Although expenses vary from school to school, tuition in Hungary is about 300,000 Forint (Ft.) per year for a Bachelor’s degree and 450,000 Ft. a year for a Master’s. Students also have to pay a registration fee, and that can be as little as 1,200 Ft. or as high as 240,000 Ft.. These fees apply only to students who have not qualified as “state-funded” students. The number of state-funded students is decided every year by the Hungarian government and everyone who qualifies will not have to pay tuition or registration fees. Students who have had excellent academic records have a better chance of being state-funded than those who have poorer records. This system is quite different from other countries in Europe, which often pay the full tuition for any student in the EU and do not count academic records as a factor.
The cost of living in Hungary is quite low. Per month, a student will need about 150,000 Ft. to pay for their lodging, food, books and Internet. Even state-funded students will need to have some money set aside to pay for miscellaneous fees at the university, like club fees or field trips.
As in most countries, Hungary provides a system of scholarships and student loans for its students to pay for school. In 2001, a new student loan company - the Hungarian Student Loan Centre - was introduced as part of Hungary’s education reform that began in 1998. The Centre is controlled by the Hungarian government.
In terms of scholarships, all state scholarships are run through the Hungarian Scholarship Board (HSB). In 2007, 35-40% of these scholarships were given to students in need, and 60% were merit-based. This seems to differ from other European countries that tend to place more favour on students in need of financial help. Scholarships from the HSB are given to students from every study cycle, even post-doctoral. If a student is given any other scholarship from the Hungarian government, they cannot accept any money from the HSB. HSB scholarships do not help with travel expenses and do not entirely cover the cost of dorms.
There are also other scholarships that students can access, especially international students. The HIF (Hungary Initiatives Foundation) is designed to encourage academic cooperation between the United States and Hungary. Hungarian-American students are eligible for this scholarship and may study in Hungary for high school students, undergrads, and graduates. Students can reapply for this scholarship each year, which gives them about one million Forint per semester. The money can be used for tuition, living costs, insurance or travelling. American students can also go to Covrinus University in Budapest through the API programme and study economics, business, and social studies. This programme is unique because the classes are in English, while most schools in Hungary use Hungarian exclusively. One of the best-known scholarships in Europe is the Erasmus Mundus programme and Hungary participates in it. There are about eleven scholarships available for 2014-2016.
Hungarian Student Loan Centre loans are available for every student regardless of merit and are to help cover the costs of tuition and living. Five years after the Centre was founded, just over 50% of enrolled students had borrowed money. The students applying for student loans must be either Hungarian, a refugee, or have a permanent residence or immigration card. The student must also be under 35 years old. When a student receives a loan, they are not required to tell the government how they plan on using it or follow a universal, set time line for repayment. As a country, Hungary is aware that students may have difficulty paying back a loan, and so offer an income-contingent repayment. That means the amount a student needs to pay back and when it needs to be repaid depends upon how much the student is making at their job. Students can also prepay as much as they choose without penalty.
Students looking for work to subsidize any loans or scholarships, may be confronted with some difficulties. Minimum wage for most student jobs is extremely low at only about 450 to 600 Ft.. So, if students do work during their school years, it is usually in their home countries over break. When it comes to post-graduation, the work situation is not much better. In 2008, the unemployment rate in Hungary was 8% and rising. The job market is flooded with people searching for marketing and economic jobs, but for those in IT or technology, the outlook is much better.