Just when you thought you finally had your undergraduate student loans under control, the idea of graduate studies enters your mind. Advanced degrees certainly aren’t cheap, and borrowing money often becomes a necessity. According to data from New America, in 2012, 58.6 percent of students who completed a master’s or professional degree program borrowed money, some doing so in amounts upwards of $41,000. However, there are alternatives to borrowing. Here are five tips for earning your degree without incurring significant student loans.
1. Validate the Value of That Degree
Image via Flickr by j.o.h.n. walker
Some people make the mistake of going to graduate school without really thinking about the type of job they’re aiming to acquire when their studies conclude. Carefully consider the value of the program and your return on investment. For example, professionals with master’s in health informatics degrees are in demand now as healthcare facilities work to meet a 2015 deadline to implement Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in their practices.
Many common courses of study offer some or all of their classes online, so you can save money while working toward a degree that will lead to an in-demand job. Choosing a practical major makes for a win-win situation.
2. Save With State Universities
State universities sometimes get overlooked when it comes to quality of education. However, state schools are among the top-rated schools for higher education. Reasonable tuition rates are one top advantage over private schools. Bonus tip: In-state residents can receive additional savings based on residency status; explore your options close to home.
3. Make It Work
Going to graduate school can certainly consume significant amounts of time. If you’re trying to avoid loans to finance your education, make sure you have a job — or two — to put money in the bank while you’re taking classes. Don’t take a gamble on your future by banking on a coveted, high-paying job after graduation. The more money you make and save while you’re in school, the easier it will be to pay for your education without taking out loans.
4. Consider How Marital Status Might Affect Grad School Plans
Married couples with one or both spouses in graduate school will almost certainly see a significant change in their budget. Since each graduate program has different requirements and different demands on a student’s time, a spouse may need to quit a job to accommodate program demands or may need to change from full-time to part-time student status to keep a job while going to school. Couples need to engage in plenty of discussion before they make school commitments.
5. Toot Your Horn for Tuition Remission
If you are employed and plan to begin a graduate program for professional career development purposes, check your employee handbook or ask your human resources officer for details about tuition remission. If you’re looking for a job while you’re in school, inquire about opportunities on campus. Some colleges offer tuition remission as an employee benefit!
Earning a master’s degree shouldn’t put you in debt. Keeping these tips in mind can help you make the most of your studies and your finances.