How to Pay for Grad School: 5 Financial Tips

Ginger Abbot

Feb 12, 2023

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Some careers require a higher degree, leaving many students wondering how to pay for grad school. 

Full-time graduate programs could cost over $100,000 — and students usually pay even more for doctoral degrees. 

To afford such steep tuition costs, it’s important to utilize as many financial resources as possible. Here are five practical financial tips to help you afford your graduate education.

1. Grants and Scholarships

Approximately 1.7 million undergraduate and graduate scholarships are available and awarded yearly, delivering financial assistance to make college more affordable. Scholarships are usually merit-based and primarily awarded for academic prowess and achievement. 

Conversely, grants are needs-based and available to low-income and minority students interested in pursuing a master’s degree. During the 2020 – 2021 academic year, graduate students received nearly $8,860 in grants toward their graduate education. 

Search for graduate-level grants and scholarships online, including government and college websites. It would be best if you also visited your school’s financial aid office to learn more about your university’s graduate scholarships.

2. Graduate Assistantships

Assistantships might be another way to pay for graduate school — or at least part of it. Students who participate in graduate assistantships can earn money by working at their college or university, much like federal work-study programs. 

Assistantships are usually teaching and research roles that provide a stipend or salary. Graduate assistants could earn between $26,599 and $36,732, depending on the school, discipline, skills and years of experience.

Although students may need to use their entire paycheck to cover their living expenses, you might be able to apply at least part of your stipend to your graduate school costs. 

Turning your passions and interests into a side hustle is another way to make money to help pay for school. You could even explore gigs related to your field of study to build your portfolio and breadth of knowledge.

3. Employer Tuition Reimbursement Programs

Many people with bachelor’s degrees opt to work in their respective fields for a couple of years before pursuing graduate education. If obtaining a higher degree would benefit you in the workplace, your company might help offset tuition costs through an employer tuition reimbursement program.

Several businesses are choosing to invest in their workforce by delivering education benefits. In September 2021, Amazon announced that it’d begin covering 100% of tuition and other academic expenses for its 750,000 hourly workers. Target, Walmart and Starbucks are other companies helping their workers earn tuition-free degrees through various online programs.

Deloitte also offers competitive tuition reimbursement, providing total financial aid for students pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or related degree. Upon graduation, Deloitte rewards its employees with a promotion to a Senior Consultant role.

Per federal tax laws, employees can get up to $5,250 in tax-free tuition reimbursement annually, meaning they can forgo declaring the tuition reimbursement on their income tax returns. 

Inquire with your company’s human resources department to determine if they offer employee tuition reimbursement and under what conditions. You’ll most likely need to enroll as a part-time student and continue working for the company full-time. 

4. Student Loans

Although most students would rather avoid student loan debt, some are available for grad school. 

Graduate students are no longer eligible for subsidized loans — which the government paid interest on during enrollment — however, they can still obtain federal unsubsidized loans.

Federal unsubsidized loans allow students to borrow up to $20,500 annually but no more than $138,000 in unsubsidized and subsidized loans throughout their entire college career.

Other student loan options for grad school include private loans and federal graduate PLUS loans. Unlike undergraduate PLUS loans, graduate students must take out a graduate PLUS loan in their names rather than their parents’ names. 

5. Savings Plan

If you know ahead of time that you plan to attend graduate school, it’s a good idea to start setting aside savings. In addition to giving yourself a financial cushion to offset higher education costs, you’ll gain valuable long-term financial stability and learn about savings techniques to meet future financial goals. 

On average, graduate students borrow approximately $91,000 in loans they must repay after graduation. Loan debt might also be higher depending on the discipline, such as medical sciences and law degrees. 

Students should research and plan for potential graduate school expenses early. Limiting the amount of money you borrow will make repayments more manageable.

There Are Several Ways to Pay for Grad School

Graduate school is certainly expensive and a luxury not everyone has the opportunity to pursue. However, if you’ve wondered how to pay for grad school, there are ways to do so without accruing massive student debt. Plan wisely for your graduate education to make learning more affordable. 

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