Obtaining a master’s degree is a great move that can impact your career positively in the long run. However, the cost of graduate school tuition can be a barrier for many prospective students. If you’re interested in going to grad school but worried about the cost, learning how to get financial aid for a master’s degree can be a good first step.
There are a number of options available to you such as federal student loans, private student loans, fellowship opportunities, and scholarships and grants for master’s degree programs. This article will explain how you can get financial aid and how to make informed decisions on this topic. You’ll also learn about different types of aid and schools that offer financial aid.
Does FAFSA Cover Master’s Degrees?
Yes, FAFSA can cover a master’s degree. As a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree, one of your first steps should be to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will put you into consideration for both state and federal aid.
One thing to note is that as a graduate student applying for financial aid, you will not be considered a dependent, and your income will be evaluated accordingly. The income of your parents or spouse, if married, will not be taken into account. This can actually help you receive more financial aid than you might otherwise.
How to Find Financial Aid for Master’s Degrees
- Teacher Education Assistance for College And Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. This program provides up to $4,000 in federal grants to graduate students who are planning to complete coursework to start a teaching career.
- Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program. The Federal Work-Study program helps graduate and undergraduate students in need by providing them with part-time jobs. Money earned can be used to offset education expenses, and jobs can give you valuable experience.
- The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. This is the largest federal loan program. The Department of Education lends you money under this program, not a private lender. There are direct subsidized loans and unsubsidized loans under this program. According to Debt.org, half of the over 17 million students enrolled in university in 2021 received loans through this program.
- Federal Pell Grant. A Pell Grant is not a loan, so it does not need to be repaid. Students pursuing graduate education are eligible for this grant.
- Fellowships and Assistantships. Requirements for eligible candidates may vary for fellowship and assistantship programs. Fellowships are offered by private organizations, government agencies, and schools, while assistantships are offered by schools. It’s always a good idea to visit your institution’s financial aid office for guidance.
Financial Aid: The Best Scholarships and Grants for Master’s Degrees
|Scholarship or Grant Name||Provider||Amount|
|AIEF Program||American Indian Education Fund||$1,000–$2,000|
|ASHFoundation Scholarship||American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation||$5,000|
|Career Development Grant||American Association of University Women (AAUW)||$12,000|
|State University Grant (SUG) Program||California State University System||$7,176|
|Davis-Putter Scholarship||Davis-Putter Fund||$15,000|
|Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship||Goldman Sachs Company||$35,000 plus an additional $40,000 on completion|
|Jewish War Veterans National Achievement Programs||The Jewish War Veterans of the USA||$9,000|
|NABA National Scholarship Program Application||The National Association of Black Accountants||$1,000–$5,000|
|National Science Foundation Fellowship||National Science Foundation||$138,000|
|Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship||Paul and Daisy Soros Foundation||$90,000|
The Best Financial Aid Resources for Master’s Degrees
We’ve put together some of the best resources for financial aid to help you cover life expenses while in graduate school. According to the Education Data Initiative, almost 84 percent of college students receive some form of financial aid. As you can see below, there are many types of aid for a wide range of groups.
AIEF Program | American Indian Education Fund
The AIEF program offers graduate scholarships to American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students who are pursuing a master’s degree at an accredited university. A scholarship committee reviews the financial aid applications of thousands of students to decide who gets the grant. The recipient’s college or university receives the scholarship directly.
The scholarship only considers students with an average GPA of 2.5 or higher. Online courses and ABD work are not covered by the graduate scholarship.
ASHFoundation Scholarship | American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation
This is one of the best Master’s in Special Education scholarships and offers an award of $5,000 to students in a communication sciences and disorders graduate program. An applicant must be a full-time student enrolled for the full academic year.
Eligible candidates must verify their academic record by submitting university transcripts of academic coursework containing their GPA and credits. Applicants are expected to submit three confidential letters of recommendation.
Career Development Grant | American Association of University Women
The Career Development Grant is for women who hold a bachelor’s degree and would like to advance their careers or switch career paths. This grant prioritizes women of color and women pursuing their first advanced degree.
State University Grant | California State University
The State University Grant program is need-based and is open to both undergraduate and graduate students who reside in California and meet other eligibility requirements. Applying for financial assistance through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act application will put you into consideration for this graduate school grant.
