The Fulbright Grants Program: It’s Not Just For Rich People Anymore

by G. Michael Schneider / Jun 22, 2012 / 0 comments

One of the widespread misconceptions about the Fulbright program is that it is a realistic option only for those who are “financially comfortable,” that is, 1) senior professors whose kids are grown and who have socked away enough in their 401(k) to afford an unpaid, six-month leave, 2) prestigious professors with six-figure salaries and/or research grants flexible enough to cover missed paychecks, or 3) older faculty living in cities like New York, San Francisco, or Santa Cruz who can sublease their paid-up 3-bedroom apartments for something well north of $5,000/month.


Well, please put that misconception to rest right now.  While you will certainly not get rich on a Fulbright you just might (and this is far more important) break even on your expenses.  This means you can be the recipient of a glorious 4-, 5-, or 6-month travel experience at absolutely no cost to yourself–the reason for the title of my travel book:  On The Other Guy’s Dime: A Professional’s Guide to Traveling Without Paying.  Let me explain.

Fulbright grant benefits fall into six categories, with the amount allocated to each varying by country and its cost of living.  (Note:  The benefits for every grant are included in the Awards Catalog.)  In the following discussions I will give dollar amounts for a six-month Fulbright teaching/research award (#3005) to the African nation of Botswana, a benefit package typical of the roughly 600 awards given out each year:


Stipend is the monthly base salary, and it varies according to academic rank and grant type but is usually about $2,800 per month. For example, in Botswana, Asst. Professors receive $2,640/month, while Assoc./Full Professors receive $2,860.

Housing is a monthly allowance to cover accommodations in the host country. Rather than a fixed dollar amount, the Botswana grant simply states that housing is to be provided by the host institution at no cost to the recipient.  In addition, it includes a supplemental allowance of $562/month to cover utilities, repairs, and/or remodeling.

Subsistence is a monthly allowance for daily expenses such as food, clothing, fuel, and laundry.  For Botswana, the amount ranges from $1,391 to $1,691 per month depending on family size. 

Taken together, this means a family of four working in Botswana on a Fulbright would receive free housing and a monthly income of between $4,593 and $5,113.  Now one could live quite reasonably in the U.S. on that amount; in Botswana you would live extraordinarily well, without any financial worries.  In fact, you would have sufficient discretionary income remaining at the end of each month to partake in cultural experiences and enjoy family travel throughout southern Africa.

Travel/Relocation expenses cover the initial transportation costs to and from your host country.  The Botswana grant includes round-trip economy class international travel for the grantee, spouse, and one child.  It also includes a relocation allowance of $1,000 and an excess baggage allowance of $1,800–funds that could, if necessary, be used to help cover travel costs for a second and/or third child.  

Tuition Assistance can be used to cover the costs of private K-12 schooling for your dependent children. For example, the Botswana grant provides up to $25,000 annually per family for private elementary/secondary education.

Other Benefits are miscellaneous funds for such things as teaching and research activities or travel to other institutions in the region. In the case of Botswana, the grant includes a one-time allowance of $1,000 for books or other research materials that are to be donated to the host institution upon departure. 


So, as you can clearly see, a Fulbright grant certainly does not impose financial pain or hardship on its recipient.  On the contrary, you will live well in the host country and enjoy a truly transformative professional, cultural, and social experience–all on the other guy’s dime! 



Read more of this Fulbright Series from Dr. Schneider:



Michael Schneider is the Academic Travel Editor for Wandering Educators. You can read more of his work at, and learn more about his new book, entitled On the Other Guy's Dime: A Professional's Guide to Traveling without Paying.