4 Ways To Fund Your Graduate Education

Figuring out how to pay for graduate school is a common concern for many prospective students. The main options include personal savings, student loans, employer assistance, and scholarships.

Some students may use just one of these options to pay for their education, but others may find that a mix-and-match approach is best. Your focus should be on what makes the most sense for you.

1. Personal Savings

If possible, set aside money from each paycheck to start saving for graduate school. To fully understand your financial outlook, create a monthly budget and set realistic savings goals. Setting up automatic monthly transfers between your checking and savings accounts can also help your savings accumulate over time.

If you receive any other source of income, add it to your savings to help pay for your tuition. Even though you may have the option to take out loans, the less you have to borrow, the better.

2. Student Loans

Education loans are the most common way to pay for graduate school, but it’s important to do your research. For example, though it may be tempting to take out a loan from a private financial institution, you should instead consider federal loans since the interest rate is more stable. Private loans often have an initial low interest rate, but the long-term rate fluctuations over the life of the loan may surpass the interest rate on a federal loan.

Consider Stafford Loans, which have a fixed interest rate of 3.4 percent for subsidized loans, and a 6.7 percent rate for unsubsidized loans. Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 per academic year through Stafford Loans. Graduate PLUS loans, with an interest rate of around 7.9 percent, are another option available for graduate students.

3. Employer Assistance

Some companies offer to fund a certain number of classes, and others might pay for the whole cost of tuition. Companies have different tuition assistance policies, so it’s important to research how your employer’s program works and their specific requirements.

These programs only apply to students seeking a degree that will provide value to their current employer. If you work as a project manager for a nonprofit, your employer most likely won’t see the benefit to your taking a class in sports management. However, they might pay for an MPA degree, because the skills you gain will also benefit the organization.

If your company does not offer tuition benefits, try to negotiate tuition reimbursement by agreeing to stay at the company for a certain period of time.

4. Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants are another way to receive assistance for your education. Check to see if the university you are attending offers any aid for which you are eligible. To find out more information, call an admissions counselor to inquire about specific scholarship and grants that may be available. You can also research scholarships through websites like Fast Money or FinAid, which offer scholarships for graduate students.

Consider other ways you can earn additional education income. This might include paid opportunities to be a teaching assistant (TA) for a professor or teaching a specific class. You might also be able to find a paid research position in your field.

Whether through loans, scholarships, employer assistance, or personal savings, there are many different ways to pay for your education. Identifying the proper mix of funding is a matter of researching what financial aid options are available to you and deciding what works in your personal situation. With a little creativity and persistence, you can find the resources you need to further your education and your career.