Funding Graduate School: Where’s the Money and How do I Get It? Part 2

It probably doesn't exist...

Hello again! As a follow-up to the previous discussion about funding, I’d like to share some more information for people, such as myself, who are in an alternative financial situation during their graduate school. First and foremost, it’s not the end of the world to be in something other than a fully funded PhD program! There are options out there to avoid acquiring a gazillion dollars of student loan debt while living off of Ramen noodles and Spam for 2-7 years. FYI, don’t mix the two.

For most masters level and non-state funded doctoral programs, tuition remission and living stipends are not typically provided. Students take out loans (subsidized and unsubsidized) to cover tuition and/or living expenses. Although Uncle Sam and private lenders make this all too easy, be prepared for the financial long-term consequences. Rather than get all gloom and doom about interest rates and defaulting on loan payments, let’s explore a much happier topic — minimizing debt! Here are 3 ways to help make paying for graduate school more bearable.

  • University-Based Funding- For Doctoral programs in particular, graduate research assistantships (GRAs) and graduate teaching assistantships (GTAs) are available. These funding opportunities are typically reserved for students further along in their programs and require a bunch of hard work. If you are fortunate enough to snag one of these, we are talking about roughly $10,000. Now that’s some serious cash!
  • Outside Funding- Just like in undergrad, there are lots of outside funding opportunities. The main funding opportunities I am familiar with are research-based fellowships from government-affiliated agencies like the National Institute of Health and Science (NIH) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). These dollars are substantial  (possible tuition plus stipend), and require a solid grant proposal to get.
  • Loan Forgiveness- Now imagine that you received no funding throughout your graduate education and acquired $100,000-$250,000 of student loan debt. Ahhhhhhh! Now breathe — it’s going to be okay because there are government agencies that offer LOAN FORGIVENESS programs. These entail working for the government in a particular setting (e.g. rural areas, prisons, military hospitals, warzones) for anywhere between 1-10 years. I know of people working for the military, the Veterans Affairs Administration, and the National Health Service Corps. I’m sure there are others but these are the most well known. If you have any specific questions about how to make all of your loans disappear, please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Best of luck in your graduate studies!


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