Useful Tips for Financing A Graduate School Education

There is plenty of financial aid available for worthy graduate students, as long as they apply for it as early as possible. Graduate students taking out loans need to be realistic about the job opportunities and additional income generated by obtaining a graduate degree.

You can typically save thousands of dollars by enrolling in a graduate degree program at a public university in the state where you’re a legal resident. Also, some states have reciprocal agreements with neighboring states which lets each state’s residents attend their colleges and universities at state tuition rates. For more information contact your state department of education or some schools of interest. Some states consider out-of-state students as residents after they have attended the school for one year.

Government Assistance

  • Federal Perkins Loans: Need-based program.
  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans: Students must have financial need as determined by their school.
  • Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans: Not based on financial need.
  • Cooperative Education: Combines education with an off-campus job related to the student’s program.
  • Work-Study: Need-based program in which the college finds jobs for students. Salary is usually close to minimum wage.

Graduate Stafford Loans

Graduate Stafford Loans are fixed rate loans for graduate students attending a college or university on at least a half-time basis. These loans are one of the lowest-cost ways to pay for graduate school. Graduate students using Subsidized Stafford Loans are not charged interest before they begin repayment or during periods of deferment.

Graduate PLUS Loan

The Graduate PLUS Loan is a non-need credit based loan, guaranteed by the Federal Government. Students can borrow the total cost of graduate school, including tuition, supplies, room and board, travel, and lab expenses. It’s a fixed rate student loan and payment can be deferred while students are attending college.

School Financial Assistance

Many colleges and universities offer teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and administrative fellowships. These positions typically include tuition waivers and some of them offer health insurance.

The recipients of departmental fellowships and scholarships are often determined by the departmental chair and not the financial aid office. Prospective graduate students should talk to a department staff member who’s knowledgeable about financial aid opportunities.

Perhaps the best type of college based financial aid is the fellowship. It’s a cash reward that doesn’t need to be repaid and typically doesn’t require the student to work. Most are based on an excellent academic record, however some are based on financial need. Fellowships usually include a stipend.

Corporations

Many companies sponsor tuition assistance programs. According to IRS regulations, employers can provide up to $5,250 for each employee per year on a tax-free basis. Additional employer tuition assistance is taxed. Employers may restrict the choice of a major to a subject related to the employee’s current or future position at the company. Some employers stipulate that the employee work for the company for a specific length of time after obtaining the degree.

Foundations

The Foundation Center in New York City publishes a reference book about graduate study financial aid. Grants provided in different fields are included in Grant Guides, a fee-based databank.

The National Research Council provides hundreds of fellowships of up to $14,000 per year for students in the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, and mathematics.

Mellon Fellowships cover tuition and provide stipends for graduates students in the humanities.

Medical School

Some of the loans available for Medical School are MedSHARE-Nellie Mae, AAMC Medloans-Alternative Loan Program, and Medical Access Loans-Access Group.

Business School Loans

Some of the loans available for business school are MBADHARE-New England Loan Marketing Association-Nellie Mae, Business Access Loan Program-Access Group, and M.B.A. Loans/Tuition Loan Plan.

Online Resources

There are numerous online resources that help students find graduate education funding, and these include the following:

  • National Association of Graduate and Professional Studies
  • FastWEB
  • Thomson Peterson’s Graduate School Planning
  • The Foundation Center
  • Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Programs
  • Education World
  • FinAid!
  • Education World

Putting together the best financial aid package requires a lot of research. However, taking the time to do this research could save you a lot of money on your graduate education.

Brian Jenkins writes about a variety of education topics for BrainTrack, including financial aid opportunities for college students.

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54 Responses to “Useful Tips for Financing A Graduate School Education”

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