|Financing Graduate Study
Federal Stafford Loans
Federal Perkins Loans
TEACH Grant Program
Federal Pell Grant
Federal Work-Study Program
Tuition Tax Credits
Lifetime Learning Credit
Student Loan Interest Deduction
Tuition and Fees Deduction
New GI Bill
Post-9/11 GI Bill
Military Loan Repayment
Fellowships, Scholarships, and Grants
Research and Teaching Assistantships
National Research Council
Information for Canadian Students
State Higher Education Agencies
The financial aid process for graduate school is different from that for undergraduate study. Filling out a standard financial aid application is no longer enough to tap into all the resources available to you. While the FAFSA is still required if you are applying for federal and state loan programs, it is safe to say that no one form will gain you access to the bulk of the money available for graduate study. In fact, for many school-based awards, no application is needed; merit alone determines the recipients.
While most graduate students rely on loans to fund their education, many students are supported by the universities they attend, by federal programs, or by foundations. Since most graduate school money is decentralized, you will have to contact each departmental office, foundation, or association, separately; locate the appropriate contact person; and complete all the paperwork required to procure funding.
Here are some ways to maximize your chances of receiving aid from these various sources:
- The early bird gets the worm, so heed deadlines and apply early. In many instances, when the money runs out, it’s gone.
- Apply to schools with strong programs in your area of interest. These are the schools most likely to receive research grants.
- Write to large corporations. Don’t ask them about scholarships, but learn what schools have received research money from them. Apply to these schools.
- Write to the Grants Management Branch of any private or governmental agency that interests you, e.g., the National Institute of Mental Health. Again, ask for a current list of funded schools and apply to these schools. Be persistent and aggressive in your request. Sometimes program officers don’t understand why you need this information.
- Make friends with faculty members. They are powerful people. Let them know about your interests and your abilities.
- Write to the trade associations that represent your field of interest, for example, the American Bar Association or the National Society of Professional Engineers. Also write to organizations serving your ancestry, your nationality, or your religious affiliation. You’ll find addresses in Gale’s Encyclopedia of Associations.
- Write to the graduate school’s departmental office as well as the admission and financial-aid offices when you are requesting information. Ask about all university-administered financial aid resources.
The following describes the three major souces of funding for graduate and professional education: federal and state programs; colleges and universities; and private sources, including foundations, corporations, philanthropic organizations, and private loans from banks.
FEDERAL AND STATE PROGRAMSIn 2007–2008, nearly 75 percent of all graduate and professional students received their financial aid from the federal government, mainly in the form of loans, but also by way of grants, federal work-study, and education tax credits and deductions. To receive any federal or state financial aid, the student must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the same form that you or your parents filed for undergraduate financial aid. For purposes of the FAFSA, graduate or professional students are considered independent so only the student’s income and assests are used to calculate financial need, even if the student is still receiving financial support from a parent. By filing the FAFSA, a graduate or professional student may be eligible to receive fiancial aid from one or more of the programs outlined below.
Federal Stafford Loans. There are two types of Stafford Loans. The first is the Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP), in which the U.S. government provides the funds directly to the student, usually by way of the college or university the student attends. The second is the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) for which private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and savings & loan associations provide government-sponsored, low-interest loans. The Direct Loan and the FFELP are essentially the same with respect to terms and interest rates, but the Direct Loan provides additional repayment options.
To be eligible for a federal loan, you must be a U.S. citizen/national, or eligible noncitizen. You must also be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an approved college or university.
Federal Stafford Loans made through both the Direct and FFELP loan programs offer subsidized loans (the government pays the interest on your loan while you are in school) and unsubsidized loans (you are responsible for all the interest, including during the time you are in school) with preset limits. Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 of Federal Stafford Loans per year, $8,500 of which may be subsidized. However, you generally may not borrow more than the $138,500 (which includes loans taken for undergraduate study), of which no more than $65,000 may be subsidized loans.
