How to Pay for Grad School in Cash

It was just a few weeks ago that I gave an update on my financial goals that I originally established towards the end of 2011. In my update, I explained that so far my wife and I have been able to pay for our graduate schooling in cash. This is a commitment that we have made after graduating from college without any debt. We don’t like the idea of having to be have tens of thousands of dollars hanging over our heads for years or decades after we graduate and so we would rather work hard to avoid going into debt to pay for college.

Easiest Way to Pay for College or Graduate School

I have been very fortunate in getting my graduate school paid for. If you are looking for an “easy” way to pay for your college or graduate school, the first avenue (after scholarships) is to look for a job at the university that you want to attend. Most major universities give full-time employees free tuition as a benefit for working at a university. While this is not guaranteed at all universities, it is common. Both universities that I have worked for (as a full-time employee) offer this benefit.

How to Pay for College If you Don’t Work There

If you don’t work at the university or school that you are enrolled in, you still have many options to pay for school in cash.

Scholarships: Make sure to take the time to exhaust all efforts on finding scholarships for school. Finding scholarships may be difficult at first, but look at the website of the office of financial aid at your school for a great starting point. From there, look for other private scholarships. It is also important to consider both merit scholarships and need-based. The school that I got my undergraduate degree offered half-tuition for anyone who maintained a 3.7 GPA. By researching the options available to you, you can actively work towards meeting the requirements for certain scholarships.

Work Full/Part-time: Another obvious option is to have another job. While I am getting a tuition benefit for my schooling, my wife isn’t. She didn’t qualify for any scholarships (merit or need-based) and so we were left with one last resort: pay for it ourselves. We decided it would be worth it for her to keep working full-time while she goes to school part-time. This does mean that it will take an extra year to complete her graduate degree, but if it means graduating without any debt, that seems to be a huge benefit and well worth the delay in getting her degree. By working full-time and going to school part-time, she not only has a decent salary, but it costs us less per semester. It will be the same cost for the degree (if not more because she will be paying more per credit as tuition increases over time), it is less to pay for per semester. I recognize that going to school part-time for your undergraduate work may not be feasible. But, if you live a frugal lifestyle, you can escape with your bachelors degree by working part-time as well.

The trick to understanding how to pay for college is realizing that there are many options available to you. These are just the ways that my wife and I have managed to pay for college without going into debt. Don’t let the common practice of going into debt to pay for school lure you into a lifestyle of bondage.

How did you pay for college?

photocredit: katerha via flickr

8 Responses to How to Pay for Grad School in Cash

  1. I am just starting to think about grad school, and I will most likely take the work part time/full time route.

    I know for health science graduate degree that don’t offer scholarships (dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, etc), there are government programs that will repay your loans in full in exchange for working in a rural community for a certain number of years. Another option is enlisting with the armed services, which will give you a scholarship for grad school and a stipend in exchange for service.

  2. I was fortunate that my employer after grad school offered a partial reimbursement plan that just required an extra time commitment. It made a huge difference in my debt status. I know a few large employers offer services like that so its worth checking out while you job-search.

  3. My approach was to minimize debt in general, but not to rule it out completely. I took a hard look at the necessary costs for graduate school while working full-time (for my program, taking out living costs leaves just tuition, school fees, and textbooks) — and how much I could save from my monthly budget for grad school, while still contributing to long-term savings and an emergency fund. I accepted subsidized federal student loans to cover the costs up front. I started saving before I was accepted to the grad school program, and I’ll have six months after graduation as well if I need them — my goal is to pay off the total balance before any interest is applied.

  4. That’s a wise decision to avoid debt while getting an education. These days very few students manage to do that. Great advice about getting a job with the university for the free tuition. I didn’t realize they offered that, but it makes sense. You’re going to be even more satisfied with this decision a few years down the road when you have a big chunk of cash saved up instead of still struggling with debt.

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