Pursuing a master’s degree in education is one of the most important decisions a teacher can make. Many school districts in the U.S. currently require their teachers to hold a master’s degree, and many that don’t are in the process of making it a condition of employment.
One of the challenges associated with pursuing a teaching master’s degree is figuring out how to pay for it. The good news is, you have several financial options to consider.
Federal Student Loans, and Grants
Currently in the U.S, the federal government doles out around $120 billion to 13 million students through the Department of Education. These most commonly take the form of:
- Federal student loans. With competitive interest rates, tax deductions, flexible repayment options and an easy application process, these loans are often more preferred than private loans.
- Grants and scholarships. These are generally “hand-outs” in that neither needs to be paid back. One very common grant is the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, which provides a grant to students who agree to teach in a school that is populated by low-income families.
Federal Direct Student Loan Programs
Another way students fund their education is through federal direct loan programs. They have fixed interest rates, and often have the most flexible repayment options, along with no prepayment penalties.
There are two main types of federal direct student loans: Unsubsidized loans and Graduate PLUS Loans.
Unsubsidized loans often have the lowest interest rate, based on your financial aid application, commonly called the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You could be eligible for up to $20,500 per year, or the cost of your program (whichever is less).
Graduate PLUS Loans
If you need more funding beyond what is offered through Unsubsidized Loans, then Graduate PLUS loans can offer subsequent funding. Check with your chosen school’s financial aid office for more information on these types of loans.
Pay Out of Pocket
Many students find paying their tuition out of pocket per semester, otherwise known as “Pay as you go,” to be the most feasible option for managing costs associated with a master’s program.
If you do need to pay some out-of-pocket higher education costs, you should explore the various tuition discounts available through the specific institution (i.e., some schools provide military spouses with a discount). If you’re really lucky, the institution you’re presently employed with might be willing to foot some or all of the bill.
Paying out of pocket can also be combined with other forms of aid, such as loans, scholarships, or fellowships, to help bring down costs.
Scholarships and fellowships are often competitive, but if you are awarded one, it’s well worth the effort.