Davis-Putter Scholarship | Davis-Putter Fund
The Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund supports people who are actively involved in the advancement of social and economic justice. Some of the early recipients of this award worked for peace in Vietnam and civil rights. Some recent awardees have actively participated in the struggle against sexism, racism, homophobia, and other types of oppression.
Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship | Goldman Sachs Company
The Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship Program is designed for first-year MBA students who are pursuing an associate role with the investment company. Eligible candidates must be Native American, Black, Latino, or Hispanic or identify as a woman.
Jewish War Veterans National Achievement Programs | The Jewish War Veterans of the USA
This financial aid is available to service members who plan to attend an accredited graduate degree program. It is also open to candidates who are currently in a master’s program. The program helps veterans and descendants of veterans pay for their college education.
NABA National Scholarship Program Application | The National Association of Black Accountants (NABA)
NABA offers three types of scholarships. They are the NABA National Scholarship for USA Citizens, Corporate Partner Scholarships, and NABA Member Scholarship Awards. These awards are open to undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of finance, accounting, or business. You can also find other business-related scholarships for graduate students that may interest you online.
National Science Foundation Fellowship | National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program is for graduate students in STEM fields. This award is very prestigious, and past recipients include more than 40 Nobel laureates. The award is a five-year program that provides a total of $138,000 in financial assistance.
Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship | Paul and Daisy Soros Foundation
The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship is designed for immigrants and children of immigrants who the organization thinks will make important contributions to society or culture. The award of up to $90,000 is given over two years.
Schools That Offer Financial Aid for a Master’s Degree
Drexel University takes the education of its students seriously and offers financial resources to assist them with the cost of tuition. Other aspects of the entire cost of a graduate education include textbooks, transportation, technology, and living expenses. This financial aid program takes into account the student’s financial situation.
Many graduate students at Stanford University require financial aid to successfully complete their advanced education. Stanford provides a range of options for financial aid for graduate students, including the graduate student aid fund, the emergency grant-in-aid fund, paid internships, teaching fellowships, and other graduate fellowships.
State University of New York
The State University of New York has two financial aid options for master’s students. The first is the SUNY Graduate Diversity Fellowship. Financial aid eligibility is determined by a student’s contribution to the diversity of the university system’s student body.
The second option is the SUNY Graduate Opportunity Program. This is open to New York residents and graduates from any of the EOP, HEOP, or SEEK programs.
University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA offers financial aid packages for graduate students to attract the best students from across the country. The different aid packages include fellowships, traineeships, and employment-based opportunities. These opportunities can also serve to enhance a student’s academic standing, training, and research portfolio.
Entering students and continuing students are nominated for the UCLA-exclusive grants by their academic programs or departments. This means they do not have to apply directly for this grant.
University of Houston
There are a number of options for graduate students to fund their tuition at the University of Houston. Financial aid is available in forms such as assistantships, work-study programs, grants, and loan support. Aside from the internal resources, other external resources are available to graduate students for funding their education.
Should You Apply for Master’s Degree Financial Aid?
Yes, applying for financial aid as a graduate student is a good idea, especially if you’re a low-income student. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of graduate-level tuition is $18,416. Financial aid is a great way to relieve some of that financial burden.
You may receive more aid as a graduate student through FAFSA because you are treated as a financially independent student. With some or all of your financial obligations taken care of, you can focus more on your studies. You can come out with a very good result due to not being distracted by how to cover tuition expenses and other aspects of the cost of education.
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Financial Aid for a Master’s Degree FAQ
Yes, there are tax considerations when it comes to paying for a master’s degree. There are available tax credits, deductions, and savings plans to help you with the expenses of higher education. The IRS website has additional information.
The most common types of federal student loans for graduate students are the Federal Stafford Loan and the Federal Grad Plus Loan. The Federal Stafford Loan has a low interest rate and flexible repayment options, so it should be your first choice if you’re looking to secure an educational loan for grad school.
You can also pay for graduate school by exploring other types of aid for grad students such as employer reimbursement, the federal work-study program, federal loans, private loans, private grants, and scholarship opportunities.
It depends. This is a personal choice, but you must carefully weigh the costs and benefits before taking any additional loans. Keep in mind that credit checks will be required when applying for loans. It is recommended that you take only the loans that you need. Avoid any additional debt as much as possible.
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