Whether you want to boost your pay, get a promotion or move into a new niche, pursuing a graduate degree can offer several advantages that make it worth the cost. From getting scholarships and grants to taking advantage of tuition assistance and work-study programs, you have several ways to pay for grad school without borrowing money. However, you can also take advantage of student loans or use personal funds to cover additional costs. Consider various grad school financing options to determine which combination is right for you.
Use Grad School Grants
If you're looking for grad school money that you don't have to pay back, grants are an option available through the government and private organizations. Grad students can take advantage of federal options such as the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant for teaching programs and Fulbright grants for international studies. State governments and universities directly can also offer grants for grad students based either on merit or need.
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Seek Scholarship Options
Scholarships for grad students provide free funds based on your financial need, merit or both of these criteria. You might get merit money for excelling in a particular subject or skill or maintaining a high grade point average, while you could get need-based funds for having a low income or limited assets. You can check into your college's financial aid office, view scholarship directory websites or consult organizations and charities to discover options and learn about the application requirements.
Consider also: Finding Scholarship Opportunities
Take Out Student Loans
Student loans through the government or financial institutions can help you finance your education. Federal options include Direct Unsubsidized loans that provide a maximum of $20,500 a year with no credit check as well as Direct PLUS loans, which are credit-based and help cover remaining costs. Federal loans typically have fixed interest rates and income-driven repayment plans.
If you need further funding, you can opt for private student loans that are available through financial institutions. Private loans likely will not have flexible repayment terms and may not have fixed interest rates. They also require a decent credit history.
Consider also: Federal Student Loans
You can opt to cover your grad school costs using extra money from your day job or even by taking on a second job alongside what you do full time.
Request Tuition Reimbursement
Employers often offer tuition reimbursement where they'll pay for full-time and sometimes part-time employees to complete a certain dollar amount of job-relevant coursework when they meet certain criteria. You'd need to verify that your employee status qualifies, choose an acceptable program, get approval and then follow the necessary procedures to get reimbursed. This option often requires finding other sources to pay for non-tuition costs or courses that exceed the company's limit, and you'll need to successfully pass the courses.
Consider also: Is Tuition Reimbursement Considered Income?
Participate in Work Programs
If you're unemployed and have time for a part-time job, consider options like the Federal Work-Study program along with fellowships and assistantships. The Federal Work-Study program lets financially eligible students receive on-campus or certain off-campus jobs that help with financing grad school costs. Assistantships allow you to work for the grad school in a role such as a researcher or teacher, while fellowships offer funds to perform research and other work in your degree area.
Consider also: Types of Financial Aid for College
Use Personal Funds
You can opt to cover your grad school costs using extra money from your day job or even by taking on a second job alongside what you do full time. If you've saved a significant amount of money, then withdrawing the cash from your savings account can help cover grad school. However, you'll still want to have an emergency fund remaining if you do this.
At the same time, you might choose to tap into your retirement accounts and either take a loan from your 401(k) or an early distribution from an individual retirement account (IRA). If your employer allows it, taking out a 401(k) loan can provide the needed funds and give you five years to repay the funds. While the IRS waives the 10 percent penalty for IRA distributions used to cover as much as $10,000 in your higher education costs, you'll still be liable for any taxes owed on that money if you choose an early IRA distribution.
- Federal Student Aid: Federal Versus Private Loans
- Federal Student Aid: Finding and Applying for Scholarships
- Tufts University: Tuition Reimbursement Plan Guidelines
- Federal Student Aid: Work-Study Jobs
- Oregon State University: How Are Fellowships Different from Assistantships?
- Federal Student Aid: Loans
- Harvard Business Review: Should You Go to Graduate School?
- IRS: Retirement Plans FAQs regarding Loans
- IRS: Retirement Topics - Hardship Distributions
- Federal Student Aid: TEACH Grants
- Fullbright: Types Of Awards