Whether you’re on the fence about doing graduate studies or if you’ve decided and just doing your research and due diligence, you might be wondering about the average grad school cost.
It’s a fair thing to be thinking about, especially since going to grad school is a major life decision that can thoroughly affect your present and future.
There’s no doubt that graduate school can help you change your life. As long as you do well, your chances of getting further in your chosen career can improve significantly. Grad school can also help you get your foot in the door in whatever industry or field of interest you’d like to explore. However, while the idea of a better career might be enticing, there are quite a few realities that hinder many from going to grad school.
First, grad school is a major commitment. It requires a lot of time and work to attend classes, do fieldwork, and conduct research. So, chances are, if you’re going to grad school you’ll probably have to shuffle your life around to accommodate your new schedule. Doing so can make it difficult to get a work-life balance that will keep you in good spirits — especially if you have to work while you do your studies.
Second, grad school can be expensive. So much so that many who go into graduate studies actually end up in debt, since some graduate studies can cost over $100,000 for a two-year program. Doctorates and professional programs like medical school or law school can cost even more.
But how expensive is grad school, really?
How Much Does Grad School Cost on Average?
The cost of grad schools can vary depending on a few factors. It appears as though the average estimate for yearly tuition in public schools is $30,000/year. Private schools are more expensive, at an estimated average of $40,000/year.
Unfortunately, it can get even more expensive for students going into medical school, dental school, law school, and business school. And these are just the costs for tuition — the sad truth is, there are many other costs involved.
But before we get into those, you should know that there are many master’s degree programs and even doctorate programs that are quite affordable and within reach.
For example, there are more than 13,500 master’s degree programs with tuition fees ranging from $0 to $5,000 a year. There are also almost 1,000 programs that cost between $5,000 to $10,000 a year. Finding a program within your budget, seeking additional funding, and managing the other expenses below can help you make your dreams of graduate studies come true.
Other School Fees and Expenses
Aside from the tuition fees, there are also other costs involved that will have to come out of your pocket. For example, you’ll most likely have to pay for books and other study materials that aren’t included in the tuition cost. At times, these study materials can cost somewhere in the thousands, especially when specific, irreplaceable textbooks are involved.
A lot of the time, grad school students end up getting into a school that may be many miles away. If you find that this is most likely the case for you (which does tend to happen if you’re looking to get into a specific program only available in certain schools), there are a few things you might have to consider:
Transport costs – If you’re fortunate enough that you don’t have to move so you can do your graduate studies, you may have to think about transport costs instead. Sadly, even if you’re just doing your studies part-time, transport costs will still eventually add up. The gas money or cost of public transport will have to be factored into how much you’ll need to be saving up for or taking out on a loan.
Moving costs – If you find yourself having to move cities or states to study at your particular school, you’ll likely have to factor moving costs into your total costs. Unless you have a chance for student housing on campus, chances are you’ll need to rent an apartment or find a roommate. You might have to think about the moving costs, the security deposit, and furniture costs if you need to buy anything to get settled.
Living Expenses – Of course, you’ll also have to worry about your day-to-day expenses. That means food and utilities at the very least. Doesn’t seem like such a big problem, but when factored into the tuition costs and the fact that your income might take a hit while you study, it might still lead to some stress.
Other Opportunity Costs
Opportunity cost doesn’t necessarily factor into the costs of grad school as much if you still plan to work full-time while you do part-time studies.
However, if you intend to focus on your studies and decide to give up working in the meantime, that means you might be giving up a lot of resources. You may lose out on part or all of your income as well as any benefits that you have along with your job. You may also lose out on retirement fund contributions. And, of course, there’s also going to be the time you end up taking away from your career and being in the job market.
Unless you can manage to balance your studies with all of your other pursuits, you may also need to take time off of your hobbies. This might be more the case if you’re working full-time and also trying to complete your studies.
And, if you go the route of the student loan, you may end up in a large amount of debt over time.
Student Loan Costs vs Potential Earnings
Finally, another thing you may want to think about is how much debt you may accrue versus how much potential earnings you’d be missing out on. Unless you’re fully decided on going to grad school, this is a good point to weigh — how much would you have earned during the time you’re studying? Is it worth not going to grad school to keep those earnings instead, rather than accruing debt as you study?
Conversely, you should also think about the return on investment. For many, going to grad school is an investment not only in themselves but also in their future careers. Those who have graduated with a master’s or doctoral degree often see a bump in their future earnings.
On average, people end up with 25% more earnings than they would if they hadn’t gone to grad school. Some fields can see as little as a 10-15% increase, while others can earn as much as 60-150% more. With such a bump in earnings, it may be less troublesome to pay back loans in the long run, especially if you manage to get into your career of choice.
If the sticker shock doesn’t immediately dissuade you from going for graduate studies, you might be relieved to know that there are many ways for you to lower the yearly costs of graduate studies.
Can You Lower the Cost of Grad School?
Some people who go into grad school manage to lower their costs overall by doing a few different tactics. Thankfully, some schools will help their students budget more easily by letting them pay as they go. Some of the other methods are below.
Scholarships and Grants
One of the most common — and best — ways that people lower the costs for their education is by getting a scholarship or a grant. Scholarships and grants are some of the best ways to fund an education partially or fully, but they do require students to achieve certain requirements. Unlike loans, neither of these options need to be paid back at all.
Many scholarships and grants are offered by the schools themselves. However, they can also come from many different sources such as private trusts, individuals, nonprofit organizations, and other charitable organizations. Sometimes, even businesses and corporations may offer them.
There are a few scams circulating online, however, so it’s best to be careful when you’re looking for a scholarship.
Fellowships are usually reserved for people studying for their doctorates, but a lot of them are also open to master’s degree students. A fellowship is often merit-based, especially since they are designed to allow you to study full-time and participate in research as well without you having to worry about your finances. Fellowships are offered either by the schools themselves or by research or professional organizations.
If you want to be eligible for the different sources of funding listed, you’ll have to first complete the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA establishes your financial aid eligibility. It also helps the schools with deciding whether they want to award you a grant or scholarship.
On-Campus School Costs vs Online School Costs
Another thing you can consider is whether you want to study on campus or do online classes.
This may not always be possible, since some programs may require your physical presence during studies.
However, if online school is possible, it may help you cut a lot of your costs. Online school can help you avoid:
Moving and any related costs, as well as housing and on-campus costs
Transportation costs and parking fees
Sometimes, you may be able to avoid out-of-state tuition costs
Personal expenses associated with your studies
Often, online studies can also mean a lower cost to pay per credit.
Is the Return on Investment Worth Going to Grad School?
Most of the time, grad school is an investment. You may be going into debt, but in the end, once you’ve finished your graduate studies you’ll also be earning more. Doing the computations for your specific case can help you figure out whether the ROI is worth going through the effort of grad school.