How to Pay for Grad School Without Breaking the Bank

Sage Crary
Sage Crary
Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships, pursuing an MS in Ethics and Religion

It’s well established that a graduate degree is the single best investment you can make in your career. Graduate degrees in education all but guarantee higher salaries, earning potential, and a plethora of new opportunities — but the big question most people ask is, how am I going to pay for it? The good news is that now, more than ever, employers and government agencies recognize the importance of this investment and have a number of different options available for how to pay for grad school without breaking the bank.

Federal Student Loans

One of the most common options are Federal Student Loans. At the graduate level, federal student loans are simpler to qualify for and are more flexible than at the undergraduate level. Based on the information on your FAFSA, you could qualify for a Federal Direct Unsubsidized loan for up to $20,500 per year. These loans are at a low interest rate, require no payments while you are in school, and have no credit or income stipulations. Additionally, once you graduate, there are several programs that you may qualify for that mean your remaining loan balance could be “forgiven” (aka eliminated!). One of the most common forgiveness programs is called “Teacher Loan Forgiveness.”  If you teach for five consecutive years after graduation in a low-income school district, the federal government will forgive up to $17,500 of your federal student loan balance. Learn current details on Teacher Loan Forgiveness, or to see if you may qualify.


Another option is the TEACH Grant. The TEACH Grant is a federal grant that you may qualify for based on the information provided on your FAFSA (your Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The TEACH Grant is available to students pursuing teaching in a “low-income” school district in a “high-need” field who go on to teach for four years of the following eight years after completion of your master’s degree. Learn more information, or to see if your school district and teaching concentration qualify. The TEACH Grant will pay up to $4,000 per year towards your master’s degree for two years (for a total of $8,000).

Employer Tuition Reimbursement

First of all, you may be surprised to know that many school districts and employers are already offering tuition reimbursement, or tuition benefits, for teachers or professionals who wish to obtain an advanced degree. Tuition reimbursement, or tuition benefits, are typically administered by your district’s human resources office, and many schools/districts will pay for most of (if not all!) of your master’s degree. Sometimes these benefits require you attend a specific college, or to continue to work in the district after you complete your degree — so it’s important to check with your HR office prior to enrolling to understand what your district offers. In many cases, your district will send the money directly to your school on your behalf, but in some cases, they may pay you the money after you complete the semester and submit proof of your grades. In either case, make sure to let your college know what type of benefits you may be using so they can help you in getting your classes paid for by your employer.

With all these options available, now is the time to make an investment in yourself and your future.

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