Financial Aid for Graduate School
Most grants, scholarships, and fellowships are outright awards that require no service in return. Scholarships provide tuition and fee support plus a stipend to cover living expenses. Fellowships provide tuition and fee support. Most scholarships and fellowships are based on academic merit, and some on a combination of need and merit. As a rule, grants are awarded to those with financial need, although they may require the recipient to have expertise in a certain field.
Several federal agencies fund fellowship and trainee programs for graduate and professional students. The amounts and types of assistance offered vary considerably by field of study.
Jacob Javits Fellowship. This is a grant program for doctoral students in the arts, humanities, and social sciences to use at the school of their choice. Graduate students apply directly to the U.S. Department of Education. The application deadline is in November. The school the Javits Fellow attends receives up to $10,375 toward the cost of tuition. If the tuition exceeds $10,375, the school is obliged to cover the additional cost in the form of a grant. Javits Fellows receive as much as $15,000 in stipend, depending on financial need and available funding. For more information call 202-502-7542 or visit their Web site at http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/HEP/iegps/javits.html.
National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH sponsors many different fellowship opportunities. For example, it offers training grants administered through schools' research departments. Training grants provide tuition plus a twelve-month stipend. For more information call 301-435-0714 or email email@example.com.
National Science Foundation. Graduate Research Program Fellowships include tuition and fees plus a $15,000 stipend for three years of graduate study in engineering, mathematics, the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the history and philosophy of science. The application deadline is in early November. For more information, write to the National Science Foundation at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, PO. Box 3010, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-3010, call 865-241-4300, or visit their Web site at http://www.orau.org/nsf/nsffel.htm.
Graduate Assistantships in Areas of National Need. This program was designed to offer fellowships to outstanding doctoral candidates of superior ability. It is designed to offer financial assistance to students enrolled in specific programs for which there is both a national need and lack of qualified personnel. The definition of national need is determined by the Secretary of Education. Funds are awarded to schools who then select their recipients based on academic merit. Awardees must also demonstrate financial need. Awards include tuition plus a living expense stipend of up to $15,000. Awards are not to exceed five years. Contact the graduate dean's office or academic department to see whether it participates in this program.
Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships (FLAS). FLAS fellowships are designed to finance graduate training in foreign languages and related area studies. Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, this program was developed to promote a wider knowledge and understanding of certain cultures and countries. Universities apply directly to the Department of Education for these funds and schools themselves select the recipients based on academic merit. Few fellowships are awarded to first-year students. Application deadlines vary by school.
Veterans' Benefits. Veterans may use their educational benefits for training at the graduate and professional levels. Contact your regional office of the Veterans Administration for more details.
Many states offer grants for graduate study, with California, Georgia, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania offering the largest programs. States grants approximately $3.4 billion per year to graduate students. Due to fiscal constraints, however, some states have had to reduce or eliminate their financial aid programs for graduate study. To qualify for a particular state's aid you must be a resident of that state. Residency is established in most states after you have lived there for at least 12 consecutive months prior to enrolling in school. Many states provide funds for in-state students only; that is, funds are not transferable out of state. Contact your state scholarship office to determine what aid it offers.
Educational institutions using their own funds provide more than $3 billion in graduate assistance in the form of fellowships, tuition waivers, and assistantships. Consult each school's catalog or Web site for information about aid programs.
Many corporations provide graduate student support as part of the employee benefits package. Most employees who receive aid study at the master's level or take courses without enrolling in a particular degree program.
Aid from Foundations
Most foundations provide support in areas of interest to them. For example, for those studying for the Ph.D., the Howard Hughes Institute funds students in the biomedical sciences, while the Spencer Foundation funds dissertation research in the field of education.
The Foundation Center of New York City publishes several reference books on foundation support for graduate study. For more information call 212-620-4230 or access their Web site at http://fdncenter.org.
Mellon Fellowships in the Humanities. Eighty-five entry-level, one-year, portable merit fellowships are awarded each year. Fellowships are for one year only and you should plan to seek support elsewhere for subsequent years. The stipend for Mellon fellows entering graduate school in 2002 will be $17,500 plus tuition and required fees. Awards are highly competitive. Any college senior or graduate of the last five years who is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, and is applying to a Ph.D. program in a humanities field is encouraged to compete. The application deadline is in December. Contact Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Mellon Fellowships CN5329, Princeton, New Jersey 08543-5329, call 800-899-9963, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web site http://www.woodrow.org.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) offers aid to students who are at least one quarter American Indian or native Alaskan and from a federally recognized tribe. Contact your tribal education officer, BIA area office, or call the Bureau of Indian Affairs at 202-208-3710.
