It seems like almost everyone I graduated with is quitting the workforce to attend graduate school, or they’re at least contemplating the decision. I must admit, I’ve thought about attending grad school as well but the hefty price tag has me seeing red (as in “in the red” aka broke). While some students are fortunate enough to attend grad school for free through various programs, others are not so lucky. For the countless other 20-somethings out there considering grad school, here are some ways to trim down costs, if not attend for free.
Early withdrawals from your IRA: Tapping into your IRA can be one way grad school students can defray the costs of student loans or overextending their bank accounts. While it’s ideal to start saving for retirement early, that can be difficult to do with thousands of dollars in student loan debt. You can withdraw from your IRA for education costs without the 10% penalty. There is a chance you will still owe federal income tax. For more, visit IRS.gov and read Notice 97-60, Using IRA Withdrawals to Pay Higher Education Expenses.
Graduate Teaching Assistant Programs: While it’s not as easy to become a teaching assistant as it might seem, those who are fortunate enough to become one can shave off thousands of dollars from their education expenses. Some universities require a minimum number of graduate credits while others require that students already have a master’s degree. Teacher’s assistants can make between $20 and $40 an hour, not including overtime. Check out debtfreescholar.com for more on how to become a graduate teaching assistant.
Grants: Ah grants, fellowships, and scholarships–the elusive and highly sought after financing for many potential grad school students. Take the time to search grant and fellowship programs by industry and field. Gradschool.com lists a number of federally funded and independent fellowships. Kiplinger’s, a magazine focused on education issues, suggests that students should contact each department at the school they’re considering and ask how much money is available and how it’s allocated. Since graduate programs give each department a pool of money to disperse, this will give you a better sense of how much aid and grant money you could receive.
Finally, you may want to consider returning to your alma mater, where you may be eligible for a discount. Check with your school to see if this option is available.