Ways to pay for graduate school

By Jacqueline GaNun 

Before last year, I never thought I would go to graduate school. After all, the average tuition and fees for a master’s in journalism is nearly $28,000 per year for out-of-state students, according to College Tuition Compare.

For a profession where the median salary was around $45,800 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduate school didn’t seem like a worthwhile investment. My feelings changed when I realized I could go without taking on a mountain of debt.

Graduate students can pay for school with assistantships, scholarships, student worker jobs and loans, said Glen Nowak, associate dean of research and graduate studies at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Graduate assistantships provide a tuition waiver and stipend to Ph.D. and master’s students in exchange for a part-time commitment to teach, conduct research or do other work, he explained.

Part of Nowak’s job is determining how many assistantships the college can offer. Ph.D. programs receive more funding, Nowak said, and offers tend to be selective. Still, there are ways master’s candidates can stand out, he said.

“We try to match up students with specific programs that need an assistant,” Nowak said. “There is demand for Grady master’s students who have really good writing skills. They’ve got some experience, thanks to internships or maybe a part-time job, where they have written content, they’ve written stories.”

Students can also apply for scholarships and fellowships, but Nowak said students should understand that requirements to qualify can often be very narrow. Some require students come from a specific county or undergraduate college, for example, while others are open to any student. If Nowak notices applicants meet a scholarship’s requirements, he will encourage them to apply.

Nowak said loans are the most common way many students pay for school. On-campus jobs, such as in the dining halls, are usually flexible with scheduling and don’t require a long commute.

“It’s probably not in line with what most people want to do for a career that’s going to grad school,” Nowak said. “But … that is a source of funding.”

After my graduation this May, I’ll be returning to UGA with a graduate assistantship that will pay me to work for my journalism program. I’ll receive a monthly stipend while school is in session. Because of the assistantship, I am lucky that I won’t have student loans to pay off, and I’m also applying to scholarships to further offset living expenses.

For the last three years, I’ve been tracking my income and expenses using a spreadsheet linked to Google Forms I found on TikTok. It organizes my spending into charts, which makes it easy to see where I’m doing well and where I need to do better. I plan to use the same system in graduate school.

My assistantship is making it possible for me to attend graduate school. If you’re applying for a master’s or Ph.D. program, don’t fear — there are resources out there.


Jacqueline GaNun is a journalism student at the University of Georgia

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