Most students look for scholarships and student loans when funding an undergraduate degree. However, for a graduate degree, there are fewer scholarships available and the amount students can take out in student loans is capped. Therefore, paying for a master’s degree education can involve several steps.
University of Indianapolis Assistant Director of Financial Aid, Sandra Osborne, said that the cost of graduate programs varies quite a bit.
“Unlike taking an undergrad class, and everyone pays the same rate for a class, the graduate programs vary with whatever program the student is going into,” Osborne said.
The UIndy Office of Financial Aid offers advice when it comes to the cost of a master’s degree education.
“We usually try to tell graduate students to check with your particular program to see if they offer assistantships,” Osborne said. “[The] assistantship is a way of getting a percentage of the tuition covered, and that’s less [in] loans they [students] have to take out.”
Osborne also said that the Office of Financial Aid recommends the Federal Student Loan Program to all students who are pursuing their master’s degree. The two types of loans that are available through the Loan Program are the Federal Direct Stafford Loan and the Graduate Plus Loan.
“The Federal Direct Stafford Loan [is where] you can get a maximum of $20,500 for the year,” Osborne said. “[With the] Graduate Plus loan, they [students] can use that to [close the] gap [of] the difference between their costs and the Stafford Loan. The biggest difference with that loan is that it is credit based, so they can’t have adverse credit.”
If students do not want to take the Graduate Plus Loan, they can apply for the Private Education Loan instead. Osborne said that a lower interest rate may be a factor when deciding on which loan to take, and what kind of credit a student has plays a role in that decision.
Occupational Therapy master’s student Johanna Richardson just started her graduate courses even though she is still technically a senior.
“I am a 4:1 student, and even though this is my senior year, they let you start the graduate program early,” Richardson said. “They put your undergraduate [program]into three years, and your last year, you start your [graduate] program.”
Richardson is a Presidential Scholar and receives a scholarship awarded by UIndy that covers the full cost of tuition. Richardson is not currently paying for her graduate program because she keeps her undergraduate scholarship. However, she has begun looking into ways she can pay for her master’s program for next semester.
“The OT program gives us resources through the American Occupational Therapy Association, and they have student scholarships you can apply for,” Richardson said. “I am applying to be a graduate assistant also, and some graduate students get some tuition paid for because of that.”
Osborne said that making a budget and sticking to that budget also can help with the costs of a program.
“If they haven’t done a budget before, we have them do a budget, so they can visually see what resources they [the students] have coming in and what expenses they have,” Osborne said. “On our website, we do have a ‘cash course,’ which is a way to learn about budgeting, [and] managing your money, and it talks about credit.”
The Office of Financial Aid emphasizes that students must file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, even if they do not think they are going to get any aid.
“Some graduate students think, ‘Oh well, I’m not going to get any aid, so I’m not going to do my FAFSA,’” Osborne said. “Well, if you want a student loan, you are still going to have to do your FAFSA.”
For more information on locating scholarships, visit www.uindy.edu/financial-aid.