The interest rate for Federal Stafford Loans is a fixed 6.8 percent for graduate and professional students. The program offers a grace period of six months. That means that once you graduate, or cease to be enrolled at least half-time (as determined by your school), you will not be required to make a payment on your loan for six months.
The federal government has also put certain “safety nets” into place if you are faced with a situation where you can’t make your loan payments. You can apply for deferment and/or forbearance to temporarily postpone or reduce your monthly payments. Under certain circumstances you can also have your loan cancelled or discharged.
You may also want to consider one of the loan forgiveness for public service employees options. This option usually involves having a portion of your loan paid (or forgiven) by the government in return for your commitment to work in a designated public service field for a specified amount of time. For more information on this option visit www.federalstudentaid.ed.gov and click on “Students, Parents and Counselors.”
^ Back to Top
Federal Perkins Loan. A Perkins Loan is federal money given to colleges and universities to distribute to students who demonstrate fiancial need. The school you attend is the lender, and you will repay any monies borrowed directly to the school. Depending on financial need as determined by the FAFSA, graduate and professional students are eligible to receive up to $8,000 per year (maximum of $60,000 inculding undergraduate loans). The interest rate is 5 percent. You have up to 10 years to repay you loan. As with Federal Stafford Loans, deferments, forebearances, cancellations and forgiveness may be available. Visit the Web site www.federalstudentaid.ed.gov for more information.
^ Back to Top
Plus Loans. The PLUS Loan allows the graduate or professional student to borrow an amount equal to the difference between the student’s cost of education (room, board, tuition and fees) and the amount of financial aid the student receives. PLUS Loans have a fixed interest rate of either 7.9 percent (Direct PLUS Loans) or 8.5 percent (FFEL PLUS Loans) for loans with a first disbursement after July 1, 2006.
Repayment of principal and interest must begin within 60 days after full disbursement of the loan. The interest is not subsidized while the student is in school. The PLUS Loan charges loan fees of 4 percent, deducted from each disbursement check. Some lenders give discounts for on-time or electronic payments.
^ Back to Top
TEACH Grant Program. The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program is a new grant, first funded for the 2008-09 school year. The program is available to students who are currently completing coursework necessary to begin a career in teaching; or those who plan to complete coursework necessary to begin a career in teaching. In order to to eligible for awards of up to $4,000 per year (total may not exceed $8,000 for graduate students), the candidate must have at least a 3.25 GPA for each payment period. Upon graduation, the student must teach full-time for at least four years within eight years of completing their program, in a school designated as Title I by the U.S. Department of Education, in a high needs subject area. If the grant recipient fails to complete the service obligation, the award will be converted to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan.
Federal Pell Grant. While usually awarded to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need, Pell Grants may be awarded to graduate students who are enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certificate program. The maximum Pell award is currently $5,350. Contact your school’s financial aid office for additional information and to check your eligibility for a Pell Grant.
Federal Work-Study Program. This program provides part-time employment while you are enrolled in school. The program encourages community service work or work related to your course of study, whenever possible. Employment is available both on-campus and within the community. You will earn at least the current federal minimum wage and be paid on either a hourly or salary basis, depending on the type of work you do. Contact the school financial aid office for more information.
Tuition Tax Credits. Tuition tax credits represent a direct subtraction from the amount of tax owed by the taxpayer. For more information on all the tax benefits outlined below consult your tax professional or refer to IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Higher Education. This is available online at www.irs.gov or by calling the IRS at 800-829-1040.
Lifetime Learning Credit. For students in graduate school (as well as adults returning to school) a tuition tax credit is allowed, equal to 20 percent of the first $10,000 paid in tuition and fees, or $2,000. You cannot claim the credit if your modified adjusted gross income is $58,000 or more ($116,000 if filing jointly).
Student Loan Interest Deduction. Interest paid on student loans will now be considered a tax deduction. This benefit comes in the form of an adjustment to income, meaning you do not need to itemize on your tax return in order to be eligible. The deduction can reduce taxable income by up to $2,500. The deduction is phased out for single tax filers with adjusted gross incomes $55,000 to $70,000; $115,000 to $145,000 for joint filers.
