Australia’s rising prosperity represents a mixed blessing for the country’s international students. In fact, a report recently released by the international banking and investment firm HSBC reveals that the world’s sixth largest country is now the most expensive place to study abroad. This finding comes as something of a surprise considering the fact that both the United States and Britain – two of most popular destinations for international higher education – have also seen significant cost increases in recent years. As it is, however, despite the fact that colleges and universities on both sides of Atlantic have raised their tuition fees in an effort to offset falling government support during and after the Great Recession, it is Australia’s relative economic stability that may be behind this surprising statistic.

Progress Pays (and Paying for Progress)

The problem is that Australia’s dubious position as the most expensive destination in international education rests not only on tuition increase alone. Although average tuition and fees in Australia are only marginally higher than in the United States ($25,375 versus $25,226), it is Australia’s higher cost of living ($13,140 versus $10,479) that best account for this intriguing finding. Given the fact that Australia has seen substantively higher economic growth (and a strengthening currency) as compared to other developed countries in the past few years and the fact that the HSBC study accounted not only for the cost of tuition itself but also for the average cost of living, studying abroad in Australia is now more expensive than ever.

Opportunity at Any Price

Of course, that does not mean international students will stop flocking to Australian colleges and university to pursue their higher education goals. After all, although countries like Great Britain may represent a relative bargain, new student visa regulations are making it harder to study in the UK no matter the cost. Legislation which went into effect in 2012 is doubtless responsible for the 46 percent drop in student visas issued by that country in 2013. As a result of these and other factors, Australia and its international students will no doubt continue to enjoy their place in the sun for some time to come – no matter the cost.