How Much Does It Cost To Study English In The US?


When I am traveling in other parts of the world, young professionals   sometimes ask me,”How much does it cost to study English in the United States?” This is an important question since the best way to study English or any language is in the country where it is spoken. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that studying English in the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia means big business. The ESL industry alone in the United States has steadily become highly competitive and strategically marketed.

Millions of dollars pour into the United States each year at the expense of middle to upper-middle-class families from every part of the world that are more than willing to send their son or daughter to study in America. Some of these students come from quite affluent families, while many others are from stable middle-class backgrounds. On top of that, there are a significant amount of students that either worked and saved their own money before coming to America or are working enough hours in the United States to support themselves and pay tuition at an ESL institute that sponsors F1 student visas. These types of students typically range in age from early twenties to late thirties.

So how much does it cost to study English in the United States?

It depends on several factors, such as how long Student A will stay in America, which is usually determined by whether or not he or she plans on studying at an American University. Let’s say Student A plans to attend graduate school in the United States. First, Student A has to pass the TOEFL or IELTS exam. If he is already somewhat advanced in English, he would probably still have to study at least 6 months in an ESL institute in order to reach the level of English proficiency required for American universities.

How much will it cost this hypothetical student A to study English at an English institute? It depends on which school he chooses. The typical ESL student in the United States pays anywhere from $700 to $2000 a month. There are some schools that charge under $600 or less a month, but these are often ‘visa mills’ where a student obtains a visa to ‘study English’. In reality, these types of students are working full time and occasionally attending class.

The most highly marketed  ESL institutes, such as Kaplan, Intrax, ELS, Berlitz and Education First charge between $1100 to $2000 per month. This tuition fee buys ESL students 18 to 25 hours a week of instruction in class sizes typically ranging from 10 to 18 students. A typical ESL institute like Intrax or Kaplan will have 200 to 300 students on one campus in a large US city, such as Chicago or New York. If you are halfway decent at math, you can quickly understand that there is a boatload of money to be made in ESL just in the US alone. Personally, I think schools like Kapan and Educated First, which charge upwards of $2000 per month are taking advantage of students. Unfortunately, these schools invest huge amounts of resources into highly strategic marketing campaigns.

Students may also feel more secure signing with these larger schools due to fears of not receiving a  student F1 visa. Any foreign student in the United States must have a sponsor for his or her F1 student visa to legally stay in the United States. Because US immigration is strict, many students worry about securing a sponsor for their F1 visa before they ever even step foot on U.S. soil. Consequently, global institutes, such as Kaplan and Education First are skilled at alleviating this fear. The result is that many if not the majority of ESL students in the United States ARE PAYING WAY TOO MUCH TO STUDY ENGLISH!

Personally, I have visited, briefly worked for or talked with other teachers from larger and more expensive schools. I can tell you from years of experience that these schools are charging too much money for the actual services they provide and what the student gets in return. In addition, these same larger ESL institutes do not pay their teachers and staff any better than the typical smaller school. What they are doing is pumping all of that extra money into carefully planned marketing campaigns that are often deceiving and manipulative. It is not that these schools are not legit. They are legit in the legal sense and there are good teachers at many of these larger institutes. However, teacher wages at just about all large ESL schools, such as Kaplan have actually decreased in the past ten years while students are paying upwards to a $1000 more a month than they should. These two factors ought to make students think more carefully about choosing the right ESL program.

My previous school, the International Language Institute, is one of the best English schools in the United States as far as the quality of teaching and learning environment. The International Language Institute only charges 720 dollars a month in Washington DC, one of the most expensive cities in North America. This is an excellent price considering that it is hundreds of dollars less than Kaplan, Intrax or Education First, yet a much better school with fantastic teachers. Not surprisingly, this school consistently averages an ongoing student body of around 300 students that not only learn a great deal of English but have a fantastic time doing so. If the owners were more ambitious, they could probably open a chain of schools and monopolize the whole industry. The International Language school also provides quietly and affordable health insurance for all of its teachers. However, wages need to be increased to compensate for the cost of living in Washington DC.

Before choosing an English institute in the United States, students should decide carefully. If you are a student and need some advice about which school to attend, please contact me. There are many attributes that determine how much it cost to study Engish in the United States.

About James Soller

James Soller taught English for four years in Japan and traveled throughout Asia and South America. These days, he spends most of his time building Wordpress sites, blogging and teaching others the nuances of digital marketing.


  1. Jeff park on August 29, 2018 at 5:33 am

    Usually, how many month needs to complete your typical ESL course? If possible, showing your programs with target capability and necessary time. Thanks, Jeff

  2. AUN on May 14, 2014 at 4:09 am

    After my “adventure” with less expensive ESL school (Computer System Institute, Chicago) I want to pay more for quality! Cheaper school doesn’t mean that you will pay less for 1h. F1 visa requires minimum 18h/week with English. But be careful – cheaper schools cheat. For example my schedule looked like: 8h with computer program without a teacher (labs), 8h with book and teacher (real class but minimum 20 classmates) 2h with movie :////. You can’t learn English in this type of school! You lose your time and money. Count now how much 1h does cost! It is still cheaper?
    And this part about students makes me sad – “In reality, these types of students are working full time and occasionally attending class” because is true ;////

    To sum up, before you decide on ESL school make review. Learning English in the US is amazing and fun but don’t lose your energy , money and time on some school without quality. It is your life and future! Good luck!

  3. John Hudson on March 8, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Sad, but true. Schools like Kaplan and Berlitz take advantage of students by charging high prices and usually do not even come close to providing a living wage for their teachers. They don’t offer any advantage to students over smaller schools like ILI, but charge hundreds more per month. Students pay for marketing and brand name recognition, not quality. It’s too bad there isn’t more general awareness of this.

    • James on March 16, 2014 at 10:17 am

      John, it is really unfair to both the the students and teachers. Like you mentioned in an earlier post, if more students were aware that they were being overcharged by schools like Kaplan and the fact that schools like Kaplan, Intrax and Berlitz do not provide health insurance for their teachers, they would not attend these schools. I also agree that ILI charges hundreds of dollars less, but offers a better quality of instruction.It is too bad there isn’t more general awareness, but that can change quickly with the utilization of social media.

  4. Mike on February 27, 2014 at 1:00 am

    It was really helpful

    • James on February 27, 2014 at 5:59 am

      Thank you Mike. Are you a student?

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