Studying Master Degree Online? Changes in Your Financial Aid Landscape

Learn more about the financial aid landscape for graduate school and the fund opportunities for master degree online students.

Graduate school is costly – sometimes as costly as undergraduate degree programs.  You will find many things have changed from your undergraduate program and this includes your financial aid landscape.  Here is an overview of the financial aid options you can get for your master degree online – and the changes to expect.

During your undergraduate study, it is not easy to obtain an ‘independent’ status on your financial aid.  If you succeed, your parents’ earning won’t be counted toward your qualification for federal aid – which can be beneficial to students.  However, when you are a graduate student, you are often deemed an independent for financial aid and this could mean more access to federal aid.

With that said, some federal aid is only offered to undergraduate students. The ideal form of financial aid, the Pell Grant, is the most popular example of this.  Another one is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, though this is only given to undergraduates.

You can still try unsubsidized or subsidized Stafford Loans.  Rather than Parent PLUS loans that are often available to parents of undergrad students, you may obtain a graduate PLUS loan, which has similar terms.  Students with a PLUS loan get automatic deferment while earning their degree.

The Federal Perkins loans allows master degree online students to borrow at a lower interest rate, often 5%, but only on a need basis.  The limit for this loan is up to $4,000 for undergraduates and $6,000 for graduate students.  Other than federal loans, many students get private loans to fill the gaps between school-based aid and federal aid and the entire tuition cost.

Private loans are usually harder to get now than in the past years, for both graduate and undergraduate students.  Master’s degree students may borrow without their parents’ credit history.  This may hurt or help you, depending on your financial situation.

On the other hand, federal work-study aid is offered on a need basis, and graduate students can apply.  Your school has significant scope in knowing how much work-study aid every student can earn.  You will likely compete with the undergrads at your school, but assessment allowances and rates are granted to dependent and independent students – hence, you may or may not have a good chance.

Some graduate students working full time attend an online master degree program.  In this case, they could get tuition assistance from their employer.  It is also likely to get this form of tuition assistance during undergraduate study but master’s degree students are older and more likely to have work that can provide tuition assistance than incoming undergrads.

Many schools give research fellowships and teaching assistantships to graduate students, and this can be a big benefit to the student.  A full tuition award including a stipend for room is not uncommon, though the competition for this can be tough at some departments  and schools.  This form of award is usually merit-based and not needs-based.

The financial aid landscape is somewhat different for graduate students; nevertheless, those differences may work in your favor.  Those who got assistantships or merit-based fellowships could see a good portion of their tuition fee paid for.  But not every master degree online student is that lucky, though one can get a mix of private loans and federal aid, and the fact that your standing is now independent could work in your favor.