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Costa Rica by Haley Basti

Going Abroad Within Your Budget

Selecting a program within your budget is the most important way to make education abroad a reality for you. The cost of going abroad varies by program; if you are on a tight budget, we recommend that you start by looking at our most affordable program list. Don’t ignore cost when making your decision! Talk to an Ed Abroad advisor to ensure that you have explored all of the possible program options, and remember that there is not a direct correlation between the cost of a program and the quality of your experience abroad.

Education Abroad has a lot of programs, and plenty of these options are comparable to the cost of a semester at CU Boulder. Start with our suggested list of Best Semester Abroad Deals and our affordable Ed Abroad programs list.  You can also use our Program Search to find even more programs that will work for your budget. With so many programs available, there’s a program to fit every student’s financial needs!

The posted costs for CU Education Abroad are comprehensive and include more than just tuition and living costs. Program costs are depicted on program pages by symbols that are meant to be approximate representations of what a student will typically spend for a semester at CU. See the Program Costs: What Does This Mean? page for more information.

Education Abroad program costs include tuition/fees, room & board, books, health insurance, personal expenses, communication costs, transportation (including airfare for education abroad) and more. The CU costs are taken from the Office of Financial Aid.

There is a common misconception that programs in less-developed countries/regions will always be less expensive. This is not always the case, and some of our most affordable programs are in Europe. Rather, avoiding bigger cities and "hot spots" is often the best strategy and can help save thousands of dollars in many cases. While the biggest or most well-known city may seem like the most exciting choice to you, living elsewhere can save a lot of money and will still provide ample opportunities for social and cultural activities. Plus, with the money you save, you can still spend time visiting any larger cities on breaks/weekends.


Summer education abroad may provide a more affordable option for some students since they cost less overall. However, long-term programs often provide more value per dollar spent, because you typically earn more credit hours on semester or year-long programs. Also, students often have less existing aid/funds available for summer terms. Please see additional considerations below.

  • Calculate the cost of a summer abroad on top of a regular semester in Boulder, and compare that to the cost of a semester abroad.  A semester abroad can simply replace the cost of a semester at CU, while summer is an "extra" cost that families have often not planned on financially.  Students who select a fairly affordable semester program will almost always find that it is more cost-effective to go abroad for a semester.
  • Consider whether you rely upon a summer job and how studying abroad for a summer may impact your earnings. While you may also work during the regular school year, students typically work many more hours during the summer months and heavily rely upon summer earnings for the remainder of the year.
  • Consider whether you will have any funds or aid to use for summer.  Students going abroad for summer often find that they have little or no existing funds/aid to contribute. Students receiving financial aid may not have any aid left from the previous year, and students relying on family help may find that their family did not plan for an "extra" summer experience.  If you select an affordable program for a semester, you will typically have much less cost to cover compared to summer abroad after applying any existing funds/aid that you have for a regular semester at CU. See the Financial Aid page for more information about how financial aid works for summer.
  • Understand that there can be fewer scholarships available for summer education abroad. Some scholarships for education abroad exclude summer programs. Research your scholarship opportunities ahead of time to know if/how this may affect you.
Scholarships: Education Abroad offers the need-based Buffs Abroad Scholarship, and there are a lot of other general eligibility scholarships too, as well as scholarships available for certain majors, certain regions of study, and more. Check out the scholarships page to explore scholarships you may be eligible for.

Financial Aid: Financial aid applies to Education Abroad semester or full-year programs! Any loans, grants, or scholarships that you receive from the federal government, the state of Colorado, or from CU will automatically apply to your Education Abroad fee the same as it would for your tuition here. If you are a Pell Recipient, some programs even match Pell Grants. Financial aid can be a huge help in reducing the costs of programs abroad, just as they are in Boulder! Explore the Financial Aid page to learn more.
Photo: Costa Rica by Haley Basti
Last Updated April 2024