If you’ve decided to enroll for graduate school, chances are you’ll be financing it yourself. Have no fear: There are a wide variety of resources to finance a graduate education. Most graduate students receive financial assistance in the form of fellowships, grants, employer reimbursement, loans and teaching or research positions. Many students finance their degree with a combination of these different types of financial aid.
Fellowships and Grants
Fellowships and grants are monetary awards that don’t need to be repaid. They may be issued by a school, organization or the federal government, and cover partial or complete tuition, with the possible inclusion of a stipend for living expenses. They are usually awarded based on academic merit and financial need. Some fellowship programs and grants are used to recruit particular groups of students, such as minorities or women.
Teaching Assistant Positions
Teaching Assistant (TA) positions allow a graduate student to teach during the academic year in exchange for financial aid. TAs usually lead discussion and lab sections of undergraduate courses that are taught by faculty members, and typically work about 20 hours per week.
Research Assistant Positions
Research Assistant (RA) positions allow a graduate student to work on a research project in exchange for tuition and a stipend. An RA is usually assigned to a specific research project, most commonly in a scientific or engineering field.
Many employers provide full or partial tuition support for employees who are in graduate school. Students should check with their employer’s benefits administrator or human resources department to find out more about tuition support.
Federal Work-Study Program
Work-study programs provide part-time jobs for students who are enrolled in graduate school. Whenever possible, the work involves community service or is related to the student’s field of study.
Graduate students who demonstrate financial need are eligible to apply for federal loans. Depending on need, a federal loan may be subsidized, meaning that interest will not accrue until repayment starts, or unsubsidized. Stafford Loans are the most common type of loans for grad students. Other types of federal loans include Federal Perkins Loans, which are distributed by colleges and universities, and PLUS Loans.
Loan Forgiveness Programs
For graduate students with federal loans who are willing to work in public service or for a nonprofit organization, public service loan forgiveness programs are a good option for financing a graduate degree. These programs are offered by schools, states and the federal government. In exchange for a specified number of years of employment following graduation, a student will receive a fixed percentage of loan repayment.
Private Education Loans
Students can also apply for private education loans for graduate school, but it’s recommended that they first exhaust all other options for federal loans. Private education loans typically have higher interest rates, and the interest may begin to accrue while the student is still in graduate school.
Harrison Kratz is a Community Manager at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School which offers top ranked executiveMBA programs and MBA@UNC, their onlineMBA degree. He also sticks to his entrepreneurial roots as the founder of the global social good campaign, Tweet Drive.