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The average cost of an undergraduate education at an American four-year institution is a little under $100,000. Back in the day, when a movie was fifteen cents and you could survive off minimum wage, there was a joke among those paying their way through school. It went a little something like: When we have kids, the way the world’s going now, it’ll be a hundred grand just to get them through school.
Surprise, Mom and Dad! That’s just for a state school!
It is understandable that so many get sticker shock, but the ever-rising cost of a person’s right to education gets even more dastardly when you look forward.
Graduate school? Many ask, eyes wide. How could we pay for that when a Bachelors cost an arm and a credit score?
The cost of graduate school can be equal to or greater than undergrad, but there are a few magical aspects that can reduce costs down to zero, and even put cash back in your pocket.
Become a TA, or teacher’s assistant. Many Master’s programs offer applicants the opportunity to be a part of assistant programs at the University. For the price of being a department lackey, many schools will cover tuition, housing, and give you a free meal plan. Some will even slip you an infinitesimal paycheck to cover your Starbucks tab. When researching programs, be sure to check for this or options like it. Teaching intro or 100 level classes may seem frightening or demeaning, but it’s better than living out of your parent’s garage for the next five years.
Scholarships. Just like those that exist for undergrad, graduate programs and outside groups offer free money to those looking to better the world. If you have a decent GPA, participate in community service, or have the drive to write a few heart wrenching 500-word essays, then this is the route for you. Search graduate scholarships and you will come up with millions of results. Some are career specific, others are only offered through certain schools, but many are more open. Look through and find those that apply to you, even if it’s only for $400. There’s no limit on how many scholarships one person can have, and every cent counts. A great place to start is scholarships.com or collegeboard.org
Then there are grants. Similar to scholarships, they are free money given to winning applicants. The difference is that they are based on financial need rather than deeds or academic success. Basically, they are everything a financially struggling college student has been praying for. Because they are gifts, grants do not need to be repaid and, if given for a specific research aspect, are not dependent on the outcome of the research. The only way grants can be lost is if your financial status changes, in which case the grant may not be needed anyway.
If you’re already in the workforce and looking to further your interests, knock on your boss’ door and see if they will foot the bill. No kidding, many companies aren’t looking to hire new employees who already have the education, that would mean higher salaries. Instead, existing employees are often sent to graduate school on the company dime. This arrangement can come with conditions; with the company choosing your degree, your school, and possibly contracting you to work for a specific number of years, but hey! It’s free!
What all this boils down to is that the fear of an education’s cost is founded, but it should not be debilitating. Control your breathing and tap into the nearest search engine. Look around at all the programs near you, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Talk to professors and department heads, talk to your boss, and toss some pamphlets at your parents. The cost of an education is going up, but you have the ability to overcome that dollar-shaped obstacle.
Image Courtesy : Fordhamalumni