Money and Budget
Financial difficulties are often the source for some of the biggest problems encountered by international students studying in the United States. As a result of government policies regulating bank clearances, many students encounter delays in receipt of their financial support from their home countries.
Estimated Student Costs per Academic Year
Tuition fees may increase without notice and living expenses almost always go up each year. This Annual Estimate may help you to plan. Note that this estimate does NOT include airfare to or from San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo does not have an international airport and you must take a connecting flight from Los Angeles or San Francisco to make international connections.
See the How and When to Pay for payment methods and deadlines. It is important to remember that your registration fees and tuition must be paid 4 days after registering for classes.
Cal Poly accepted payments from around the world through our International Payment Portal, powered by Flywire. In this portal you can pay by international wire transfer, foreign debit/credit cards. as well as other local payment options from your home country. Please initiate your transfer several days before payment deadlines to avoid late payments, penalties and registration holds.
- Rent: Rental costs in San Luis Obispo average around $900 per month for a shared home or apartment including utilities. Be sure to interview your prospective roommate and ask questions regarding guests, quiet times, cleaning, and other concerns of living together.
- Utilities: Typical monthly utilities are (a) internet/television, (b) gas and electricity, and (c) water and trash collection. These are often included in rent, but you should ask to be clear.
- Food: Allowing for groceries, lunches bought at school, eating out at restaurants, and snacks the cost can range from $50-$140 per week.
- Health Insurance: It is mandatory and will cost about $1500 for the 9-month academic year. This is charged quarterly along with your tuition fees.
- Cell (Mobile) Phone Service: It is mandatory to have a US phone number. Many apartments do not include land line phones and regardless, you will probably want a private mobile phone. The least expensive prepaid mobile phone plan will cost about $40 a month.
- Books and Supplies: Be sure to include notebooks, pens and paper. Allow between $450-$600 per quarter for books. This may vary depending on unit load and course type. Be sure to budget about $100 per quarter for supplies. This can be much more for art, architecture, chemistry, and biology majors. See the Books web page for information on where to find books for classes.
- Clothing: Purchasing clothes, laundry and dry cleaning costs total about $50 per month.
- Entertainment and Recreation: (a) Movies in theaters range from $9-$15 per person; (b) movie rentals to view on your T.V. at home cost from $1.50-$4 per rental; (c) bowling costs $6.50 per game for students; (d) Getting into bars can cost anywhere from $3 - $15 and alcoholic beverages can range from $6 - $12 each; (e) renting beach equipment, like surfboards, paddle boards, and kayaks can range from $10 - $30 per day; (f) other entertainment varies in cost.
- Personal: Haircuts can range from $15 to over $100 per visit depending on the salon. You may find International Mail Rates here.
- Travel: (a) With a PolyCard, all buses in San Luis Obispo are free; (b) To rent a car, prices can range from $30 - $150 per day; (c) hostels, motels, and hotels can range from $30 - $200 per night.
- Emergency: You should maintain at least $500 in your bank account. This should help cover unforeseen expenses, health insurance copayments, and emergencies.