The idea behind graduate school is to earn a higher degree and improve your career path. It’s common knowledge that professionals with a master’s degree tend to make a higher income than people with an undergraduate degree or a high school diploma. The challenge in going to grad school, however, is getting the money together to pay for a higher education in the first place. If you look in the right places, you can find ways to pay less for graduate school.
1. School Choice
The biggest factor in paying for graduate school is tuition costs. Finding a less expensive school means you pay less when you’re footing the bill. Research the cost for a number of schools that offer the program you want. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages between going to an in-state or public university or one that’s more expensive. Keep in mind that if you plan to stay local for school and for work, it could be a plus in the eyes of potential employers.
2. Employment Assistance
Some employers believe in investing in the future. They’ve already spent time training you in how they operate. If you seek a career in the same field, they might make it worth your while. Check with your human resources department to see if there’s an education reimbursement or co-pay program in place. There’s usually some sort of catch. You may need to keep your grades or course load at set standards. The company may require you to stay employed for a certain number of years after you complete your degree. Make sure you read the fine print, but this can open the door to a substantial reduction in what you’re paying for your education.
Most people think that scholarships are only offered to high school seniors or undergraduate students. This is false. Depending on the program, there could be fewer graduate school scholarships available, but there are also fewer people applying for them. Take the time to find and apply for the ones that fit your mold. Scholarships have a strong impact on how much you pay.
4. Loan Benefits
If you need to get a graduate student loan to cover the gaps left over from scholarships and other resources, choose one that offers incentives and benefits for following the rules. For example, you can find student loan plans that offer a percentage contribution toward your college fund when you make all of your scheduled loan payments on time while you’re still in school. If you don’t make payments in full and on time, be prepared for penalties and fees from any lender.
For the academic achiever pursuing master’s and doctorate degrees, fellowships are another way to pay less for grad school. While the money doesn’t have to be paid back, the fellowship typically requires the student to perform work or research. Federally funded fellowships are usually focused on certain fields of study. Some schools offer fellowships in exchange for research and teaching efforts. Private organizations also offer fellowships, but there are typically fewer restrictions on where the courses must be completed.
6. Automatic Payments
When seeking out student loan programs, look for those that allow automatic electronic payments. Some lenders give borrowers who pay by auto draft a percentage point reduction on their interest rates. When you know that the money is going to be pulled out of your bank account on a specific date every month, you’ll be more likely to stay the course on your payment plan. Paying off your loans more quickly means you’re spending less money overall.
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MJ is an independent financial writer for Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae offers online tools to help students and their parents save, plan and pay for college.