Paying for Grad School: Loans, Scholarships, and Financial Aid
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
These days, many careers require you to have more than an undergraduate degree to get ahead. In addition to the academic hurdles involved in obtaining a graduate degree, there are financial considerations as well. It's generally more expensive to attend graduate school than it is to obtain an undergraduate degree, so paying for a graduate education sometimes leave students in debt for years to come.
There are various options, however, to help pay for graduate school, including private student loans, scholarships, and financial aid. Read on to learn more about each of these options.
Scholarships and Grants
As far as help paying for grad schools, grants and scholarships are the very best option because they do not have to be repaid. Scholarships are basically payments made to support a student's education. They are typically offered through universities, non-profit groups, and various other organizations.
Grants and scholarships for graduate students are often awarded on the basis of academic achievement and may require the student to maintain a certain grade point average while receiving the aid. However, there are certain scholarships that are awarded based on a particular area of study, financial need, or being part of a minority group.
Federal Financial Aid
Federal financial aid, officially called Federal Student Aid, is the general umbrella term for student loans or scholarships offered by the U.S. Department of Education. A couple examples of federal loan options for graduate students are the Direct PLUS Loan and the Perkins Loan. Since each loan program has its own eligibility requirements and terms, it's important to take the time to educate yourself on the different types of loans to decide which one is best for you.
While federal loans are more flexible when it comes to repayment, defaulting on a federal loan still has consequences. If a person defaults on a federal loan, the government has the option to garnish the borrower's wages, and doesn't even need a court order to do so. In addition, the federal government can take any Social Security check or tax refund of a borrower in default.
As for federal financial aid in the form of scholarships or grants, there are fewer options available for graduate students than there are for undergraduate students. One example of a grant for graduate students is the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. In order for a student to qualify for the TEACH Grant, he or she must meet the basic eligibility requirement for a federal student aid program and be enrolled in a TEACH Grant eligible program.
A TEACH Grant-eligible program is one that prepares you to teach as a highly qualified teacher in a high-need field. Each school that participates in this program determines which program is eligible, so you will need to check with your school to learn about its specific eligibility requirements. After completing the program, the grant recipient is obligated to work in a high-need field at a low-income school or educational service agency for at least 4 years. High-need fields include foreign language, science, math, special education, and reading specialist.
Private Student Loans
Private student loans are funded by credit unions, banks, or other types of private lenders. Generally all private lenders require the borrower to undergo a credit check. Each private loan will have its own qualification requirements and terms.
In comparison to federal student loans, private loans tend to have less flexible repayment options. Private loans also have fewer options for deferring or reducing repayment. With that said, private loans are a good option for grad students who are ineligible for a federal loan because they don't meet the eligibility criteria or who have already maxed out their federal student loans.
Getting Legal Help
If you have questions or concerns about paying for grad school or are facing a legal issue related to your education, you may want to contact an education attorney in your area.
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