Despite rising costs every year about 2 million, Americans and thousands of international students enroll in graduate education programs to pursue graduate and professional degrees. Over 57% of them are registering full time.
The most popular graduate degrees sought are:
- Masters degree in Business Administration - 11%
- Master of Education - 16%
- Master of Science - 18%
- Master of Art - 8%
- Law - 4%
- Medical and Health Sciences - 5%
- Other - 15%
- PhD - 23%
Primarily sources of funding for grad school are:
- Student loans - 82%
- Grants and Scholarships - 12%
- Personal funds of students and their families - 6%.
Average debt amounts for common graduate degrees are as follows:
- Medical and Health - $160 000
- Law - $140 000
- Master of Arts - $58 000
- Master of Education - $50 000
- Master of Science - $50 000
- Master of Business Administration - $42000.
As you may see, a good education is always costly in both time and money. Don’t be shy to get some financial aid to strengthen your educational ground.
Forms of Financial Aid for Grad Students
There is a wide variety of funding options, including:
- Federal grants. Uncle Sam has the deepest pockets for awarding grants to graduate students. Most known federal grant programs:
- Fulbright Grants. Several grants available to grad students in open studies/research, international relations programs as well as public education and public health majors
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. Up to $4000 awarded to grad students who are willing to teach, to help to fund their post-graduate education
- Iraq and Afghanistan service grants. Provided to post grade students former US Army and Navy servicemen who served overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- State Grants. Depending on what state your graduate school located you might be eligible to receive state grants in a similar way as federal grants. For example
- Oregon Sea Grant Scholars Program offers financial assistance to grad students in areas of ocean studies, marine resources, fisheries, marine sciences, policies and studies
- Colorado Graduate Grant. Available to Oregon residents who otherwise would not be able to pursue post-secondary education. Priority is given to grad students with the most financial need. This grant amount may range from $500 to $5000 annually.
- Ohio DNR grant. Research grad students in earth sciences are eligible to get up to $2000 annually from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to conduct research by ODNR-specified requirements.
- Corporate and NPO grants. Professional communities and private companies offer grad students industry-specific grants designed to enrich professional communities with highly educated new professionals and create a stronger workforce.
- Student-specific scholarships
- Scholarships for Women. Selected Professions Fellowships established by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) provide gender-based scholarships up to $20,000 for female graduate and post-graduate students pursuing degrees in STEM fields. Microsoft Research Graduate Women's Scholarship Program awards gender-based scholarships to female grad and post-grad students studying for PhD.
- Scholarship for students of Italian descent. National Italian American Foundation offers up to $12,000 to eligible Italian American students including grad students meeting the scholarship criteria.
- Scholarships for students with physical and learning disabilities. ChairScholar Foundation and American Association on Health and Disability offer financial support to grad students with physical disabilities.
- Subject-specific scholarships are available to grad students:
- Scholarships in Health and Medical Sciences
- Scholarships in Law
- Scholarships in Arts and Humanities
- Scholarships in Business and Economics
- School-specific scholarships. Many scholarships are the certain university-based. For example:
- Student Loans. This type of financial aid for grad students is available through the federal as well as private lender programs. Federal subsidised and unsubsidised loans amount to about 81% of all funds borrowed by grad students
- The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Eligible grad students may obtain up to $20,500 per school year.
- Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program: This is a university-based loan program for undergrad and grad students with exceptional financial need. Successful candidates may qualify for a Perkins Loan of up to $8,000 each year based on financial need and availability of funds.
FAFSA. Your grad financial aid starts here
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the unified form to fill out in order to apply for federal and state student grants, work-study, and loans. This is a major vehicle used to obtain financial aid necessary by both undergraduate and graduate students. Most of the FAFSA form questions are designed to figure out your expectations.
