Still feeling overwhelmed about finding the financial aid you need for graduate school?
After reading Ashley’s informative post about filling out your FAFSA for federal loans, I wanted to explore the other financial aid options out there beyond the general Stafford federal loan.
After filing your FAFSA, hopefully you will be eligible for Stafford loans from the federal government. For this to occur, the FAFSA needs to show that you are expected to contribute very little to nothing toward your graduate school education. The federal government caps graduate student Staffords at $20,500 a year and $138,500 over a lifetime (usnews.com). But for most students, particularly going to law or medical school, this is not enough money for a poor twenty-something who just graduated from college to live off of for at least 3 years.
The U.S. News & World Report gives valuable advice on financial aid options for graduate school:
Perkins loans are the cheapest federal education loan for students with low incomes, with graduate students qualifying to get up to $8,000 a year at only a 5% interest rate that doesn’t start until after you’ve finished school. Unfortunately, these loans are only given through the schools. Subsidized Stafford loans also do not charge students interest while they are in school. After you max out your Perkins and Stafford loans, you can borrow money from the PLUS program. This program provides financial aid for tuition and transportation and basic living expenses, but be warned of high interest rates.
Beyond federal financial aid, there are other smaller options to collect money for graduate school:
1) Tax benefits
If you have some sort of income, the government may give you a tax credit or tax deduction for education expenses. You can qualify for the full credit of $2,000 if your income is under $43,000 or half credit if your income is under $53,000. You could also file for a tax deduction for up to $4,000 for tuition if you make under $65,000. Unfortunately you cannot take both the tax credit and deduction.
2) Help from an employer
Thinking about finding a job and then going to graduate school? Let your employer pay for it! Many employers will offer tuition benefits if your graduate degree will strengthen your job performance. The only catch is most employers require you to take job-related courses so make sure your job is something you are interested in pursuing further!
3) Need-based grants or scholarships:
Use your undergraduate school resources! Visit your financial aid office and career development office for information about scholarships and need-based grant options. In order to be considered for need-based grants from your graduate school, you need to complete and file your FAFSA by the end of January. Some companies and non-profits provide grants or scholarship information as well. Here is a list of some scholarship websites that could provide options that are available to you specifically.
For more information on your options for financial aid, visit the U.S. Department of News education website at http://www.usnews.com/sections/business/paying-for-graduate-school/index.html.