Financing Your Graduate Degree
Graduate or professional school is an expensive proposition. The cost of a year of graduate education, combining tuition and living expenses, can range from over $10,000 for a state resident pursing a degree at a public school to over $30,000 at some private schools. You can expect tuition costs to increase an average of 10 percent a year while you are earning your degree.
Most financial aid for graduate school is based on the candidate's academic performance and promise. Decisions regarding funding are frequently made by faculty members, usually in the student's department. Obviously, getting to know a department chair or dean is an important strategy.
Merit-based financial aid for graduate school is available from universities, the government, and private foundations. New sources are continually being developed, and in the case of government aid, the amount varies depending upon current executive and legislative policy.
As a prospective applicant, it is critical to thoroughly investigate the availability of financial aid in all its various forms as you go about the admissions process. Both the sources and the amounts are important considerations.
Basic Types of Financial Assistance
Fellowships & Grants. These awards, granted on the basis of academic achievement, normally include a stipend for living expenses, and pay registration fees and tuition. They can be either portable (i.e., offered by an organization for study at any institution of the student's choice) or institutional (i.e., offered by the university or department for study there).
Many universities have their own fellowships which generally go to the students the institution or department wants most to attract.
Assistantships. Teaching and research assistantships usually involve working 10-20 hours per week in exchange for a stipend or monthly salary and/or tuition reduction. Requests for information on assistantships and applications should be made directly to the department of program of interest to you.
Resident Assistantships. Some institutions have programs in which graduate students earn a stipend, room and board, or both by working as assistants in undergraduate residence halls. To inquire about such possibilities, contact the school's director of residence halls.
Long-term Educational Loans. About 75% of all graduate financial aid is now in the form of loans. In addition to major financial programs such as Stafford Student Loans (formerly Guaranteed Student Loans), Perkins Loans, and Plus Loans, each graduate discipline has loan and aid programs tailor-made to suit the situation. Many private lenders have entered the loan market. Decisions are made according to pre-set policies and formulas, and are based on a student's financial need. The institution's financial aid office will be able to explain these loan programs to you.
Employer-financed Schooling. Many companies provide partial of full tuition reimbursement, depending on the grades the employees achieve and the relevance of the course work to their current jobs.
Part-time Employment. Check with the career center on your graduate school campus for part-time employment opportunities.