The Ford foundation Doctoral Fellowship for Minorities provides three-year doctoral fellowships and one-year dissertation fellowships. Pre-doctoral fellowships include an annual stipend of $14,000 to the fellow and an annual institutional grant of $7500 to the fellowship institution in lieu of tuition and fees. Dissertation fellows receive a stipend of $21,500 for a twelve-month period. Applications are due in November. For more information contact the Fellowship Office, National Research Counsel at 202-334-2872 or visit their Web site at http://www.nationalacademies.org/osep/fo.nsf.
National Consortium for Graduate Degrees in Engineering and Science (GEM). GEM was founded in 1976 to help minority men and women pursue graduate study in engineering and science by helping them obtain practical experience through summer internships at consortium work-sites and finance graduate study toward a master's or Ph.D. degree. For more information, contact GEM, Box 537, Notre Dame, IN 46556, call 219-631-7771, or visit their Web site at http://www.ned.edu/~gem/.
National Physical Sciences Consortium. Graduate fellowships are available in astronomy, chemistry, computer science, geology, materials science, mathematics, physics and some engineering programs for women and Black, Hispanic, and Native American students. These fellowships are available only at member universities. Awards may vary by year in school. The application deadline is November 5. Fellows receive tuition plus a stipend of between $12,500 and $15,000. Contact National Physical Sciences Consortium, MSC 3NPS, New Mexico State University, P.O. Box 30001, Department 3NPS, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88033-0001, call 800-952-4118, or visit their Web site at http://www.npsc.org.
In addition, here are some books available that describe financial aid opportunities for women and minorities:
The Directory of Financial Aids for Women, by Gail Ann Schlachter (Reference Service Press, 1998), lists sources of support and identifies foundations and other organizations interested in helping women secure funding for graduate study.
The Association for Women in Science publishes Grants-at-a-Glance, a booklet highlighting fellowships for women in science. It can be ordered by calling 202-326-8940 or by visiting their Web site at http://www.awis.org.
Books such as the Financial Aid for Minorities (Garrett Park, MD: Garrett Park Press, 1998) describe financial aid opportunities for minority students. For more information call 301-946-2553.
Reference Service Press also publishes four directories specifically for minorities: Financial Aid for African Americans, Financial Aid for Asian Americans, Financial Aid for Hispanic Americans and Financial Aid for Native Americans.
For more information on financial aid for minorities, see the Minority On-line Information Service (MOLIS) Web site at http://www.sciencewise.com/molis.
Disabled students are eligible to receive aid from a number of organizations. Financial Aid for the Disabled and Their Families, 1998-00 (Reference Service Press) lists aid opportunities for disabled students. The Vocational Rehabilitation Services in your home state can also provide information.
Additional Resources: The books listed below are good sources of information on grant and fellowship support for graduate education and should be consulted before you resort to borrowing. Keep in mind that grant support varies dramatically from field to field.
Annual Register of Grant Support: A Directory of Funding Sources, Willamette, Illinois: National Register Publishing Co. This is a comprehensive guide to grants and awards from government agencies, foundations, and business and professional organizations.
Corporate Foundation Profiles, 10th ed. New York: Foundation Center, 1998. This is an in-depth, analytical profile of 250 of the largest company-sponsored foundations in the United States. Brief descriptions of all 700 company-sponsored foundations are also included. There is an index of subjects, types of support, and geographic locations.
The Foundation Directory, Edited by Stan Olsen. New York: Foundation Center, 1999. This directory, with a supplement, gives detailed information on US foundations with brief descriptions of the purpose and activities of each.
The Grants Register 1999. Edited by Lisa Williams. New York: St Martin's, 1999. This lists grant agencies alphabetically and gives information on awards available to graduate students, young professionals, and scholars for study and research.
Peterson's Grants for Graduate and Postdoctoral Study, 5th ed. Princeton: Peterson's Guides, 1998. Nearly 1,400 grants and fellowships are described. Originally compiled by the Office of Research Affairs at the Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, this guide is updated periodically by Peterson's.
Graduate schools sometimes publish listings of support sources in their catalogs, and some provide separate publications, such as the Graduate Guide to Grants, compiled by the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. For more information call 617-495-1814.
If you have not explored the financial resources on the Internet, your research is not complete. Now available on the Web is a wealth of information ranging from loan and entrance applications to minority grants and scholarships. The Council of Graduate Schools has a Web site, www.cgsnet.org, that contains a section called "Resources for Students" and the Web site for the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, www.nagps.org, offers financial aid information.
