•  Financing Your Education
•  How much aid is available?
•  Develop your budget
•  What aid sources are available?
•  Getting the application process started
•  How much will you need in loans?
•  What you should know about loans
•  Other resources

Financing Your Education.

Now that you've decided to go to graduate or professional school, these topics will help you figure out how to pay for it:

How much aid is available?
Develop your budget
What aid sources are available?
Getting the application process started
How much will you need in loans?
What you should know about loans
Other resources
What if you plan to study in Canada?

How much aid is available?

Financial aid is usually based on a student's calculated financial need. Financial need is the difference between the cost of attendance at your school and your expected family contribution (EFC). As an undergraduate, you were probably declared a dependent student, meaning your family contribution was based on your income and assets, as well as those of your parents. As a graduate student, you can qualify as an independent student, meaning your EFC will be based solely on your income and assets (and those of your spouse, if you are married). Since you probably earn less than your parents, and have fewer assets, you are likely to qualify for need-based aid.

To make certain no one questions your status as an independent student, be sure you're not claimed as a tax exemption by your parents for the first calendar year of the award (e.g., 2006 for the 2006-2007 school year).

Develop your budget

To calculate how much aid you will need, you first must know how much your education and living expenses will cost. For more information on how to developing a budget, click here.

What aid sources are available?

College Work-Study This is a need-based program funded primarily by the federal government in which your school finds you a job. Your salary will hover around minimum wage. If you receive a $1,000 work-study award, you may work until you earn $1,000, at which point employment terminates.

Cooperative Education Cooperative education combines academic study with an off-campus job related to your program. There are about 900 participating colleges, 50,000 participating employers, and 200,000 enrolled students who earn $1.3 billion per year.

Federal Perkins Loans This is a need-based program in which graduate students may borrow up to $40,000 total, less any amount borrowed as an undergraduate. Repayment begins nine months after studies end. The interest rate is a low 5 percent.

Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans are need-based loans in which interest is paid by the federal government while you are in school, during the grace period, and during approved periods of deferment and forbearance. Graduate students may borrow up to $8,500 per year to an aggregate maximum of $65,500 (less any amount borrowed as an undergraduate. Repayment begins 6 months after you graduate or are no longer enrolled at least half time in a degree program. The interest rate is fixed at 6.8%.

Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans are not based on financial need and the interest is NOT paid by the government. The interest begins to accrue as soon as the funds are disbursed to you. You may either pay the interest when billed or allow it to accrue while in school, during the grace period, and during approved periods of deferment and forbearance. The accrued interest will be capitalized (added to the principal loan amount) immediately prior to repayment. Graduate students may borrow up to $20,500 per year (less any subsidized Stafford Loans) to an aggregate maximum of $138,500 (less any subsidized Stafford Loans and any amount borrowed as an undergraduate). Repayment begins 6 months after you graduate or are no longer enrolled at least half time in a degree program. The interest rate is fixed at 6.8%.

Federal PLUS Loans are an unsubsidized education loan now available to graduate students that has no grace period and goes into repayment as soon as the funds are disbursed to the borrower. It has the same deferment and forbearance options as the Federal Stafford Loan program. As such, graduate and professional students can postpone repayment using an In-School Deferment while enrolled at least half-time in a degree or certificate program of study. During any period of deferment or forbearance, interest can accrue and be added to the principal loan balance (capitalized) at the end of the deferment or forbearance period if it is not paid by the borrower as it accrues.

PLUS loans have no annual aggregate limit-you can borrow up to the amount certified by your school. The interest rate is fixed at 8.5%. Credit checks are required to be eligible for this loan, but the credit criteria are less stringent than with most private student loans. And, if you don't meet the credit requirements, you can still obtain the loan with a qualified endorser.

Deduction for Student Loan Interest. Students who are deeply in debt may now deduct some of the interest they pay on "qualified education loans." The maximum deduction is $2,500. The deduction starts to phase out when annual gross income (AGI) exceeds $50,000 ($105,000 if filing jointly), and you can't take this deduction if your AGI is $65,000 ($135,000 if filing jointly) or more.

