STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

How graduate students pay for school

When Zerleen Quader was applying to Ph.D. programs in epidemiology, she sought out a college that would cover the cos...

Posted: Jan 11, 2018 8:34 PM
Updated: Jan 11, 2018 8:34 PM

When Zerleen Quader was applying to Ph.D. programs in epidemiology, she sought out a college that would cover the cost of her tuition.

"Some programs guarantee you'll be funded, but it varies. I really tried to find one that would fund me from the beginning," Quader said.

Emory University in Atlanta offered to pay her tuition for the first two years, and she enrolled last fall. For future years, she plans to apply for research grants, or work for a professor with an already-funded project.

But most graduate students don't get that kind of financial help. About 60% of grad students don't receive any kind of scholarship, grant, or tuition waiver that they don't have to pay back, according to a report released Wednesday.

The study, conducted by Sallie Mae and Ipsos, sheds light on how graduate students pay for school. For many, it's a combination of loans and savings or income that pays the bill. The average student said they faced $24,812 in expenses for one year, and that loans covered half that amount. But prices greatly varied. The average one-year cost for medical and law students was higher than $30,000.

The survey was conducted in the spring of 2017, and included 1,597 part-time and full-time graduate students pursuing master's, doctoral, and professional degrees.

Related: This forgiveness program became a student loan nightmare

The report points out that graduate students are far more self-reliant than undergrads. Money they have saved, earned, or borrowed, covers 77% of the costs for the average grad student, while undergrads receive more in the way of scholarships and grants, and get help from their parents.

When grad students do receive scholarships or grants, it's typically from the university. Unlike undergrads, they're usually not eligible for federal need-based Pell grants or state-funded grants.

More than three-quarters of graduate students take out loans. Quader did, too, for her master's program at the University of Minnesota. She received a scholarship for her first year there and then borrowed about $20,000 to pay for her second.

"I was pretty comfortable taking out those loans because it's the norm for a master's in public health program. Everyone has to take out a loan for it," Quader said.

She borrowed student loans from the federal government. Generally, graduate students who are U.S. citizens can borrow up to $20,500 a year from the Direct Loan program and additional funds -- up to the full cost of attendance -- from the PLUS program.

"Grad students can borrow more than undergrads, but the rates are higher and they can't get subsidized loans," said Kalman Chany, the author of Paying for College Without Going Broke from The Princeton Review.

For the current year, the fixed interest rate on Direct Loans for graduate students is 6% and it's 7% on PLUS loans.

Yet, just 34% of students with loans said they used a Direct Loan and 24% used a PLUS loan.

"I'm surprised more students aren't taking these student loans. It could be that they are unfamiliar with the process and didn't realize they could qualify" Chany said.

Related: The best ways to borrow money for school, if you have to

Of those who borrowed money, 21% said they used a credit card (which can have a higher interest rate than federal loans) and 19% said they used a student loan from a private lender, which typically bases the rate on your finances. About 16% borrowed money from a friend or family member.

More students said they were worried about the length of time it would take them to repay their debts than those who said they were worried about being able to make the payments. Still, 32% said they were very worried their loan payments would interfere with making other financial decisions, the report said.

Quader, who took out loans for just her second year of her master's got a job right away and was able to pay off her debt within three years -- before starting her Ph.D. program. Living at home with her parents helped, she said.

For now, Quader is living off a stipend she receives for doing research at the university and her savings.

"I haven't had to take out a loan so far. But it's tight, for sure," she said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 93012

Reported Deaths: 2040
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26447926
Ramsey10697319
Dakota7354125
Anoka5935132
Stearns390924
Washington368955
Scott250033
Olmsted236728
Nobles195416
Blue Earth16476
Wright15737
St. Louis148039
Carver13897
Clay134040
Rice13228
Mower13125
Sherburne112514
Kandiyohi9722
Winona86318
Lyon6674
Waseca6128
Steele5332
Freeborn5323
Benton5303
Nicollet52116
Watonwan5164
Todd4872
Crow Wing48118
McLeod4752
Chisago4711
Le Sueur4524
Otter Tail4224
Beltrami4055
Martin37210
Goodhue3519
Pine3090
Itasca30314
Polk2984
Douglas2862
Isanti2790
Becker2642
Carlton2561
Cottonwood2240
Morrison2221
Dodge2180
Pipestone21710
Chippewa2061
Meeker1942
Sibley1863
Wabasha1830
Brown1822
Yellow Medicine1752
Rock1640
Cass1593
Murray1582
Mille Lacs1543
Redwood1541
Unassigned15052
Renville1427
Jackson1411
Faribault1360
Swift1271
Houston1210
Koochiching1213
Kanabec1178
Roseau1170
Pennington1161
Fillmore1110
Lincoln1080
Hubbard941
Stevens941
Pope920
Big Stone760
Aitkin751
Wadena670
Wilkin613
Grant594
Lake580
Norman530
Lac qui Parle501
Marshall501
Mahnomen461
Red Lake421
Traverse290
Clearwater270
Lake of the Woods211
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 83644

Reported Deaths: 1294
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15697261
Woodbury526363
Johnson508627
Black Hawk443688
Linn3941110
Story340517
Dubuque310141
Scott292628
Dallas275138
Pottawattamie206838
Buena Vista197212
Marshall177034
Sioux15043
Wapello131457
Webster121614
Plymouth110420
Clinton109920
Muscatine109154
Crawford10655
Cerro Gordo101821
Warren9486
Jasper81732
Des Moines7647
Marion7536
Tama70431
Henry6854
Carroll6535
Lee6207
Wright5721
Dickinson5086
Boone5008
Bremer4837
Washington45311
Louisa42815
Mahaska39119
Delaware3833
Franklin34618
Floyd3363
Jackson3303
Winneshiek3246
Hamilton3223
Clay3164
Lyon3074
Benton3061
Hardin2951
Winnebago28913
Poweshiek2788
Butler2672
Buchanan2651
Clarke2643
Jones2643
Emmet26010
Shelby2581
Allamakee2566
Kossuth2540
Chickasaw2470
Clayton2443
Sac2440
Guthrie2416
Cedar2381
Cherokee2352
Grundy2193
Madison2122
Fayette2112
Harrison2073
Iowa1981
Mitchell1880
Howard1866
Humboldt1843
Palo Alto1830
Calhoun1793
Hancock1772
Mills1771
Cass1602
Monroe15710
Pocahontas1562
Lucas1536
Page1530
Osceola1510
Monona1451
Jefferson1371
Appanoose1333
Union1283
Taylor1271
Davis1244
Ida1151
Van Buren1131
Fremont1100
Keokuk1051
Worth1040
Greene990
Montgomery905
Wayne852
Audubon811
Adair691
Decatur670
Ringgold492
Adams330
Unassigned40
Rochester
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 81°
Mason City
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 86°
Albert Lea
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 85°
Austin
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 86°
Charles City
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 85°
Cooler temperatures are almost here
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events