Financing a Graduate Education

There are three basic ways to pay for graduate school, depending upon the kind of program in which you are interested: fellowships and traineeships, teaching and research assistantships, and loans.  

“Fellowships or traineeships for graduate study are grants that are generally awarded on the basis of academic merit. They are intended to attract the most highly qualified students into graduate programs. They can either be portable – offered by an organization for study at any institution of the student’s choice, or institutional – offered by the university or department for study there. Fellowships generally provide payment of tuition and a stipend for living expenses. Most are based solely on academic merit, although there may be some institutional awards that are intended for certain people. Institutions that are actively recruiting minority students may have special fellowship programs to attract them.

Teaching assistantships usually involve leading a discussion section, supervising a laboratory, grading papers, and meeting with students. The typical appointment involves approximately 20 hours a week. 

Research assistantships are found especially in science and engineering fields. They are engaged in laboratories to assist faculty in research projects. Advanced students working on their theses or dissertations are often being supported to do their own individual projects.”

Although these types of stipends may be available for master’s degree students, they are generally limited at that level. More monies are available for doctoral students, who require more time to complete their degree programs.

Federal loans may include the Perkins Student Loan Program and the Stafford Loan Program, both of which are need based. Current federal regulations make virtually all graduate students independent of parental support unless they are claimed as dependents on their parents’ income tax return. 

Source: “Graduate School and You: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students,” Council of Graduate Schools, Washington, D.C., 1989.