How to Finance Your Graduate School Education without Loans

Posted in Personal Finance by Kevin | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Know your options before you take out a loan.

Everyone knows that Bachelor degrees don’t carry the same weight they did 10 years ago and entry level professionals in today’s economy are urged more and more to have some kind of graduate degree to be seen as competitive job applicants.

Although many students consider getting their Graduate degrees to increase qualifications, most of them don’t know how to finance their education and leave it to the last second to do some quick research and get a loan. It’s not uncommon for a lot of prospective grad students to spends months searching for the right school and major but completely overlook the financial aspect. Student don’t realize that getting a Graduate degree can be a very costly endeavor and could leave you strangled with debt for a decade or more after graduation – even with the best paying jobs.

In order to be regret free after graduation and have more money to invest, grad students must consider all available options for financing their debt. In this article, I will talk about some of the ways you can pay for your graduate degree.

1) Assistantships

Colleges across the nation have used assistantships as a great way to find less expensive workers and give significant financial assistance to graduate students. This form of financial aid is usually enough to significantly reduce your loans, but varies from university to university.

There are three types of assistantships and many of you are probably familiar with all three of them. The first one, research assistantships, are more common in the sciences where the college pays the graduate student a stipend for helping in a specific research project or a certain professor. The second type is a teaching assistantship and usually involves the grad student teaching an undergraduate class or a discussion section. The third type of assistantship is the graduate assistantship, which usually consists of grading papers or preparing lectures.

2) Employment Assistant Programs

Employment tuition aid packages are often overlooked by many grad students in their search for money. On average, employers contribute just over $4,000 to tuition, most of which is tax free.

This benefit sometimes comes with some fine print, so students have to be aware what they must do to keep earning the free tuition money. Some employers require their student-employees to maintain a certain GPA, usually around 3.0, and some require that the student work a certain amount of years with the employer after graduation. One of my friends got their entire Master’s program paid off with a certain firm after agreeing to work with them for three years.

3) Grants

Grants are usually gifts from federal programs or private sources that the student does not need to repay. There are several types of grants available – including need based and merit based. Government grants are given on a first come first serve basis and usually have some sort of GPA requirement. Sometimes these grants are given for doing research in a specific area and can also be given by the university. Grant amounts vary widely from state to state and from person to person.

Private grants are known as scholarships, which most of you are aware of. However, scholarships in the graduate level are more scarce than for undergrads, so make sure you do your research early and apply to several sources. Even if its a few thousand dollars a year, these scholarships can be very important in lowering your overall debt. Scholarships are given for a variety of reasons – but the underlying feature in most of them is their merit base. There are, however, scholarships for ethnicities, religious backgrounds, fraternities, and more. Check out some scholarship books at the library for a vast number of these money trees. Don’t forget to apply to many and apply early.

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