Accumulating student loan debt is a very real concern for those interested in earning a master’s degree in their desired field. While not all programs have the same amount of earning potential after graduation, students can find a variety of creative ways to fund their dream degree. Top methods to finance a master’s degree include:
1.Federal Student Aid: While students should be very careful in the types of federal student loans they accumulate, these loans tend to have low interest rates and flexible payment plans. They are not, however, subject to bankruptcy, so students should be positive of the degree’s earning potential in the future. Students have six months after graduation before payments begin. As a rule of thumb, a student should not accumulate more loan debt than they will earn their first year in the workforce.
2.Fellowships: Most master’s degree programs can be financed through fellowship programs for advanced research opportunities. Fellowships can be highly competitive, so students should consider these options carefully. However, many fellowship programs include student tuition, supplies and a living stipend.
3.Grants: As a one-time fund, grants offer students flexibility in use and no requirement to repay. Typically, grants are earned through specific research opportunities in which the granting organization is particularly interested.
4.Assistantships: For those interested in an education component to their career, assistantship positions provide experience working with undergraduate students and navigating the world of academia. While pay is low, assistantships typically offer tuition waivers and health insurance.
5.Workforce reimbursement: Some companies, including Microsoft, American Express and Google, offer significant reimbursement for tuition and fees. In most cases, the master’s degree must directly relate to the employee’s position and area of expertise within the company. In addition, hospitals and school districts offer master’s degree subsidies in desired areas of need.
6.Working: Students should make an effort to finance a master's degree through part-time or summer work. Some master’s degree students can find online work, or connect with companies in their desired field for employment on breaks.
7.Paid Internships: While interns are notoriously underpaid and overworked, a paid internship can provide modest living expenses and hold the additional benefit of adding value to a graduate’s resumeand are an excellent way to finance a master's degree.
8.Attend Part-Time: Not all master’s programs allow part-time work, but students who feel that they can handle working and attending school should be careful in their choice of graduate school for this purpose. Online master’s degree programs can be excellent choices for part-time students.
9.Loan Forgiveness Programs: Graduate students pursuing careers in the human services, particularly teachers and nurses in high need and low income areas, can be eligible for up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness. To meet the requirements, the individual must work in a low income setting for five consecutive years.
10.Finish Fast: If possible, students should seek ways to finish their degree faster than average in order to accumulate less student loan debt. Education is truly about the experience, but student loans are not forgiven easily and agreements for loans should be entered into seriously.