Tuition and Fees Deduction. Taxpayers can deduct up to $4,000 in tuition expenses as an exclusion from income. This means itemizing deductions on Schedule A of the 1040 is not necessary. The deduction is phased out for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $65,000 to $80,000 (single filers) and $130,000 to $160,000 (married filing jointly). The deduction cannot be used if the Lifetime Learning tax credit was applied for the same student in the same year.
Americorps. /a>Americorps is a national service project that works with nonprofit organizations/agencies and educational institutions to run local programs that engage individuals from all backgrounds in community service activities. Volunteers who have completed 17,000 hours (one year) of service are eligible for a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $4,725. This award may be used to repay educational loans for those who have attended college or may be used for future educational costs by volunteers who have not yet attended college. Americorps participants may also qualify for the new Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Income-Based Repayment Plan. As an added benefit, there are currently 76 colleges and universities nationwide that offer matching grant programs to students who are Segal Americorps Education Award recipients.
For information about volunteer opportunities and benefits and a list of schools participating in the matching grant program visit www.americorps.org, or call 800-942-2677, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available by contacting the state or local project offices.
^ Back to Top
FINANCIAL AID FROM THE MILITARYNew GI Bill. Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces could be eligible for up to $39,600 in educational benefits from the Montgomery GI Bill. Effective August 1, 2008, service personnel completing enlistments of three years or more would receive monthly tuition reimbursements based on their enrollment status. In addition, the Army College Fund and the Navy College Fund award additional education benefits to those engaged in certain occupational specialties.
Members of the Reserves and National Guard are also eligible for the GI Bill, although at reduced rates.
Veterans who are eligible for these education benefits should contact the Veterans Affairs office at the college or school they plan to attend or contact the Veterans Administration office nearest their home, call 888-442-4551, or visit www.gibill.va.gov.
Post-9/11 GI Bill. This benefit is for individuals who served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001. Personnel must have served at least 90 aggregate days of active duty after September 11, 2001, still be on active duty, or honorably discharged or released. Personnel currently receiving benefits under another military education assistance program may elect to enroll in the Post-9/11 GI Bill but will no longer be eligible for the benefits offered by the previous program.
Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill the individual would be eligible to receive the cost of tuition and fees not to exceed the most expensive in-state undergraduate tuition at a public institution of higher education, a monthly housing allowance, and a maximum books and supplies allowance of $1,000. Some individuals may be eligible for a $500 relocation payment.
Recipients may receive up to 36 months of entitlement. Interested military personnel should visit www.gibill.va.gov. for more information.
Military Loan Repayment. Some students who borrow from one or more of the Federal Loan Programs (Perkins, Stafford, etc.) may have some or all of their loans repaid by the Department of Defense, depending on the specialty enlisted in, and the length of the enlistment.
Full-time Army personnel can qualify to have their loans repaid by the military at the rate of one-third of the loan for each year of full-time duty served (maximum loan repayment is $65,000). In the full-time duty Navy, a $65,000 Loan Repayment Program is available for candidates who qualify for Navy Nuclear Field or other designated critical rating as defined by the U.S. Navy. The Air Force offers the College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) for all non-prior servicepersons. Participants must sign up for this program when signing the enlistment contract. Under CLRP, repayment maximum is $10,000 per recruit.
Individuals interested in any of these programs are advised to check with their recruiter or visit www.todaysmilitary.com for more information.
^ Back to Top
HELP FROM YOUR SCHOOLFellowships, Scholarships, and Grants. This is money awarded by the school either on the basis of merit, special talent, or financial need. In general, these awards cover tuition, fees, and supplies, and may provide a stipend for living expenses.
