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Study Abroad: Budget For Mexico

Author: Michael Williams

The number of U.S. students choosing Mexico as their study abroad destination has declined steadily over the past few years. Many students (and non-students as well) have been scared away from travel to Mexico because of the U.S. Department of State's travel advisories citing the very real drug gang–related violence in that country. The Mexican government wants to reverse that trend. At a summit last year with the presidents of Canada, the United States and Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico proposed a plan to increase the number of U.S. students in Mexico from the present figure of just over 4,000 to the seemingly astronomical figure of 50,000 by 2018. Recently the government of Mexico and other interested parties have prevailed upon the State Department to issue region-specific advisories, making it possible for students and their parents to choose safe destinations in that country. It is hoped that this will avoid a wholesale rejection of Mexico as a travel/study destination.

For the budget-minded student, Mexico is an inexpensive place to study and live. Numbeo, the popular cost-of-living comparison website, calculates that consumer prices in Mexico City are 58% lower than in New York City and rent is 83% lower. In the smaller cities of Mexico, the cost differential would be even more dramatic.

Transportation to and from Mexico is also quite a bit less expensive than other more far-flung destinations for U.S. students. A useful site for discount flights to Mexico for students is STA Travel where we found round-trip flights from NYC to Mexico City (September to December) for under $500.

According to GoAbroad.com, the most popular cities with U.S. students going to Mexico to study are Cuernavaca, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey, Oaxaca, Playa del Carmen, Puebla and Tulum.

That same website offers Ten Bueno Reasons to Study Abroad in Mexico. One is price: Not only are the program costs in Mexico generally lower than comparable programs in Europe, but the cost of living there is extremely low, too. This allows students more opportunities for cultural activities, extracurriculars and travel. Another is the fact that they're our neighbors: their culture, language and people have a huge impact on the United States.

The official website of the Secretaría de Educación Pública of Mexico suggests yet another reason to study in that country: According to the latest survey conducted by topuniversities.com...Mexico has undergraduate institutions that are deemed part of the most relevant and prestigious in this dynamic and emerging region called Latin America.

Finding a Program

Even though fewer U.S. students have been studying in Mexico recently, there are still many possibilities for those who are determined to study there: You'll find hundreds of programs listed at StudyAbroad.com, Abroad101 and IIEPassport.org. We recommend starting with IIE's listings.

Independent Enrollment

If you are considering enrolling on your own in a Mexican university, take a look at what the Tecnológico de Monterrey has to offer. It is a university with 31 campuses located in various parts of the country that attracts many international students and offers academic programs in 10 major areas of study. Courses are given in English or Spanish and admissions can be completed online. The cost of the January to May semester is $1,225 for each 3-credit course (you have to take a minimum of 6 credits); room and board costs $2,600 with a homestay, or $2,465 with on-campus housing.

A Sample U.S.–Sponsored Program

The University of Minnesota offers its own students, as well as students from other campuses, the opportunity to to enroll in short-term Spanish language immersion classes in Cuernavaca – a small city just 52 miles south of Mexico City – during winter and summer break and in a May session. Classes have a maximum of five students, and all teachers are native speakers. One course offers four to five credits; a course in medical Spanish is available as well. Tuition plus room and board in local family homes costs $2,740; additional expenses, including travel to and from Mexico and daily living expenses, are estimated by the sponsors to total about $1,170.

Even if you don't choose the University of Minnesota's program, you can still get a great deal of useful information from its student guide to Mexico.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

As Daniel Obst, deputy vice president of the Institute of International Education (IIE) explains: So many students think that study abroad is an add-on, and that it's too costly and difficult to incorporate into their college experience. We need to do more to tell students that it is actually a possibility to study abroad and there are many options to do so.

If you already have financial aid at your own school, you can take that aid with you: Universities and colleges are required by federal law to continue dispensing federal funds to students enrolled in approved study abroad programs. Your financial aid officer is the best person to answer your questions about carrying over scholarship or other financial aid you may have. For information on scholarships and grants specifically for study abroad, go to Study Abroad Funding and IIE and for Mexico-specific scholarships, take a look at CollegeScholarships.org.

The study abroad program you choose may have its own of scholarships, and more and more aid is being made available to students who have been traditionally underrepresented in education abroad. A leading example is the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by IIE.

(For more, see How To Finance Your Studies Abroad and You CAN Afford To Study Abroad.)

Some Typical Costs in Mexico

According to the government's Study in Mexico website, here's what you can expect to pay for some of the necessities of student life.

[Prices were converted from Mexican pesos to U.S. dollars at the April 2015 rate of 15 pesos to the dollar.]

  • a loaf of bread: $1.60
  • a six-pack of beer: $4.50
  • hamburger, fries and a soda: $3.40
  • bus ride in Mexico City: 20–33 cents
  • movie ticket: $3.60–$4.60
The Bottom Line

It is important to be realistic about the safety of traveling into Mexico for a study abroad opportunity, but if you are guided by the U.S. Department of State's specific travel advisories you should be able to find an affordable program in a peaceful part of the country that will enhance your career prospects. As Allan Goodman, CEO and president of IIE, points out: Globalization makes study abroad absolutely necessary for graduates. One in five American jobs in today's market is tied to international trade.

(For information about other study-abroad destinations, see Study Abroad: Budget For Spain, Study Abroad: Budget For Germany, Study Abroad: Budget For Italy and Study Abroad: Budget For The U.K.)

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