Top 10 Tips to Pay for Graduate School

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How to leave graduate school with little to no debt.

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Graduate schools are among the many industries hurting from the economic recession. As a result, many colleges and universities have increased their tuition and decreased the number of students they admit into their graduate program.

The average cost, including living expenses, of a graduate program at a public university is about $30,000 per year with private colleges costing about 30 percent more. With these statistics in mind, it is not surprising that the majority of graduate students need to apply for financial aid in order to pay for their tuition.

The best advice you can get about paying for graduate school to earn your masters degree or Ph.D. is to search for free money. In fact, 40 percent of all graduate students get free money in the form of scholarships, grants, fellowships and assistantships. The only catch is, you must follow through by attending school, performing your research, and maintaining an acceptable GPA.

  1. Two words: Tax benefits. There are three different ways to take advantage of tax benefits for graduate school: Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, deducting tuition expenses from your taxes or deducting interest on your student loans from taxes.
  2. Scholarships, fellowships and assistantships. Scholarships are based on the student’s merit, talent or need and are awarded by school or private organizations. Fellowships are given to graduate students to either pay for research or education. Assistantship is a fancy word for a teacher’s assistant. You are paid to help your professor with whatever instructional needs they may have.
  3. Apply for student loans. Although Federal and State funding available for graduate student loans is less than those for undergraduates, it is still an option that many graduates take advantage of. Recent changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), have made it easier to get the best possible financial aid package.
  4. Entice schools to compete for you. If you were a top student in your undergraduate studies, apply to many graduate schools and let them know you are searching for the best financial aid package. They might compete to give you the lowest possible financial aid package.
  5. Apply early. The earlier in the year you apply, the more aid schools will still have in their funding to provide you.
  6. Talk to your undergraduate school. If they have a graduate program, many schools will offer a cheaper discount on tuition to alumni.
  7. Get your employer to pay. At least 50 percent of all companies have a tuition assistance program already in place. Don’t be discouraged if yours isn’t on the list. Instead, talk with the human resources department about how a masters degree or Ph.D. would benefit both you and the company.
  8. Try for in-state tuition. Even if you’re not living in the same state as your prospective school, if you live in the same region, you may still be eligible for in-state tuition.
  9. Take a chance on an unconventional upstart. Programs that are just starting out most likely will provide students with a tuition bargain. For example, Penn State-Brandywine charges just $16,000 for its young medical school prep course because it combines online lectures with bimonthly labs. At a traditional medical school, tuition plus room and board can cost an average of $40,000.
  10. Compare financial aid packages. Shop around. If you are really strapped on funding, consider attending online graduate school, as their graduate programs are usually cheaper than one at a traditional school.





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