University-Specific Information on the Web
Most university financial aid offices have Web sites. Applications of admission can now be downloaded from the Web to start the graduate process. After that, detailed information can be obtained on financial aid processes, forms, and deadlines. University-specific grant and scholarship information can also be found, and more may be learned about financing information by using the Web than by an actual visit. Questions can be answered on line.
Scholarships on the Web
Many benefactors and other scholarship donors have Web sites. You can reach this information through a variety of methods. For example, you can find a directory listing scholarships, quickly look at the information on line, decide if it applies to you, and then move on. New scholarship pages are being added to the Web daily. Library and Web resources are productive--and free.
The Web also lists many services that will look for scholarships for you. Some of these services cost money and advertise more scholarships per dollar than any other service. While some of these might be helpful, beware. Check references to make sure a bona fide service is being offered. Your best bet initially is to surf the Web and use the traditional library resources on available scholarships.
Bank and Loan Information on the Web
Banks and loan servicing center have pages on the Web, making it easier to access loan information. Loan information such as interest rate variations, descriptions of loans, loan consolidation programs, and repayment charts can all be found on the Web. Also, many lenders now allow you to complete loan applications online. The Web site at http://estudentloan.com provides helpful information on student loans.
Certain types of support, such as teaching, research, and administrative assistantships, require recipients to provide service to the university in exchange for a salary or stipend; sometimes tuition is also provided or waived.
If you pursue an advanced degree in a subject that is taught at the undergraduate level, you stand a good chance of securing a teaching assistantship. These positions usually involve conducting small classes, delivering lectures, correcting class work, grading papers, counseling students, and supervising laboratory groups. Usually about 20 hours of work is required each week.
Teaching assistantships provide excellent educational experience as well as financial support. TAs generally receive a salary (now considered taxable income). Sometimes tuition is provided or waived as well. In addition, at some schools, TAs can be declared state residents, qualifying them for the in-state tuition rates. Appointments are based on academic qualifications and are subject to the availability of funds within a department. If you are interested in a teaching assistantship, contact the academic department. Ordinarily you are not considered for such positions until you have been admitted to the graduate school.
Research Assistantships usually require that you assist in the research activities of a faculty member. Appointments are ordinarily made for the academic year. They are rarely offered to first-year students. Contact the academic department, describing your particular research interests. As is the case with teaching assistantships, research assistantships provide excellent academic training as well as practical experience and financial support.
These positions usually require 10 to 20 hours of work each week in an administrative office of the university. For example, those seeking a graduate degree in education may work in the admissions, financial aid, student affairs, or placement office of the school they are attending. Some administrative assistantships provide a tuition waiver, others a salary. Details concerning these positions can be found in the school catalog or Web site or by contacting the academic department directly.
Federal Work-Study Program (FWS)
This federally funded program provides eligible students with employment opportunities, usually in public and private nonprofit organizations. Federal funds pay up to 75 percent of the wages, with the remainder paid by the employing agency. FWS is available to graduate students who demonstrate financial need. Not all schools have these funds, and some only award undergraduates. Each school sets its application deadline and work-study earnings limits. Wages vary and are related to the type of work done.
Additional Employment Opportunities
Many schools provide on-campus employment opportunities that do not require demonstrated financial need. The student employment office on most campuses assists students in securing jobs both on and off the campus.
Most graduate students, except those pursuing PhD's in certain fields, borrow to finance their graduate programs. There are basically two sources of students loans--the federal government and private loan programs. You should read and understand the terms of these loan programs before submitting your loan application.
Federal Stafford Loans
Federal Stafford Loans are government sponsored low-interest loans made to students by a private lender such as a bank or credit union. There are two components of the Federal Stafford Loan program. Under the subsidized component of the program, the federal government pays the interest accruing on the loan while you are enrolled in graduate school on at least a half-time basis. Under the unsubsidized component of the program, you pay the interest on the loan from the day proceeds are issued. Eligibility for the federal subsidy is based on demonstrated financial need as determined by the financial aid office from the information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). A cosigner is not required, since the loan is not based on creditworthiness.
Although Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans may not be as desirable as Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans from the consumer's perspective, they are a useful source of support for those who may not qualify for the subsidized loans or who need additional financial assistance.
Graduate students may borrow up to $18,500 per year through the Stafford Loan Program, up to a maximum of $135,500, including undergraduate borrowing. This may include up to $8500 in Subsidized Stafford Loans, depending on eligibility, up to a maximum of $65,000, including undergraduate borrowing. The amount of the loan borrowed through the Unsubsidized Stafford Program equals the total amount of the loan (as much as $18,500) minus your eligibility for a Subsidized Stafford Loan (as much as $8500). You may borrow up to the cost of the school in which you are enrolled or will attend, minus estimated financial assistance from other federal, state, and private sources, up to a maximum of $18,500.
