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This is possible to attend higher education without going into debt.
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From using a 529 plan to working in a graduate assistantship program, we’ve rounded up some of the best opportunities for students to pay for higher education.
Apply for scholarships
Similar to applying for undergraduate education, there are many scholarships and scholarships available for graduate students.
Graduate students can visit websites such as Scholarships.com to find relevant scholarships by type, academic majors, and states. See which scholarships you match and apply for financial aid to reduce tuition fees.
Create a 529 Plan
William Gogolak, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University – Heinz College, said students planning to attend graduate school should consider creating a 529 plan for themselves.
“A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged investment account that can be used to pay eligible education expenses for a selected beneficiary,” Gogolak said.
Most individuals are unaware that they can be beneficiaries of their own account. If you want to create a 529 plan, contact a trusted financial advisor to learn about the best options for you.
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Check if your employer offers tuition reimbursement
If you are already working full-time, check with your employer to see if they offer tuition reimbursement programs.
Depending on employer benefits, employees and their family members may be eligible for tuition reimbursement or college fee discounts. Be sure to check the terms in your company handbook if you plan to use your employer’s reimbursement program.
Jayson Matlock, associate director of financial aid at Southern Utah University, said employees might even find some employers offer partnerships with universities that streamline your graduate school experience at little or no cost. Contact your employer and see what opportunities are available to you.
Find a program offering graduate assistantships
Amy Sarow, AuD, recently graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in audiology and without taking out a loan. While Sarow attended graduate school out of state, she was able to pay 90% of her tuition with a graduate assistantship. This automatically qualified Sarow for in-state tuition and a scholarship that paid nearly all of his tuition bill each semester in addition to a monthly stipend.
Sarow told GOBankingRates that she was able to offset the rest of the costs by working weekends and working during summer and semester breaks. In the end, it all paid off. Otherwise, Sarow could have ended up with six-figure student debt.
Sarow’s biggest tip when looking for elementary schools is to find a program that offers graduate assistantships. Some universities may also offer research assistantships. Both positions are part-time, 10-20 hours per week. These programs provide a stipend to students and pay tuition and sometimes some fees. If you have tuition left over or need extra money for living expenses, consider working part-time on the side.
Work at your university
If there is a vacancy as an employee at the university where you are applying for your graduate program, consider applying and working at the university.
“Many universities offer their employees free or reduced tuition while they are in school,” Matlock said. “It’s a great way to simultaneously receive salary, benefits, and your training while developing relevant experience that will translate into the workforce.”
Apply to multiple graduate schools
Sean Coffey, director of communications and outreach at the California Policy Lab, earned an MPA from UNC-Chapel Hill. Whenever Coffey speaks with colleagues who want to apply for graduate school, he always encourages them to apply to four to six schools if possible.
Why apply to so many schools? Coffey said students can get different financial aid, including research assistantships and tuition waivers, at the different schools.
Students can take advantage of their packages and say to a school: I would really like to come to your school, but this other school offers me X, Y and Z. Do you all have the option of increasing the package you offer -you ? Taking advantage of these packages can allow graduate students to ultimately graduate with less or even debt-free.
What if you need student loans?
Although graduate students have a variety of accessible methods to pay for their higher education without going into debt, there may be a situation where none of these options are available.
For a situation like this, Cecil Staton — CFP, CSLP, president and wealth advisor at Arch Financial Planning — said graduate students can apply for student loans. However, it is recommended that they apply for federal student loans, such as direct unsubsidized loans or grad PLUS loans, instead of taking out a private loan.
“Federal student loans provide death and disability protections not typically provided by private loans,” Staton said. “Federal loans also provide access to income-based repayment plans, taxable loan forgiveness, and utility loan forgiveness. Private loans do not.