Life is hard. We have to get a good education to have a good job. The problem is that school can be very expensive especially at the graduate or professional level. For working professionals, balancing work, classes, and the personal side of things can be extremely difficult. What’s just as tough is paying for grad school. If you are struggling to balance all of these aspects of life, here are some ways to make financing grad school less of a burden.
1) Work for the School You Attend
Teach. If you have a degree in education, specialized knowledge of a specific subject, or teaching experience, think about applying for a teaching position with the institution of higher education you are currently attending or planning to attend. Many colleges and universities will hire graduate student instructors, or GSIs, to head classes in place of faculty. If you have some expertise in a certain area of study, you already have a huge advantage. In exchange for working for the college, your entire graduate education could be paid off for you. Depending on the school that employs you, you may be receive a fixed salary, a full ride to grad school, or a combination of both.
GSIs are most often salaried workers. Although they are typically contract workers who are hired for specific terms, GSIs generally earn a decent starting salary. This is because the schools know that graduate tuition can be very expensive and are willing to lend a helping hand. Financing a graduate education and scraping by would be possible with typical GSI salaries of $25,000-$40,000.
Some GSIs are given the option of having their entire graduate tuition paid off as long as they are still teaching. For example, an individual who teaches for 2 full years at the college might receive two full years of tuition coverage in exchange. While this solves the problem of financing the courses, these GSIs will have to have some other form of income on the side to survive. This option may be more affordable if your graduate tuition is extremely high–say an engineering versus a liberal arts program. It will, however, be less beneficial for GSIs who are not involved in very costly programs.
Finally, some universities offer both partial tuition coverage and a salary or wage. While not very different than receiving a single higher salary in terms of helping to pay off grad school, this option might be the one to pick if the combined tuition coverage and wage add up to more than a single larger salary.
2) Apply for Student Loans and Scholarships
If you received satisfactory scores during undergraduate school, you are probably eligible for a number of different scholarships and loans. Filling out a FAFSA form may qualify you for graduate student loans if you meet all of the minimum requirements. Depending on the circumstances, you may receive upwards of $100,000 for your entire college career if you show enough financial need. As for scholarships, they are almost entirely based on your previous academic record. Those who show outstanding potential will usually be chosen for the limited scholarships. While grants are usually available to undergrads, they are extremely limited for graduate students.
3) Spend Wisely and Save Your Money
As a working professional, you already hold a steady job. While graduate school costs are an added burden to your already busy life, your day job provides you with a source of income. If you budget well and manage your finances accordingly, you should be able to find a way to pay for grad school.
You may find that a lifestyle change is necessary. Instead of living at the comfortable standard you are so familiar with, try living more frugally. Spend on only what is necessary–like rent, utilities, and food–while saving everything else so you can put it towards tuition. While you may not be happy living that way for a few years, you will make it possible to afford grad school and live exactly how you want in the future after advancing your career.
Carl Lister is a business executive and guest author at BusinessMBA.org, where he contributed to the guide to MBA Scholarships.