Financial Aid Options for Graduate Students

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A guest article by Taylor Harris

If you have earned a college degree but want to continue on to grad school, the idea of borrowing money from a bank may not be appealing. The degree you intend to get will certainly pay for your education down the line, but for now you’re concerned with getting the financial aid necessary to continue your education. Following are a few financial aid options for graduate students.

Teaching Grants If you intend to teach at a public or private school that is aimed at low-income families, you may be eligible for a TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) Grant. If you’re awarded grant money but don’t fulfill your teaching obligation, the money will roll over into an unsubsidized student loan. In order to qualify, you must agree to teach four full academic years within the next eight years. There are specific areas of need that you must be willing to teach, including mathematics, reading, science, and special education. You must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and choose from a list of qualifying low-income schools, but you don’t have to prove a financial need in order to receive the grant.
Stafford Loans The Stafford Loan program offers low-interest loans to graduate students. Unlike a TEACH Grant, you must be able to demonstrate a financial need in order to qualify to receive a Direct Subsidized Loan through the Stafford Loan program. With a subsidized loan, you won’t be charged interest as long as you’re going to school at least half time, if you’re in a deferred period or during a grace period. If you opt for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you will have to begin paying interest as soon as you receive the loan. The money from either type of loan is paid directly to the school you’re attending.

Perkins Loans

A Federal Perkins Loan is available to those graduate students who can display an exceptional financial need. Unlike a Stafford Loan, a Perkins Loan is made directly through the school using federal funds appropriated to the school for such use. The school has the option of releasing the funds directly to you or applying it to your educational expenses, such as tuition, room, and board.

Federal Work-Study Program

If you can display a financial need, you may be able to qualify for the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program. The purpose of the program is to help students who actually need the money to pay for school expenses while holding down a part-time job. In the Federal Work-Study Program, your school will actually be paying your wages through funds allocated to them by the federal government. The amount of money you can receive depends on your qualifications, and the number of hours you’ll have to work is dictated by the amount of money you qualify to receive. Whether or not you continue to receive Federal Work-Study funds depends on your class schedule and also upon keeping your grades up–if you don’t perform academically you will lose the funds. FWS jobs are typically on campus, but some jobs require you to work for nonprofit organizations or public agencies off campus.

School-Based Aid

If you’re interested in receiving financial aid as a graduate student, you should look into the possibility of your school having funds available for needs such as yours. Typically a school will have some funds ear-marked for helping those who need financial assistance. These funds usually come in the form of scholarships or grants from private sources. To qualify for school-based aid, you may have to teach undergraduate courses or be involved in research. Financial aid of this type is typically based on how well you perform in school, as well as your financial need. As with the Federal Work-Study Program, whether or not you continue to receive school-based aid usually depends on your academic performance.

Apply Early

Due to the demand for need-based financial aid for graduate students, it’s best if you apply early. Filling out a FAFSA is a prerequisite for receiving needs-based financial aid, and the earlier you apply the better your chances of receiving help. Because the amount of money for graduate students is limited you should make sure you’re among the first to apply. The money is disbursed according to your needs, but is also allocated pretty much on a first come, first served basis.

About the Author: Taylor Harris, a professional writer, writes about online schools for