Considerations for Financing Grad School Education
Taking the plunge and going back to grad school is a choice that many people are making with the current economic situation. Many of these people might have considered it years previously, but did not go because getting a job and making real money sounded more appealing. The Great Recession put many of these people out of work.
Getting an advanced degree can be personally fulfilling, but it is important to find a way to pay for it without going into mounds of debt. Fortunately, getting funded for graduate school can be easier than it is for an undergraduate education, but most of this funding will go to students in the Arts and Sciences. The competition for even getting admitted and for the best funding packages is quite stiff.
Tips for Getting into Grad School
- Applying to Grad School: Admissions Tips
Getting into graduate school is possibly more competitive now than it ever has been. Those who follow a few easy steps can find themselves coming to the top of the pile of applications for a small handful of open positions.
Can You Get Funding for Graduate School?
The first consideration to think about when looking into going to graduate school is how to pay for it. Graduate school is usually even more expensive the an undergraduate education on an annualized basis. Many of those who think about going on with their education already have a large sum of student debt outstanding.
Fortunately for those looking into going to graduate school, it is sometimes easier to get funded when starting a graduate program. At a minimum, a graduate degree in the arts and sciences will be tuition-free for the best students. Even some of the mediocre (in terms of graduate school applicants) will get a tuition waiver.
What Kind of Funding Is Available for Graduate Students?
Most schools will have a number of options when it comes to financing a graduate school education for those looking to get a graduate degree. Here are some common funding packages that schools will offer:
- Tuition Waiver Only--Much as the title of this section sounds, a student who is going to get a tuition waiver only will not get any living expenses taken care of and will get no stipend for any work. The only option open to this student will be to get a job outside his or her department.
- Tuition Waiver Plus Assistantship--Students who get this level of funding will get a stipend in addition to the tuition waiver. Most assistantships will be quarter-time or half-time, which means a student will work for the department for an average of 10 to 20 hours per week over the course of the regular semester. Generally, a graduate assistant can expect to serve as a grader for a regular faculty member who has a large class.
- Tuition Waiver Plus Graduate Instructor Status--This package will be much like a graduate assistantship with the difference being that the student will be responsible for teaching a class or two in addition to taking classes. This is great experience in higher education for those who can land it.
- Graduate Fellowship--This is the best setup for anyone who can land it. Most graduate fellowships will allow graduate students to spend their entire year taking classes and/or researching and writing. There are no teaching responsibilities in most instances and students still get the tuition waiver and a more generous stipend.
Some students will get no funding at all and will have to pay for their degree out of pocket should they choose to study. Most business degrees will require students to pay their own way through savings, loans, or employer financing.
Some readers might wonder what a stipend can be for a graduate assistant or fellow. Some of the lower amounts that are available would be in the $10,000 for a year as a grader. Some of the better fellowships can pay in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. Getting funded as a graduate student will not make one rich immediately. Most of the disciplines that are research heavy and provide assistantships will not make most of their graduates rich ever. These funds can keep a person from having to take out six figures in loans, though.
Paying for Graduate School
- Paying for Graduate School | US News & World Report
You've decided that graduate school is the right next step for you. Now comes the hard part: how to pay for grad school. Our tips and tools help you explore your options for grad school financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and loans.
What Is Your Station in Life?
Most people will want to think about where they are in life before applying to graduate school. Those who are making $250,000 per year might want to save up enough to retire early before embarking upon grad school, unless they can pull it off on a part-time basis. Those who are married without kids could make the process of getting through graduate school work more easily than those who have kids.
One of the most difficult ways to get a master's or doctoral degree is by going through while married with children as a full-time student. It can be done (I did it myself), but it is not terribly easy. Going through school with younger children will probably be easier that doing it while the kids are teenagers. These are all things to consider before trying to go to graduate school.
Still Want to Go to Grad School?
This article did not deal with the actual work of going to grad school. There will be many late nights and long papers for most people who go to grad school and earn a degree. Time will be sacrificed in which a person could theoretically make much more money. For those who choose to take the plunge, however, graduate school can be a great time to expand learning in a given subject and make oneself more marketable in certain fields. Those who can do it without getting tons of loans will be better off in the long run.