Funding for Graduate Studies

Many financial aid resources for undergraduate degrees aren't available to fund graduate studies. Students pursuing advanced training often need to identify multiple funding sources and plan to combine gift aid and self-help aid to pay for graduate-level work. The following information will help you navigate opportunities and options, but since funding sources may change, we can’t guarantee the information will be current, accurate, or complete.


Before You Begin Your Studies

Vermont residents who demonstrate financial need and who have to take prerequisite courses before starting a graduate program may be able to use the Advancement Grant (Vermont’s non-degree grant) to help fund these courses. For details and application links, visit vsac.org/grants.


VSAC Advantage or federal student loans may be used to pay for prerequisite courses, depending on the number of credits taken per term. Check with the financial aid office to determine your best option, based on whether you’ve used the maximum in federal student loans.


Choosing Your Institution

When you applied to undergraduate colleges, you likely applied to multiple schools, and part of your decision to attend may have involved a price comparison. You should do the same for your graduate studies; explore multiple options and ask each institution about the financial support they can provide for graduate students.

  • Tuition assistance/tuition reimbursement programs are often offered through the workplace. With tuition assistance, your employer makes some or all of the tuition payment; with tuition reimbursement, you pay for a class/classes, and then upon successful completion, your employer pays you back some or all of the tuition. These benefits may have limits and may be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis; and some employers may require that the courses be directly related to your job. This may be considered taxable income. Reach out to your HR manager to learn more.
  • Tuition waivers allow you not to have to pay partial or full tuition. This aid is not considered taxable income. Waiver funds may be specially earmarked for certain populations. Call the school you’re interested in and ask the financial aid office for a tuition waiver if you’ve served in the military, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or other service organization.
  • Veterans’ education benefits include the GI Bill, support from Veterans Administration Vocational Rehabilitation programs for students with a qualified service disability, and the Troops to Teachers program, among others. Contact your VA office to speak with an education specialist to explore your benefits to the fullest. 
  • Fellowships are competitive awards for prospective or already-enrolled graduate students. Training fellowships usually cover tuition and living expenses for the first years of graduate work; dissertation fellowships support living expenses while a student conducts research and completes a dissertation.

Search for fellowships in the same way you'd search for scholarships, and include national organizations in your field, such as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; also search by identity, for example, through the American Association of University Women. Useful sites include GradSchoolHeaven.com and Profellow.com, though VSAC does not endorse general Internet content.

  • Scholarships are possible for graduate study. Contact the department you’re interested in to find out whether there are specific scholarships you may be eligible for in your program. Also contact the financial aid office to learn about scholarships offered by the institution. To locate graduate-level scholarships, use scholarship search engines such as fastweb.com and scholarships.com, though VSAC does not endorse general Internet content.
  • Grants are awards usually based on financial guidelines. Contact the institution and department to see whether there are grants for graduate students. If you’re pursuing an M.D. at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont or are enrolled in an accredited Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, you may be eligible for a Vermont state grant, depending on income and assets. Apply at vsac.org/grants.    
  • Study-abroad scholarships and fellowships are specifically meant for graduate training outside the United States. Fulbright and Rhodes are well-known examples, but there are others. Studyabroad.state.gov has extensive information on this type of award, though VSAC does not endorse general Internet content.

Track Your Estimated Financial Aid

Use our chart to compare financial aid offers from the programs you're interested in.

  • Residence hall director positions often provide reduced tuition, room and board, and/or a stipend in exchange for living in and managing an undergraduate residence hall, which may include mentoring undergraduate students and creating programming for them.
  • Assistantships are arrangements with the school to waive tuition in exchange for work. Full assistantships typically require about 20 hours per week and often are reserved for doctorate students, but partial assistantships requiring less time (but with smaller tuition waivers) may be available to master’s students. Teaching assistantships (TAs) require you to help teach an undergraduate course, while research assistantships (RAs) require you to help faculty conduct their research. Administrative assistantships may involve office work, advising other students, and general administrative duties.
  • Federal work–study involves part-time jobs that pay students directly so that salary can be used for education expenses. Students must demonstrate financial need. To determine eligibility, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at fafsa.gov. To locate a work–study position, contact the institution to ask about their work–study procedures.
  • Payment plans enable students to pay tuition in monthly installments rather than in one lump sum, and your school may allow students to set up payment plans. If you’re planning to remain employed while pursuing your studies, you may be able to incorporate tuition payments into your budget. Contact your institution for information.
  • Loans can be used to pay education expenses. These financial obligations need to be paid back over time, with interest. Options include the unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan, which begins accruing interest upon disbursement. The yearly limit is currently $20,500. Some health profession programs have increased borrowing limits. The lifetime (aggregate) limit for Federal Direct Loan borrowing (including loans borrowed for undergraduate work) is currently $138,000. Complete the FAFSA at fafsa.gov to access unsubsidized loans and follow additional instructions from your institution. 

If additional loans are needed beyond the $20,500 unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan yearly limit, the Federal Graduate PLUS Loan is available for students attending graduate schools. Borrowers must not have adverse credit history. Private student loans are another source of funding; these loans are credit-based, and some require cosigners. Review terms and conditions carefully, examine borrower protections, and look for fixed interest rates rather than variable interest rates. 

If federal loans are a part of the plan for paying for graduate studies, there may be options for the use of an income-driven repayment plan or even loan forgiveness through Public Service Loan Forgiveness. There are many factors to consider when determining loan repayment options and whether loan forgiveness may be an option. The best source of information is through the Federal Student Aid loan repayment section, where you can review payment options and learn about forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge options.

The VSAC Advantage Loan is an example of a private loan with a fixed interest rate. To access private student loans, you’ll need to complete loan applications and any additional paperwork required by the lender.

Track Your Estimated Financial Aid

Use our chart to compare financial aid offers from the programs you're interested in.