How to Pay for Your Doctorate Degree

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

Pursuing your doctorate degree is the culmination of years of study and is one of the greatest academic achievements someone can earn. However, sometimes the concern about how to pay for it can override the excitement of pursuing a terminal degree. But, armed with a few pieces of information, you can be back on track for the excitement of the degree in no time.

Tuition Reimbursement

First of all, you may be surprised to know that many school districts and employers are 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 human resources office and can pay for a portion of your doctorate. 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.

Federal Student Loans

Another of the most common options for paying for your doctorate degree 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 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you could qualify for a Federal Direct Unsubsidized loan of 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!).

Direct Graduate PLUS Loans

If you have already borrowed the maximum you can receive in Direct Unsubsidized Loans, you can qualify for Direct Graduate PLUS loans as well. A Direct Graduate PLUS loan is another type of federal student loan, and similar to the Unsubsidized Loan, it does not require payments while you are in school. In order to qualify, you would need to submit your FAFSA online at and complete a secondary application. You would log in there using the same credentials as you used on your FAFSA, and complete the loan application for Graduate PLUS loans. The application should take less than five minutes to complete, and you will receive a decision instantly. These loans do not require income verification, and you can receive them even if your credit is less than perfect. In fact, it’s one of the easiest loans to qualify for, and provides borrowers with all the protections and repayment options that all other federal loans provide.

Regardless of how you decide to pay for your doctoral degree, the single most important part is to have a solid plan to complete your dissertation on time. By completing it on time, you will save yourself thousands of dollars in extra costs, fees, and accrued interest. Planning for your dissertation phase, and committing to completing it on time, will save the average student almost $10,000.

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

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