How to Pay for Grad School

If you’ve been thinking about enrolling in graduate school, you know that it’s an investment of time, energy, and of course, money.

But, here’s the good news: paying for graduate school comes in many forms and payment options. In fact, there are many types of financial and tuition assistance that are specifically designed for graduate students.

Here are five ways to reduce tuition for grad school:
  1. Tax Credits
  2. Tuition Reimbursement
  3. Graduate Assistantships
  4. Private Loans
  5. Federal Loans

1. Graduate Student Tax Credits

Most people are aware of typical forms of financial aid, such as scholarships, loans, and grants. But, did you know that you can actually benefit from tax credits if you’re enrolled in a graduate program?

Many students don’t, which is why this is often overlooked as a form of tuition reduction.

The most common one is the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC), which covers qualified tuition and related expenses paid for eligible students if you meet the eligibility requirements: 

  • You, your dependent, or a third party pay qualified education expenses for higher education.
  • You, your dependent, or a third party pay the education expenses for an eligible student enrolled at an eligible educational institution.
  • The eligible student is yourself, your spouse, or a dependent you listed on your tax return.

This is different from the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). You can see the differences between each program here.

2. Employer Tuition Reimbursement

Depending on where you work, you may be eligible for tuition reimbursement. Many employers offer to reimburse you for college tuition and expenses as a way to incentivize their employees to continue learning and developing as professionals. 

Sometimes, employers even offer financial incentives like salary increases or one-time bonuses for earning a graduate degree!

Going to graduate school to advance your skills and broaden your expertise in your field is a win-win scenario for both you and your employer. Talk to your manager about what programs might be available at your place of work and your long term goals with the organization.

3. Graduate Assistantships

In a graduate assistantships, you’ll work closely with a faculty or staff member for a set number of hours each week in exchange for a tuition waiver, salary, or monthly stipend. The specifics will vary depending on your program.

Typically, graduate assistants spend their working time supporting faculty on research or academic projects. This can involve reading research papers, cataloging data, presenting at meetings, and whatever else the faculty member may need help with.

Through a graduate assistantship program, you’d be working with someone in your field so the work is a great way to get more experience and build stronger relationships with the leaders of the program. However, graduate assistantships must be applied for so be sure to apply early for the programs you are interested in. 

4. Private Loans for Graduate Students

On top of the tuition reduction options we’ve laid out so far, you can also explore student loans as a viable option to help pay for grad school. There are two general categories: private loans and public loans.

Private loans are specifically designed to be manageable for working graduate students. With low interest rates and flexible payback options, they are a fair option to manage your tuition payments and expenses.

As the Sallie Mae website describes, private loans offer: 

  • 100% coverage
  • 94% approval rate
  • 48-month deferral 
  • 6-month grace period after graduation
  • 15 years to repay the loan

5. Federal Loans

You also have the option to pursue federal loans, oftentimes referred to as public loans. If you meet eligibility requirements, it’s possible to pay for graduate school entirely with federal loans if you don’t qualify for other means of tuition assistance.

For graduate students, there are two main types of federal loans: GradPLUS and direct unsubsidized loans

GradPLUS loans typically offer more benefits than private loans, such as income-driven repayment and student loan forgiveness programs. You can borrow up to the cost of attendance, minus any financial aid you have received from the school.

Direct unsubsidized loans, on the other hand, do not require financial need. You can borrow up to 20,500/year, with a maximum lifetime limit of $138,500. Here are the eligibility requirements for direct unsubsidized loans.

Both are applied for by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)



Financing your graduate school education can get complicated. At Southern, we have experts ready to help you understand every step of the process and make the best decision for yourself. If you have more questions or you want to understand how to afford a degree here at Southern, we invite you to download our guide: Financing Your Graduate Degree at Southern Adventist University.

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About the Author

Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University is a private Seventh-day Adventist college in Collegedale, Tennessee. Our practical graduate programs equip you with in-demand skills and experience that transfer directly into your career path. We hope to help you accomplish your dreams!

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