A graduate degree can lead to increased career opportunities, which result in a greater potential for higher salaries and faster promotions.
However, with the average cost of a graduate-level degree rising above $18,400 per year, managing the price tag is no simple feat.
Graduate students must also factor in their need to cover necessary living expenses while pursuing post-secondary education, and the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition costs. Fortunately, several payment options exist for prospective and current graduate students that may ease some of the financial burden.
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Exploring Your Payment Options
Understanding which options are best suited for you requires time and effort, researching what is available based on your unique circumstances. Let’s start with the kind of payment options for graduate school everyone should seek out first: free money.
Free Money for Graduate School
First and foremost, savings can, and likely should be, used to cover the cost of post-secondary education when possible. This can wipe out a significant portion of the price tag before looking into alternative solutions.
After savings, other forms of “free” money, including scholarships, work-study programs, and grants, may be viable options.
Graduate School Scholarships
Private organizations, non-profits, and some colleges and universities offer scholarships based on a student’s background, community service they perform, or specific groups they associate with regularly. Merit-based scholarships are also available to potential graduate students, based on undergraduate grades or other accomplishments.
Here are a few graduate student scholarships currently available:
Beinecke Scholarship: This scholarship is available for up to 20 recipients each year across 135 colleges and universities. Exceptional college juniors nominated by the school may be eligible to receive an initial $4,000 and up to $30,000 during a graduate-level program. Qualified students must plan to enroll in a research-based Masters or doctoral program in the arts, humanities, or social sciences.
Davis-Putter Scholarship: This need-based scholarship is available to undergraduate and graduate students who are active in the progressive movement to end racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression through activism. Awards are granted to students who can show financial need, up to $15,000 per year.
Violet and Cyril Franks Scholarship: Through the American Psychological Association, this scholarship is made available to graduate-level students using a psychological perspective to help understand mental illness in their studies. The scholarship may be awarded to a graduate student who is in good standing at an accredited university and shows a demonstrated commitment to solving stigma issues around mental illness.
Through the program, graduate students can help pay for education-related expenses with the money they earn through part-time employment during their enrollment. A college or university administers each work-study program, and students may be paid either hourly or by salary, depending on the type of work performed.
A work-study program not only helps with covering some of the cost of graduate school, but it also can help lead to gainful employment upon graduation.
Federal grants, such as the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant, are offered by the Department of Education or other federal financial aid programs to low-income students.
State grants are also made available to graduate students who show financial need, but they are administered on a state level instead.
School-specific grants may also be available to graduate students who are enrolled in a specific program of study who can show financial need.
Graduate School Student Loans – Not So Free Money
Federal Student Loans
Federal student loans for graduate students are available through Direct Unsubsidized Loans or Direct PLUS Loans, with no requirement to show a financial need. However, Direct PLUS Loans offered to graduate students who have adverse credit history may require students to meet additional qualification guidelines after a credit check is performed.
Funds received must be repaid after a graduate student leaves school, and interest accrues on the loans from the moment funds are dispersed to cover education costs.
Private Student Loans
As a final option, private student loans may help graduate students receive funding for graduate school. Because private loans require a strong credit history or a co-signer, and they may have higher interest rates and less flexible repayment options than student loans, private loans should be a last resort.
Private lenders offer these graduate student loans, not the federal government, and eligibility requirements vary from lender to lender.
In many cases, however, students must meet minimum income requirements as well as credit history and score guidelines to qualify for private student loans.
Guest Post by Andy Kearns