Career aspirations are driving more students to graduate school these days, and nearly two thirds believe an advanced degree is the new minimum standard level of education for any professional occupation.
According to “How America Pays for Graduate School,” the new national study from Sallie Mae and Ipsos, an independent global market research company, nearly all grad students (95 percent) said an advanced degree is necessary to enter, advance, accelerate or remain competitive in their chosen career.
Cost is less of a factor in the enrollment decision than it is at the undergraduate level, as more than eight in 10 surveyed based their enrollment decision on a school’s academic offerings, prestige, location, campus culture, or other personal consideration. However, eight in 10 grad students said they took more responsibility for paying-for-school decisions than they had for their undergraduate studies.
“It is human nature to plan for what you value, and that includes graduate school. Today’s students see graduate school as their ticket to a successful and prosperous career, and most have a plan to pay for their advanced degree before they enroll,” says Raymond J. Quinlan, chairman and CEO, Sallie Mae. “That planning pays off: the overwhelming majority are confident in the financial decisions they’ve made about how to pay for their graduate education.”
How much did they pay? Students spent an average of $24,812 on grad school in academic year 2016-17, and more than three-fourths of them (77 percent) paid for it, at least in part, by borrowing. Funds borrowed by students covered more than half of the cost (53 percent), while money students earned, including income and savings, paid for 24 percent. Grants, fellowships, scholarships, and tuition waivers accounted for 15 percent, while eight percent of grad school costs came from funds borrowed or contributed by parents or others.
The study also reveals that scholarships and grants are less available for grad students than for undergrads, accounting for just 15 percent of grad school costs. In response, Sallie Mae announced a new Bridging the Dream Scholarship for Graduate Students that will award four $20,000 scholarships in 2018. Students may apply by Feb. 14 by visiting SallieMae.com/BridgingtheDreamGrad.
To view the complete report, visit SallieMae.com/HowAmericaPaysGrad and join the conversation using #HowGradsPay.
As a graduate degree continues to become the educational norm, students will continue to plan and find creative ways to meet the cost.