One of the biggest hurdles in deciding to go back to college after you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree is finding a way to fund your graduate education. Fortunately, a number of resources are available to assist you in paying for your advanced degree. The federal government, your university and your local community may all have money available for you to use. Once you select a concentration for your graduate degree, all it takes is a little research to get an idea of how you’ll get the money you need.
Select a university and graduate program. Universities that host graduate degree programs offer different types of degrees -- master's and Ph.D. programs -- in different concentrations.
Calculate the cost of tuition and attendance at the university you select. This is the minimum amount you’ll need to pay for your advanced education. You’ll also need books and supplies, but you may not be able to estimate the costs of those initially, so your tuition and fees calculation won’t cover all your required expenses. Some universities provide estimates of all your costs on their websites.
Research program-specific assistance offered by your university. Some universities offer a range of in-house benefits to graduate students. Types of assistance ranges from full tuition and fee awards to full tuition awards, plus an annual living stipend. These awards do not have to be paid back, but may be taxable income and reported on your income tax return. In addition, some programs offer additional grants through department funds, federal, state or local research grants, and fellowships. Program-specific assistance varies by school and area of concentration, so contact the department for your graduate program directly or look at your school's website for "Financial Support" or "Financial Assistance" headings under your graduate program's information tab for details about funding available to you.
Apply for federal financial aid. The financial aid office at your school can assist you with federal aid applications. Graduate students who aren’t seeking a medical degree can receive up to $20,500 in Direct Stafford loans for post-bachelor education. If you’re seeking a medical degree, check with your financial aid office -- you may be eligible for more than this amount for your education. These loans have a fixed interest rate of 6.8 percent when you enter repayment, and the interest you pay is tax deductible.
Apply for campus-based aid. Many schools have additional sources of financial aid, including work-study funds, Perkins loans, grants and scholarships. While some of these funds are from federal programs, each school receives a special allotment of funds it can disperse through the program. In addition, your campus has information about scholarships offered through the school and within the local community.
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