Research and Teaching Assistantships. You will receive a salary, partial tuition, and possibly health insurance in return for service as a research or teaching assistant. You may be given basic research assignments. You may teach freshman composition. You proctor examinations. In additional to the financial benefits, you gain experience in your field which may be applicable to your thesis or coursework.
Internships. Your college or program may offer internships with businesses or government offices. Your professors may also have connections with organizations that need people in your field of study. Contact your department head or individual professors for additional information.
Employment. You might consider going to work for a university. Many schools discount tuition for full-time employees, and while it will take you a few extra years to complete the program, you won’t have a huge debt burden when you’re through.
^ Back to Top
HELP FROM FOUNDATIONSNational Research Council. Students in the Sciences, Social Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering may apply for Postdoctoral and Senior Research Awards through the Research Associateship Programs administered by the National Academies. For more information, contact Research Associateship Programs, The National Academies, 500 Fifth Street, NW, GR 322A, Washington, DC 20001; (202) 334-2760; Fax (202) 334-2759; www.nationalacademies.org.
Fulbright Scholars. This extremely prestigious and competitive program allows award recipients to live and study abroad. For more information on this and other grants for graduate study in other countries, contact the Institute of International Education, US Student Programs, 809 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017; www.iie.org.
The Council of Graduate Schools
National Association of Graduate and Professional Students
FinAid!: The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid
U.S. Department of Education
^ Back to Top
For Residents of Canada and International Students Going to School in Canada
A. Major External Granting Agencies
- Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
Scholarships and Fellowships Division
NSERC, Constitution Square, Tower II
350 Albert Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 1H5
(613) 995-5833 http://www.nserc.ca
- Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies
Québec residents only:
140, Grande allée est, bureau 450, Québec (QC) G1R 5M8
418-643-8560; Fax 418-643-1451
e-mail: email@example.com; www.fqrnt.gouv.qc.ca
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
Fellowships Divison, Constitution Square, Tower II
350 Albert Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6G4
(613) 992-0691, http://www.sshrc.ca
- Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC)
International and Canadian Programs
Canadian Awards Program
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC)
350 Albert Street - Suite 600, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 1B1
(613) 563-1236, http://www.aucc.ca
There are many more fellowships available, for complete details contact the Office of Fellowships or Student Financial Aid at the graduate school you are planning to attend.
B. Departmental and Faculty Awards are administered by the individual academic departments. Students should contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator/Director of the specific department they intend to do their studying in for more information.
C. Research and Teaching Assistantships are available at most graduate schools. Graduate students are paid salaries for help in conducting undergraduate classes and laboratories. Contact the various departments at the graduate school you plan to attend.
D. Loans and Bursaries. Canada Student Loans and provincial student loans are available to Canadian citizens and some permanent residents of Canada, on the basis of financial need exclusively. Several provinces augment their loan programs with a forgiveness program to help students reduce their debt loads. Information is available through the Ministry of Education of each province, including:
Ministry of Education and Training
Student Affairs Branch, P.O. Box 4500, 4th Floor
189 Red River Road, Thunder Bay, Ontario P7B 6G9
Ministere de l’Education du Quebec D.G.A.F.E.
1035 rue de la Chevrotiere, Quebec (QC) G1R 5A5
E. Information for International Students Going to Canadian Graduate Schools. For information on sources of funding and general information for international students going to school in Canada contact:
Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE)
220 Laurier St. West, Suite 1000, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1P 5Z9
Tel: (613) 237-4820. FAX: (613) 237-1073
http://www.cbie.ca (Under “Study in Canada”, there are two sections: “Information for Students” and “Awards for Study in Canada.”)
F. Always check with the fellowships and/or student financial aid office at the graduate school you will be attending for complete financial aid information; and deadlines, application forms, eligibility, etc.
Special Note: Some graduate schools in the United States, particularly those in the vicinity of the Canadian border, offer special financial aid packages to residents of Canada. Contact the graduate admissions office to see if these incentives are available to you.
^ Back to Top
Search for Graduate Schools in the U.S. and Canada