Family Contribution (EFC). This is an analytical metric that helps to understand your family’s financial health and is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. Also, this indicator may be used by your state education authorities as well as your school. They will conclude whether you might be eligible for state or school-specific financial aid, in addition to federal aid. Depending on where you are geographically located, your major field of study as well as who you are by origin and gender, the amount of financial aid available to a grad student may vary greatly. Therefore it may make sense to try to fill it out for different states and schools. However, you can only use up to four universities per one form. The EFC results will be listed on your SAR (Student Aid Report). Pay attention to the federal and state FAFSA deadline schedule. Make sure you fill out the FAFSA before them. The form and more instruction is available at fafsa.gov
Scholarships for Graduate Students
- Collegiate Inventors Scholarship. This $15,000 scholarship is available to grad students pursuing STEM-related degrees. The scholarship recipients are determined every year through competition.
- Harry Truman Scholarship. The scholarship is available to grad students devoted to public service fields and issues. To become a candidate it is necessary to register and participate in the competition. Pay attention to the scholarship deadlines.
- Rhodes Scholarship. This outstanding program offers 2-years fully paid grad education at Oxford University, UK. 32 scholarship recipients are chosen on a competitive basis each year. The application deadline is on October, 7th, annually.
- The Beinecke Scholarship. Supports graduate education in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Participating colleges nominate one candidate each year. The deadline is on the second Wednesday of February.
- Rock Sleyster Memorial Scholarship. Offered through the American Medical Association, the Rock Sleyster Memorial Scholarship is given to students entering their senior year in medical school. This competitive award is given to students who have a focus on psychiatry. This award is presented to students based on both academic excellence and financial need. Up to $2,500 can be awarded.
- The Society for Human Resource Management Foundation offers one hundred annual scholarships for its student members. Scholarships are available for both undergraduate and graduate students. The SHRMF sponsors 80 $750 scholarships for students enrolled in a certificate program at an accredited community college, and 20 $2000 scholarships for students enrolled in a degree program at an accredited four-year college or university.
- The International Public Management Association for Human Resources offers a $1000 scholarship for the dependent children of IPMA-HR members. Applicants must be currently enrolled in a Human Resources degree program at an accredited college or university. Awards are determined on the basis of academic merit.
- The National Business Association (NBA) has a scholarship program for dependents of current NBA members. College freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are eligible for the $1,500 scholarship, as well as graduating high school seniors. Qualified high school applicants show ACT scores between 18 and 26 or SAT scores of 850 to 1190.
- Underwood-Smith Teacher Scholarships, which can amount to $5000 annually. This scholarship requires each grad student to work within the West Virginia school system for a period of two years for each year the scholarship is received.
- The Association for Women in Architecture and Design offers an annual scholarship for women pursuing degrees in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and environmental design. Applicants must be attending an accredited college or university in California and must have a minimum of 18 units completed in their major by the application deadline. Award amounts vary according to the availability of funds.
- The David L. Boren Awards for International Study is a program that gives students the opportunity to study abroad in regions they consider critical to United States interests. This scholarship is up to $20,000 for a full academic year.
- University Institutional Scholarships through the university’s financial aid office. The criteria vary, and amounts range from $500 to $5,000.
- Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority offers college aid to full-time, resident students pursuing teaching credentials within the state. Students who are juniors and beyond are eligible for up to $2500 each semester, under this program. When funding permits, freshmen and sophomores also qualify for scholarships.
- The Wayne State University (WSU) Law School performs the same screening process on admission for the following scholarships: the Dean’s Scholars Program still maintains the type of GPA requirement for renewal discussed above. It pays between 25 and 100 percent of tuition for new students and is potentially renewable based on the minimum GPA, which is not mentioned on the school’s website.
- The Merit Scholarships, also for new students, provide a minimum of $10,000 to those with excellent academic records. Additionally, there are Merit Scholarships that underwrite full tuition for second-year students who performed well in the first year.
- Damon J. Keith Scholarship Program offers new law students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities or Hispanic Serving Institutions a maximum of $25,000 to enroll at WSU.
Sky's the limit for your grad educational aspirations
As you may see there is a wide array of financial aid options available to graduate students. The certain effort, time, and determination required to make it happen. And yes, sometimes the financial burden of graduate education is a bit overwhelming. But one must believe that all these efforts are very much worth trying. Investments in knowledge are the best.