10 Tips for Affording Graduate School

Let’s say you want to attend graduate school but are worried you may not be able to afford it. It takes some planning, but you can chip away at graduate school costs several different ways, leaving it within your reach. Some of these ways may seem small, but they add up. With a little research, you can make attending graduate school a realistic goal. Consider these ten tips:

  • 1. Application Fee Waivers: At many schools, you can attend an open house or contact an admissions coordinator and have them waive the application fee. In the scheme of things, this fee may not be much, but it’s an expense you can easily be rid of from the start. All you have to do is ask, so why not go for it?

  • 2. Student Discounts: One of those little things that can add up to a lot is your student discount. Let’s face it – tuition and fees are only the biggest of the hits your pocketbook will take during graduate school. Student discounts, though, can take some of the sting out. Look for places that offer discounts to students, and take full advantage of them. Just typing “student discount” into Google brings up discounts available on computers, software and flights, each of which can be a major expense for students. Another resource is here: http://www.campusclipper.com/

  • 3. Partners in Non-Profits: Take a look at University’s “Partners in Non-Profits” discount. Employees of these partnered non-profits receive a 20% discount on tuition from Alvernia University. Look here for more information on this program: http://www.alvernia.edu/financialaid/discounts.html

  • 4. Alumni Discount: Check out if you’re eligible for an alumni discount. At Alvernia, it's 25% if you got a bachelor's degree from Alvernia University. That’s one quarter of your tuition you don’t have to worry about. Combine that with some of the other methods on this list, and what you owe could shrink by half or more.

  • 5. Graduate School Grants: Unlike loans, grants are basically free money from the government, and they can chop thousands of dollars from your graduate school bill. You do have to research them, but they’re out there. If you’re a member of a minority, for instance, there are a number of grants available to minority groups, depending on your major. Speaking of majors, check out grants specific to your major. There are hundreds of grants available, and many of them go unclaimed every year. Grants can pay not only your tuition, but also school fees and the cost of textbooks and more. Best of all, you never have to pay them back.

  • 6. Graduate Assistantships: This is the classic route to take for graduate students, and there are really no downsides to it, except that you might have to go long stretches without sleep. To put it simply, you work for the school at the same time as you attend. Not only can you get tuition remission and an hourly wage, you get invaluable experience in your field and a better chance of landing a job once you graduate. Take a look at this from Alvernia University: http://www.alvernia.edu/financialaid/grad_assistantships.html. If you’re up for a little hard work, an assistantship could be perfect for you. Research and apply early, though, because they can fill up fast.

  • 7. Tuition Reimbursement: If you’re taking higher-ed classes as part of your employment, ask your employer about tuition reimbursement. Some employers require employees to take classes or even get degrees to enrich their work skills. Most employers who require this will then reimburse you for the costs. The only hitch is that they will often wait until the end of the semester before shelling out money. Fortunately, it is possible to defer payments through the school’s billing department until your employer gets around to reimbursing you. Here’s more information from Alvernia: http://www.alvernia.edu/parents/student-billing/tuitiondefer.html

  • 8. Veteran's Benefits: If you’re a veteran of any branch of the armed services, look into your benefits. The GI Bill allows you to apply for federal assistance with your school bills. For more information, go here: http://www.gibill.va.gov/community/links.html#FinancialAid

  • 9. Tuition Tax Deduction: This may not sound like much, but, the truth is, you can get up to $4,000 chopped off your tax bill this way. Better yet, it applies not just to tuition, but to all qualified educational fees. More information is available here: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p970/ch06.html

  • 10. Student Loans: Student loans aren’t just for undergrads. They’re also available to graduate students. You can get Stafford loans just like a lot of you probably did when you were undergrads, and there are plenty of private loans as well. Discover, Chase and Sallie Mae offer grad student loans, just to start with. A good resource for checking out what’s available is here: http://www.gradloans.com/


The costs of going to graduate school may seem overwhelming, but they don’t have to be. If you know where to look, there is money available. Use these ten tips as a way to get started. Your goal of going to graduate school may not be as far away as you think it is.

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