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If you want to advance your education and boost your credentials with a master’s degree, it’s wise to consider how much this investment in your future will cost. Maybe you took advantage of financial aid to get your bachelor’s degree, but now you’re wondering: Can you get financial aid as a graduate student?

The short answer is yes! There are financial aid options available for grad students and other cost-saving strategies to make your advanced degree more affordable. Keep reading to learn how you can get financial aid for graduate school.

Do You Fill Out the FAFSA If You’re a Graduate Student?

You may remember submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) each year as an undergraduate student. This form lets the federal government know about your financial situation to determine what level of assistance you qualify for.

But this form isn’t just for undergrads! It can also help graduate students qualify for federal aid, although the types of aid may differ from what’s available to undergraduate students. The FAFSA for adults pursuing a graduate degree also works differently than the one for those considered dependents. Regardless of your living situation, you’ll be considered independent this time and will only submit information pertaining to your (and, if you’re married, your spouse’s) finances.

The bottom line: By filling out and submitting the FAFSA, you may qualify for assistance that can make paying for grad school more manageable, so be sure to start here when considering the cost of your grad degree.

What Forms of Aid Are Available to Graduate Students?

Can you get financial aid for graduate school? Absolutely! Financial aid for adults can differ from options for undergrads, but you might be surprised by all the available resources. As a grad student, you may qualify for loans, work-study placements, grants, employer assistance, or graduate assistantships.

Student Loans

Student loans for adults allow grad students to delay paying for their education until it’s more financially feasible. There are two main types of federal loans you may qualify for as a graduate student:

  • Direct unsubsidized loans: Graduate students aren’t eligible for subsidized loans, but may qualify for direct unsubsidized loans up to a certain amount. Unlike subsidized loans, these loans accrue interest while you’re in school. However, the interest rates and origination fees tend to be relatively low, making these loans a great option for spreading out the cost of your education.
  • Direct PLUS loans: Some students with remaining costs they need help covering may also qualify for Direct PLUS loans. These loans come with higher interest rates and fees compared to direct unsubsidized loans but can cover the full cost of schooling without a borrowing limit.

You can also take out private loans to help pay for your education, but it’s best to see whether you qualify for federal student loans first because they generally offer better terms.

Work-Study

If you’re studying on campus, you may qualify to participate in the Federal Work-Study Program. This program places you in a part-time job, typically on campus, where the income you receive goes toward education costs. Note that work-study programs aren’t an option for grad students in online degree programs.

Grants and Scholarships

Unlike student loans, grants and scholarships are essentially monetary gifts. However, they may require you to meet certain standards, such as maintaining a high GPA or giving back to your community upon graduation.

Graduate students aren’t eligible for federal Pell Grants, but they may qualify for other grants and scholarships through the federal or state government. For example, grad students in education programs may qualify for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program.

Individual institutions and organizations can also offer grants and scholarships. In many cases, these grants are targeted to specific demographics of students or programs of study. For example, the National Black MBA Association® offers a scholarship of up to $5,000 for members enrolled in accredited MBA programs. The Army Women’s Foundation (AWF) offers up to $3,000 in scholarship funds for eligible women who have served or are currently serving in the US Army.

The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to private grants and scholarships, so it’s best to talk with a financial aid advisor and do a little digging online to find opportunities to lower the out-of-pocket cost of your education.

Fellowships and Assistantships

Some graduate students pursue their degrees through a fellowship or graduate assistantship. These programs place students who qualify (typically based on merit rather than financial need) in positions where they can assist professors with research, teach undergraduate courses, or otherwise provide support to the university while taking courses. These positions can include a partial or full scholarship along with a stipend.

Employer Tuition Assistance

When it comes to financial aid for working adults, another possibility to explore is having your employer help fund your education. In 2019, almost half of US employers said they offered tuition assistance to their employees. You’re more likely to receive financial assistance from your employer if your degree program will make you more of an asset to the company, allowing you to take on new roles or improve your approach.

See whether your employee provides financial assistance for professional development or higher education. You may even find they have formal partnerships in place with certain universities. For example, various Ohio employers partner with Mount Vernon Nazarene University Online to encourage their employees to advance their learning.

Other Cost-Saving Strategies

Financial aid isn’t the only means of making your graduate degree program financially manageable. There are other strategies you can—and should—employ to make this investment as beneficial as possible without putting you in a temporary financial crunch.

For one, you’ll want to price-compare degree programs. Just be sure you choose an accredited degree program. A cheaper degree may cost you in the long run if it fails to equip you with necessary skills and doesn’t carry the weight you need it to on your resume.

Carefully budgeting and continuing to work while you study are also ways to make a graduate degree financially doable.

If you’re concerned about costs, remember that getting a master’s degree is an investment that can deliver an impressive return. With each level of educational attainment, you can earn a higher income. The degree will eventually pay for itself, and you’ll continue to reap the benefits for years to come!

Learn more about cost-saving strategies in our on-demand webinar, How to Go Back to School Without Breaking the Bank!

Invest in Your Future with an Affordable Master’s Degree From MVNU Online

An accredited master’s degree from MVNU Online can help you unlock new opportunities for your future. With financial aid and cost-saving strategies, you can earn your degree in the most financially responsible way possible. Can you get financial aid for graduate school? You can, and our financial aid advisors are here to help you take advantage of your options.

Want to learn more about financial aid options? Check out this infographic!

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