Knowing how to pay for grad school is a major concern for most students who want to obtain an advanced degree. While obtaining a graduate degree is one of the best ways to boost your income potential, as evidenced by high-paying jobs that require a master’s degree having salaries over $100,000, a graduate study program can be quite expensive.
The financial hurdles attached to obtaining a graduate degree make some students turn to private loans, federal government loans, or graduate loans. However, there are various ways to pay for grad school without loans. Read this guide and learn how to afford grad school tuition fees and possibly secure financial assistance.
How Much Does Grad School Cost?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average yearly cost of tuition for graduate programs was $11,617 for a public university and $24,712 for a private institution between 2016 and 2017. However, the cost of graduate school steadily increases each year. Doctoral students are likely to pay out higher amounts.
Due to these high graduate school costs, to fund their graduate education, students often have to take out a federal student loan or use the loan facilities within credit unions. Regardless, variable rates for tuition exist, depending on your graduate level, the type of institution, the costs of studying within different academic departments, and any additional education expenses.
Can I Pay for Grad School Without Loans?
Yes, you can pay for a graduate program without loans, using methods like securing a public service scholarship or working while studying. With student loans becoming tougher to manage, looking for other options to fund advanced degrees is more suitable. Students who avoid student loans when funding university can avoid monthly loan payments years later.
Top 5 Tips to Avoid Grad School Loans
- Defer your studies. Unless you have savings set aside for your grad school expenses, deferring your college admission may be wise. If possible, get a full-time job and save up after completing your undergraduate education, then proceed to grad school.
- Work and study. Working and studying is stressful for a full-time student but it’s one of the ways to avoid graduate student loans. To stay out of grad school debt, try to find jobs that are relevant to your career aspirations. Some top work-study jobs, like student research assistant or university tutor, can pay graduate school students $30,000 yearly.
- Opt for low-cost education. You can opt for an online master’s degree instead of attending an in-person graduate program. Getting a graduate degree online is not a bad idea and it saves you from paying dorm fees and other grad school expenses. An online degree may also offer financial aid options to offset the cost of graduate school.
- Skip staying in a dorm. Go to college from home to avoid paying for a dorm at a private or public university. The average cost for a dorm in most universities is between $8,887 and $10,089 yearly for public and private colleges, respectively. Taking online courses will allow you to avoid paying dorm fees.
- Grants and scholarships. If you can secure a grant or scholarship, it may cover your tuition, living costs, and even offer a modest stipend. Grants and scholarships are often given to students with excellent academic performance or based on need. Graduate school applicants should conduct a graduate school scholarship search to obtain financial assistance before sending in their applications.
How to Pay for Grad School: 7 Ways to Pay for Grad School
1. Grants, Scholarships, and Fellowship Programs
Grants, scholarships, and fellowship programs remain one of the best ways to avoid loans for graduate school. They offer grad students financial aid opportunities, a wide variety of perks, and peace of mind. However, make sure that the graduate school scholarship or grant will cover your tuition and other living expenses such as dorm payments.
If you are a US veteran or currently an active-duty service member, you may be able to qualify for the Yellow Ribbon scholarship. Alternatively, Sallie Mae’s free graduate school scholarship search can help you find other scholarship opportunities. Nonprofit organizations and private organizations related to your future career field are other good places to look for scholarships.
2. Apply for Assistantships
You can apply for a graduate assistantship at your current university. Assistantships are paid jobs provided by some universities. Some assistantship positions include helping a professor out with grading papers, teaching, research, or administrative tasks. Check your university’s job listings page to find assistantship positions.
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3. Federal Work-Study Program
The Federal Work-Study Program is available for graduate and undergraduate students who need financial aid. The program offers graduate and undergraduate students a job in their field of study so they can offset a portion of their education costs. To qualify for this federal funding, the financial information of eligible students and their parents must be provided.
4. State Programs
Research state programs that offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs to graduate students. However, in return for offsetting your college costs, the state offering assistance often requires that you fulfill a service obligation. Sometimes, you may be asked to work for the state for a certain number of years after completing your graduate degree.
5. Employer Tuition Reimbursement
If you are already working somewhere, ask your employer about a tuition reimbursement program. If you don’t have a job, opt for positions in companies that offer reimbursement programs as an employee benefit. That way, you can take advantage of the tuition reimbursement program and tuition benefits when you are employed.
6. Opt for a Certificate Program
Instead of studying for a postgraduate degree, you could opt for certificate programs offered by community schools. For some industries, a certificate program qualifies you for a pay increase similar to a master’s degree or any other graduate program. The financing rate and education expenses for certificate programs are far less costly than full-on graduate programs, while still letting you further your career.
7. Income Share Agreement (ISA)
Another creative way to avoid financing graduate school with loans is to enter into an ISA. With an ISA, someone accepts to fund your graduate education and, in return, you repay a percentage of your income once you find full-time work. Check if there are provisions in the agreement that outline the amount you have to pay and what happens if you end up with a low-paying job after your graduate degree program.
Is Going to Grad School Worth It?
Yes, grad school is worth it if your career goals require you to have a master’s degree or doctoral degree, although the financial burden can be alarming. According to the Harvard Business Review, a graduate degree increases your salary potential, and certain grad school programs, like a law degree or a Doctor of Medicine, are necessary to have a career.
Other benefits of a graduate degree include more opportunities to occupy higher positions, ease of switching careers, and access to networking opportunities. The return on investment for attending grad school is high, but it can all fade away if you take out private student loans that require huge monthly payments over a longer repayment term.
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How to Pay for Grad School FAQ
How long does it take to repay a grad school loan?
On average, it takes between 10 to 30 years to repay a graduate school loan. However, the time frame depends on the type of loan or loan term you opt for. For instance, federal loans can take between 10 to 25 years of monthly payments to repay. Loans taken out for a doctoral degree or a professional school program may take longer to repay.
Is it worth it to secure a student loan to fund a graduate degree?
Sadly, there is no single right or wrong answer to whether funding your graduate degree with a student loan is worth it. Securing a loan to fund a graduate education should be based on an individual’s unique personal and financial situation. Graduate students in the tech field can somewhat afford to secure a federal student loan because their post-grad earnings are high.
What loan facilities are available for grad school students?
Some of the loan facilities available to grad students are private loans, federal loans, and direct loans. Some of these loan facilities offer more than $20,000 to graduate students. However, federal loan options are the most sought-after because their payment plans are low-interest.
Is there an alternative to grad school?
Yes, there are a few alternatives to grad school that can also help you grow in your chosen career path. For instance, you can take individual online classes, obtain certifications from professional associations, or consider a career change. Considering tech careers would be suitable for students who are inclined toward digital technology.
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