Category Archives: Financial Aid

Cash, Dinero, Bucks, Mula!

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Excited about getting into grad school but not sure how to pay for it?  Receiving financial aid is not uncommon these days.  At least 40% of graduate students borrow money.  Here are six easy steps to getting free money for grad school…

1) Create a bidding war  for yourself by applying to several graduate schools, including at least a couple for which your grades, test scores, or other qualifications are above average. Schools are more likely to add a financial lure for applicants who bring up the school’s statistics, rankings, and prestige.

2) Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

3) Ask your university department or grad school adviser for help in finding aid.

4) Track down and apply to charities and government agencies that fund graduate study in their fields. This is a great option for those in the sciences, education, and languages.

5) Get your employer to contribute to your education. This is a great option: At least half of all workers receive education benefits from their employers.

6) Even if you don’t get free money, you can lower your out-of-pocket costs by taking advantage of tax benfits, loan repayment programs,  jobs, or grad school bargains.

Beyond FAFSA

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.