses. By taking advantage of student discounts and partaking in cost-free cultural activities, your stipend can go a long way.

Why Boston is Cheap for Students:

  • Average Tuition Fee – $35,000
  • Average Living Cost – $1,430
  • Average House Rent Rent/Month (In City) – $2500

Major Universities in Boston

  • Harvard University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Boston University
  • Northeastern University

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