How to Afford Graduate College

The struggling economy has really had a negative impact on graduate programs across the country.  Most of these schools have raised their tuition prices while limiting the amount of students allowed to participate in the program. 

On average a person will spend $30,000 a year to pursue a graduate degree at a public school.  Private colleges usually cost $39,000 and up per year.  It should come as no surprise that many students who wish to pursue a graduate degree need some kind of help, either in the form of loans or grants or a combination of the two.

Obviously, the easiest way to pay for your advanced degree would be through scholarships, fellowships, grants or assistantships.  The funds from these sources do not have to be repaid, limiting your financial burden once you finish school.   Here are 10 more ideas about finding money for college.

  1. Student loans – Although loans for graduate programs are usually smaller than the loans for undergraduate work, it is still a viable option for a lot of students.  Recent changes in the federal student aid program have made getting loans even easier.
  2. Tax benefits – People can choose from a deduction on taxes to cover their tuition expenses, a credit for Lifetime Learning or they can deduct the interest paid to student loans from their tax return.
  3. Fellowships, assistantships and scholarships – A fellowship is awarded to students in order to cover the cost of either the education or research for their degree.  An assistantship is basically a job working as an assistant to a professor.  Both of these programs usually cover the cost of tuition.  A scholarship can be awarded by the college or by a separate organization based on a student’s needs, talent or merit.
  4. Ask your employer for help – Over half of all businesses offer some type of tuition reimbursement program.  If your company does not currently have a plan, talk to the human resource manager.  Discuss the ways in which your graduate degree will make you more valuable and profitable for the company.
  5. Set up competition among schools – If you graduated near the top of your class for your bachelor’s degree, submit an application to several graduate programs.  Let the schools know that you are trying to get the best financial aid possible.  It is possible that some schools will negotiate with you.
  6. Submit applications early - The sooner you contact a school for financial aid the higher the likelihood that they will have enough funds for your situation.
  7. Consult with the school of your bachelor’s degree – Many 4 year schools and universities also offer graduate programs and extend a discount to alumni.
  8. Review different aid packages – Really study the different packages offered by various schools.  Inquire about online classes to try and reduce tuition or associated fees.
  9. Try schools in your state – Schools will often provide substantial discounts to people that are current residents.
  10. Try new upstart programs – A program that is brand new will usually be less expensive or offer attractive financial aid in order to stir up interest in the program.  Look for new programs offering a degree that you are considering.