The info on Student Loan Interest deductions came from:

Veterans Education Benefits. Veterans of the Armed Services who participated in the Montgomery GI Bill program may be eligible for benefits. Contact your school’s Veterans Affairs or financial aid office for more information.

For more information on the student aid programs offered by the federal government, visit


The following states all offer some help to resident graduate students: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Washington (DC), Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

To receive this assistance, students must generally remain in their home state. Furthermore, many programs are restricted to certain study areas (e.g., medicine) or population groups (e.g., women and minorities).


Departmental Grants. These are controlled by the departmental chair, not the financial aid office.

Research Assistantships. These put you at the bottom rung of the academic hierarchy. You wash test tubes. You teach freshman composition. You proctor examinations. The pay is low, but the experience is great.

Internships. Professors are well connected. They can call large corporations and say, "Have I got a prospect for you. Give this student an internship and see for yourself."

Employment. The federal government, as well as large corporations, awards millions of dollars in research grants to graduate schools every year. Some of that money goes to the famous professor who attracted the money in the first place. Some of the money also goes to graduate students who perform the routine and repetitive parts of the research.

You might also consider going to work for a university. Many schools discount tuition for full-time employees, and while it will take you a few extra years to complete the program, you won't have a huge debt burden when you're through.


Access Group. Access Group is a nonprofit organization that offers assistance through several specialized loan programs. Tools and information for planning your school financing are available at their Web site:

National Research Council. The National research council offers 750 fellowships of up to $14,000 each. These fellowships are available to students in the sciences, social sciences, mathematics, and engineering.
For more information contact:

The National Research Council, Office of Scientific and Engineering
Personnel Fellowship Programs,
2101 Constitution Ave. NW,
Washington, DC 20418.
(202) 334-2000.

Fulbright Scholars. This prestigious and competitive program allows award recipients to live and study abroad. For more information on this and other grants for graduate study in other countries, contact:

The Institute of International Education
US Student Programs
809 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017.

Mellon Fellowships. Approximately 80 awards of tuition plus a $14,500 stipend are available for graduate students in the Humanities. For information, contact:

Mellon Fellowships,
Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation,
PO CN 5329, Princeton, NJ 08543.


If you will continue to work while attending graduate school, check with your employer about tuition reimbursement programs. Many companies will pay part or all of the tuition for successfully completed courses, especially if the course or degree program relates directly to your job.

Getting the application process started

All students wishing to receive federal financial aid must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Download the FAFSA form from the Department of Education's Web site:

or pick up one at your (or any other) school's financial aid office.

Next, check with your school's financial aid office to learn what other applications are required, and when. Make sure you keep track of deadlines, and keep copies of all of your applications.

To learn more about financial aid, click here.

How much will you need in loans?

To decide how much you should borrow to finance your education, you must consider your needs as well as your ability to repay with your expected future earnings.

To help determine your needs, use the in-school budget calculator.

To estimate how you will repay the loans, use the loan repayment calculator.

What you should know about loans

Not all loans or lenders are the same. Even the costs of Federal Stafford Loans can vary from one lender to another. To learn about comparing the costs of loans, click here.

Other resources

Access Group, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing access to education through affordable financing and related services. Access Group's Web site offers debt management information, a need analysis service, budget calculators, and much more. Go to

The National Association of Graduate and Professional Students has an active and extensive Web site:
Also try:

Don't Miss Out: The Ambitious Student's Guide to Financial Aid, $10.00, Octameron Associates, PO Box 2748, Alexandria, VA 22301.

Earn and Learn: An Introduction to Cooperative Education, $5.00, Octameron Associates, PO Box 2748, Alexandria, VA 22301.

Graduate Cooperative Education Programs, free, National Commission for Cooperative Education, 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.

Foundation Grants for Individuals (in your local library).

Gale's Encyclopedia of Associations (in your local library).

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