10 Most Affordable Cities for Students in 2017

Updated March 6, 2020 Updated March 06

Click here to discover the 10 most affordable cities for students in 2019.

Searching for a study destination with high quality education, lively student scene and great cultural experiences without breaking the bank? One of the six categories used to compile the QS Best Student Cities index is Affordability, based on an assessment of typical international tuition fees and living costs.

Read on for a look at this year’s 10 most affordable cities for students, based on the top 10 cities in the Affordability category.

1. Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Topping the Affordability category for the second time in a row in 2017, Malaysia’s capital city offers the ideal combination of low living costs and low tuition fees. Tuition fees at internationally ranked universities are less than US$3,000 on average, and your costs of living could be as low as US$5,400 a year, according to StudyInMalaysia.com.

Overall, Kuala Lumpur climbed 12 places in this year’s QS Best Student Cities index to rank 41st out of 100 cities. The city is home to three of Malaysia’s top universities, as featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017, as well as a selection of international branch campuses such as Australia’s Monash University, allowing you to get the same course as at the main campus for a far lower price.

2. Riyadh

Riyadh

A new entry in the Best Student Cities 2017 at 64th, Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. Simultaneously traditional, historical and modern and prosperous, many students will be pleased to hear that there are no tuition fees at either of the city’s two internationally ranked universities. Living costs are fairly high, but you’ll still find Riyadh to be a much more affordable study destination than cities such as London or New York. Discover more reasons why Saudi Arabia could be the study destination for you.

3. Warsaw

Warsaw

The capital of Poland, Warsaw features as the most affordable European city for students for the second time in a row this year. Full of fascinating history, great food and nightlife, international tuition fees average out at around US$3,400 and you should be able to get by in the city with only US$5,700 per year for living costs. However, you can study for free at a public university in Poland if you study in the Polish language and sit the same entrance exams as local students.

4. Mexico City

Mexico City

Next in our list of the most affordable cities for students is Mexico’s bustling capital city, which also features at 51st overall in this year’s Best Student Cities index. The average tuition fees in Mexico City’s internationally ranked universities are US$5,800 a year, and the city’s living costs are also far lower than its neighbor the US – for example, according to Numbeo rent prices in Mexico City are a whopping 84% lower than in New York City, as of February 2017.

5. Monterrey

Monterrey

Hot on the heels of the capital is Mexico’s other representative in the Best Student Cities index, Monterrey. The third-largest metropolitan area in the country and an important industrial and educational center in northern Mexico, Monterrey has higher average tuition fees than the capital (US$8,100) but slightly lower living costs. The city features at 76th in this year’s Best Student Cities ranking and also achieves a strong score for the Employer Activity category, showing that its graduates are highly sought-after by employers.

6=. Tomsk

Tomsk

Back to Europe for the next of 2017’s most affordable cities, the Russian city of Tomsk is featured at 91st in the index overall and joint 6th for Affordability. Living costs in Tomsk are much lower than you’d find in capital city Moscow, with rent 64% lower according to Numbeo (as of February 2017). Tuition fees in Tomsk are also very reasonable at an average of US$2,400 per year at the two internationally ranked universities. A prominent scientific and academic center, Tomsk’s Siberian location makes it ideal for snow lovers!

6=. St. Petersburg

St Petersburg

Sharing 6th place for Affordability is another new entry from Russia and its second-largest city. St. Petersburg is ranked joint 78th overall in the Best Student Cities index and again offers lower living costs than Moscow, with tuition fees averaging the same as in Tomsk (US$2,400 per year). A historically significant, attractive city, St. Petersburg is home to some of Russia’s most prestigious universities, including Saint-Petersburg State University, currently ranked 258th in the world.

8. Budapest

Budapest

Next in our list of affordable cities for students in 2017 is Hungarian capital Budapest – the highest-ranked new entry in the Best Student Cities index this year at joint 56th. One of the most picturesque cities in Europe, Budapest is packed with things to do and explore. Its three internationally ranked universities have tuition fees that average only US$1,500 a year, and the city’s living costs are much lower than you’ll find in other European capitals such as London or Paris.

9. Kiev

Kiev

Ukrainian capital Kiev is another new entry in this year’s Best Student Cities, appearing at joint 97th. An important industrial, educational, scientific and cultural center of Eastern Europe, Kiev also offers lower living costs than other major European cities, with rent over 71% lower than in Paris according to Numbeo. Tuition fees at its two internationally ranked universities also average only US$2,100 per year, so Kiev could be great value for money in terms of cultural experiences and good quality education.

10. Johannesburg

Johannesburg

Concluding our list of the most affordable cities for students in 2017 is South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, which is yet another new entry at 84th overall. Tuition fees in Johannesburg are an average of US$3,200 per year and living costs are very low – the city comes 205th out of 209 cities in Mercer’s Cost of Living index (where 1st is the most expensive). One of the greenest cities in the world, Johannesburg has a well-developed higher education system and is home to some of South Africa’s most prestigious universities.

How would you rate your student city for affordability? Share your experience in our student survey!

This article was originally published in February 2017 . It was last updated in March 2020

Written by

The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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