Opting to return to graduate school is a significant investment of time and money. In some cases, the combined cost of college and graduate school is leaving students with a debt burden that’s over six figures. There are ways that you can earn your master degree in healthcare administration without mortgaging your future. With careful planning and hard work, you can graduate with little to no debt.
As you weigh your graduate school options, consider these money-saving strategies.
Rent, Don’t Buy
As you might remember from college, the cost of textbooks can be shocking. In some programs, it’s not unusual for a text to cost upwards of $200. However, before you run up your credit card getting the books you need, look into other options. Used books are less expensive, and you can often find your required text online at sites like Amazon for a lower price. These days, renting is an affordable option. Several textbook rental companies offer students the opportunity to lease a book for the semester for a small fraction of the cover price; instead of spending $150 for a management text, for example, you’ll pay $30 to use it for the semester and then return it. If you decide you want to keep the text for reference, you can purchase it for a discounted price. Renting your books, though, can save you hundreds, if not thousands, while you earn your degree.
Some graduate programs offer students the opportunity to teach undergraduate classes or assist with research in exchange for tuition, a stipend, or both. For example, you might teach an introductory-level class in management a few days a week or work with a professor as a tutor or assistant. The drawback to working as a TA is that it sometimes makes it difficult to hold a full-time job, since you may have to teach or do research during working hours, but you might be able to work out a schedule that allows you to pay for your graduate degree while you work.
If your company offers a tuition reimbursement program, take advantage of it. Your employer might cover all or part of your graduate degree. Generally there are stipulations regarding the type of courses you can take, how long you have to work for the company and a minimum grade point average, but if you qualify, you can save money. Keep in mind, though, that your graduate degree will have to be related to the job you’re doing or your industry; those working in healthcare administration jobs, for example, probably won’t be able to get their employers to foot the bill for a degree in creative writing. You may also have to pay taxes on the money your employer spends for your education.
Find a Niche
There’s no denying that a general degree, such as an MBA or a health care management degree, will help your career. However, if you are investing in a graduate program, consider whether a niche or specialized program will be more beneficial in the long run, thereby increasing your earning power and the cost to earnings ratio of your degree. For example, specializing in health care communication will put you in demand by employers and allow you to earn more, making your degree a good investment. Not only will going the specialized route open up more opportunities, but you might be able to receive more funding. Fewer people are competing for the grants and scholarships in niche programs, meaning you have a better show at that free money for your education.
Once you’ve been accepted to a graduate program, finding a way to pay for it is often stressful. However, if you look for ways to save money and pay for your classes without dipping into your personal accounts or taking out loans, you’ll graduate with both a sense of accomplishment and financial freedom.
About the Author:
Julie Ann Zinsser recently received a degree in health care management, and thanks to scholarships and tuition reimbursement, she only spent a few thousand dollars for her degree.