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You’ve made the time and energy commitment required to pursue your Master’s degree in Education, but how are you going to pay for it? Figuring out how to budget your already-limited time to make room for your advanced studies was challenging enough —but now you’ve got to figure out a way to finance it too.

It’s possible you’re still carrying some student loan debt from your bachelor’s degree program, and you probably have a full-time job as well.

When deciding on the right Master’s in Education program, you need to factor in all the associated costs as well as any potential loss of employment income. This will help you determine the most affordable and flexible course of study that fits your lifestyle, personal responsibilities, budget, and career-based educational needs.

To ensure you get as much financial assistance as possible as you expand your teaching skills and competencies, explore all of the following sources of potential funding for you Master’s in Education degree.

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Federal loans and assistance programs

The first step in the financial aid process is to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This easy online process determines your eligibility for federal grant and loan programs.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans:

Also called “Unsubsidized Stafford Loans,” these loans for graduate students are not need based and are therefore available to all who qualify, provided you’ve not defaulted on other federal education loans.

You’ll start to accrue interest from the date the loan is disbursed. You must begin repaying the loan after a six-month grace period after graduation, or if you drop out or are no longer enrolled at least half-time.

Remember that under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, “if you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school or educational service agency, and meet other qualifications, you may be eligible for forgiveness of up to $17,500 on your Federal Stafford Loans,” explains the Federal Aid Office of the U. S. Department of Education.

Federal Graduate Plus Loans

:These loans help graduate students pay for educational expenses such as tuition, fees, room and board, transportation, and other personal expenses. They require a credit check and have a fixed interest rate.

Federal Work Study:

Students who show financial need are eligible for part-time jobs on or off campus to help pay for educational expenses.

Grants and scholarships

Unlike federal loans, the “free” money you receive from educational scholarships and grants does not need to be repaid. It really pays to do some online research to see if you qualify for a special fellowship or financial award. Is there something unique about you that you can capitalize on with a “niche” scholarship? Check out the comprehensive database maintained by the University of California—Los Angeles that contains information on 625 scholarships, grants, fellowships, and postdoctoral awards.

Reach out to the financial aid office of your chosen institution to see if you qualify for an academic achievement scholarship based on your undergraduate GPA. It’s possible that your graduate school offers a number of merit-based institutional scholarships or fellowships with no repayment obligation.

Your employer

Does your company offer a personal development program? Many corporations will subsidize all or part of your grad school costs through tuition reimbursement provided your education pertains to your job role. If you’re teaching right now, it’s likely that your school will provide you with some sort of stipend or financial help with tuition and books.

Tuition discounts

While you’re checking out fellowships, scholarships, or potential employer partnerships offered by a prospective school, be sure to inquire about any other special savings you might be eligible for. Ask the graduate program’s admissions advisor:

  •   Do you offer cost savings on books and electronic course materials?
  •   Am I eligible for discounted tuition based on my military service?
  •   Do I qualify for a family, alumni, senior citizen, or graduate discount?

Private loans

If you’ve exhausted all the other sources of financial aid available to you and still need help affording your graduate degree, look into private loans. Explore offerings from banks, credit unions, peer-to-peer platforms, and other third-party lenders. You’ll have to jump through more hoops in the form of credit reviews and deal with individual lender terms and conditions, but it’s possible to find private student loan programs that offer competitive interest rates and terms.

Use your tax credit

If you’re a single filer whose modified adjusted gross income is $65,000 or less, or married with a combined adjusted gross income at or under $131,000, you may qualify for the federal Lifetime Learning Tax Credit (LLC). You can subtract up to 20 percent of your tuition and other education expenses up to $10,000 from your tax bill, to a max of $2,000 annually. There’s no limit on the number of years you can claim the credit, notes the IRS.

If you are ready to make your grad school dream a reality, you should work one-on-one with a trained financial aid advisor who can answer all of your questions. Whichever school you choose, there are financial aid experts happy to help you explore all the scholarships, federal aid, grants, and loans that may be available to you. You might be surprised to learn that you qualify for more than you think.