The interest rate for Federal Stafford Loans varies annually and is set every July. The rate during in-school, grace and deferment periods is based on the 91-Day US Treasury Bill rate plus 1.7 percent, capped at 8.25 percent. The rate during repayment is based on the 91-Day US Treasury Bill rate plus 2.3 percent, capped at 8.25 percent. The 2001-02 rate is 6.39 percent.
Two fees may be deducted from the loan proceeds upon disbursement: a guarantee fee of up to 1 percent, which is deposited in an insurance pool to ensure repayment to the lender if the borrower defaults, and a federally mandated 3 percent origination fee, which is used to offset the administrative cost of the Federal Stafford Loan program.
Under the subsidized Federal Loan Program, repayment begins six months after your last enrollment on at least a half-time basis. Under the unsubsidized program, repayment of interest begins within thirty days from disbursement of the loan proceeds, and repayment of the principal begins six months after your last enrollment on at least a half-time basis. Some lenders may require that some payments be made even while you are in school, although most lenders will allow you to defer payments and will add the accrued interest to the loan balance. Under both components of the program repayment may extend over a maximum of ten years with no prepayment penalty.
Federal Direct Loans
Some schools are opting to join the Department of Education's new Direct Lending Program instead of offering Federal Stafford Loans. The two programs are essentially the same except that with Direct Loans, schools themselves originate the loans with funds provided from the federal government. Terms and interest rates are virtually the same except that there are a few more repayment options with Federal Direct Loans.
Federal Perkins Loans
The Federal Perkins Loan is a long-term loan program with a 5 percent interest rate. It is available to graduate students demonstrating financial need and is administered directly by the school. Not all schools have these funds, and some may award them to undergraduates only. You may borrow up to $6000 per year, to a maximum of $40,000 including undergraduate borrowing (even if your previous Perkins Loans have been repaid). Each school sets its own application deadline, and it's important to apply as early as possible. The school will notify you of your eligibility. Repayment begins nine months after your last enrollment on at least a half-time basis and may extend over a maximum of ten years with no prepayment penalty.
Deferring Your Federal Loan Repayments
If you borrowed under the Federal Stafford Loan Program or the Federal Perkins Loan Program for previous undergraduate or graduate study, some of your repayments may be deferred when you return to graduate school, depending on when you borrowed and under which program. There are other deferment options available if you are temporarily unable to repay your loan. Information about these deferments is provided at your entrance and exit interviews. If you believe you are eligible for a deferment of your loan repayments, you must contact your lender to complete a deferment form. The deferment must be filed prior to the time your repayment is due, and it must be refiled when it expires if you remain eligible for deferment at that time.
Many lending institutions offer supplemental loan programs and other financing plans, such as the ones described below, to students seeking assistance in meeting their expected contribution toward educational expenses.
If you are considering borrowing through a supplemental loan program, you should carefully consider the terms of the program and be sure to read the fine print. Check with the program sponsor for the most current terms that will be applicable to the amounts you intend to borrow for graduate study. Most supplemental loan programs for graduate study offer unsubsidized, credit-based loans. In general, a credit-ready borrower is one who has a satisfactory credit history or no credit history at all. A creditworthy borrower generally must pass a credit test to be eligible to borrow or act as a cosigner for the loan funds.
Many supplemental loan programs have a minimum annual loan limit and a maximum annual loan limit. Some offer amounts equal to the cost of attendance minus any other aid you will receive for graduate study. If you are planning to borrow for several years of graduate study, consider whether there is a cumulative or aggregate limit on the amount you may borrow. Often this cumulative or aggregate limit will include any amounts you borrowed and have not repaid for undergraduate or previous graduate study.
The combination of the annual interest rate, loan fees, and the repayment terms you choose will determine how much you will repay over time. Compare these features in combination before you decide which loan program to use. Some loans offer interest rates that are lower during the in-school, grace, and deferment periods, and then increase when you begin repayment. Most programs include a loan "origination" fee, which is usually deducted from the principal amount you receive when the loan is disbursed, and must be repaid along with the interest and other principal when you graduate, withdraw from school, or drop below half-time study. Sometimes the loan fees are reduced if you borrow with a qualified cosigner. Some programs allow you to defer interest and/or principal payments while you are enrolled in graduate school. Many programs allow you to capitalize your interest payments; the interest due on your loan is added to the outstanding balance of your loan, so you don't have to repay immediately, but this increases the amount you owe. Other programs allow you to pay the interest as you go, which will reduce the amount you later have to repay.
from: Peterson's Guide to Graduate Schools, an Overview, 2002