Grad Programs That Pay for Themselves

  • Everyone is Going Back to School

    It’s difficult to look at the cost of tuition at universities around the country today without getting a heart attack. Many public colleges have raised the cost of attendance by as much as 30%, and several private schools have broken the $50,000 annual price tag. After four years paying that, chances are you won’t want to spend tens of thousands more on graduate school anytime soon. Yet in the past year, more Americans have decided to return to graduate school, largely due to the economic downturn. “One of the biggest trends I see is that a lot of individuals are going back to graduate school because they’ve been laid off,” said Manuel Fabriquer, a college planning consultant based in California. “These applicants are in between getting a job and finding a job, and doing a masters on the side. Most have a little money saved somewhere, and a spouse who is still working.” In fact, graduate schools around the country including Duke, MIT and Dartmouth have seen the number of applicants increase by  as much as a third. Likewise, the number of Americans who decided to take admissions tests for graduate school jumped by 13% last year, and the number who took the Law School Admissions Test increased by 20% for the same period. Photo Credit: velkr0
    Higher Education for A Lower Price
  • Higher Education for A Lower Price

    For those who are debating whether to apply to graduate school, but are wary of the price, there are several fields of study that typically offer generous financial compensation to students, either in the form of fellowships and stipends, or less often, by waiving tuition altogether. “Generally, Ph.D. programs are the most likely to provide a full financial package, while master’s research programs and professional degree programs are less likely to do so,” said Sarah Hale, associate dean for Student Services at Cornell’s graduate school. “This is because Ph.D. programs are a longer commitment and usually universities aren’t comfortable asking students to take on that much debt.” Besides this, Hale notes that Ph.D. students are also more likely to pursue a career in academia, rather than working in the private sector, which means “they will have more trouble paying back loans.” As for master’s programs, there are several that do offer big financial incentives to all incoming students, but according to Catharine Stimpson, the former dean of New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the students who get the most money back in these programs either pursue work as teaching assistants or have their employers pay for the program. “The master’s is a degree that has so many motives behind it and often people take a master’s degree as a self investment,” Stimpson said. “So I think it’s fair to say that the typical university is investing in the future of American research on the doctoral level.” Photo Credit: Hobbes vs Boyle
    He Funded Me... with Science!
  • He Funded Me... with Science!

    Regardless of which degree you are pursuing, the general rule of thumb right now is that the sciences offer the best financial incentives to incoming students. “Computer science and STEM fields [i.e. science, technology, engineering and mathematics] are most likely to offer generous fellowships and research assistantships,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and, two sites that research education funding. “I have not found liberal arts to be as generous.” Part of the reason for this is that these fields are very much in demand and, according to Stimpson, their research is more likely to “bring in government money.” With all of that in mind, we have put together a list of a few great graduate programs from around the country that offer free or heavily discounted tuition. Each of these are, not surprisingly, very competitive, but they should at least offer some hope that it is indeed possible to get a good education in this country without going bankrupt. Photo Credit: joguldi
    Harvard University Doctor of Education Leadership
  • Harvard University Doctor of Education Leadership

    Last year, Harvard made headlines when they announced their first new degree in more than 70 years, the Doctor of Education Leadership, which combines courses in education, business and public policy to help produce students who are capable of innovating the country’s education system. But if the program weren’t already attractive enough, Harvard decided to make it completely free. All students have their tuition waived for the three years they are enrolled. On top of that, students receive a stipend for the first two years and a paid residency in the third year. The program officially began last month and will enroll 25 students a year. Photo Credit: timsackton
    Cornell Ph.D. in English Language and Literature
  • Cornell Ph.D. in English Language and Literature

    Every student admitted to Cornell’s doctorate program in English Language and Literature is guaranteed funding. For the first two years of the program, students receive a fellowship covering the full cost of tuition (about $29,500 a year) and for the remaining three years of the program, they are guaranteed teaching assistantships that also cover the full cost of tuition. As part of this funding guarantee, students receive a stipend of $21,800 during the school year and $4,600 during the summer months, plus complimentary student health insurance. The program currently enrolls 14 students a year. Photo Credit:
    University of California, Irvine School of Law
  • University of California, Irvine School of Law

    The University of California, Irvine launched its law school program last year and in order to attract the best students, they decided to waive the entire cost of tuition for all three years (about $40,000 for in state students and $50,000 for out of state). For their second class of law school students starting school this year, Irvine waived half of their tuition, and according to Rex Bossert, the assistant dean for communications at Irvine, the school plans to offer “generous” tuition coverage next year as well. At the moment, the only wild card is that this tuition funding is based on private donations, so the school is waiting to see how much it can offer in the years to come. Photo Credit: slasher-fun
    University of Florida MFA Program
  • University of Florida MFA Program

    Writers may have to endure some money worries later in life, but not during their time at the University of Florida. This university waives the cost of tuition for all three years that students are enrolled in their master’s in fine arts program. On top of that, students also receive a fellowship and teaching assistantship package that’s worth more than $13,000. In fact, this isn’t the only university to help out graduate students pursuing a degree in writing. Louisiana State University also pays for the entire cost of tuition, as does the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Photo Credit: dotbenjamin
    Clark University
  • Clark University

    While it can be difficult to find a tuition-free master’s program, at least one university has come up with an innovative deal. Any student who goes to Clark University in Massachusetts for undergraduate studies can pursue a fifth-year master’s program free of charge, regardless of which field you choose to pursue. Photo Credit:
    Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
  • Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine

    Back in 2008, this medical school at Case Western Reserve University announced that it would pay the full $43,500 tuition for its Ph.D. students in order to stop them from accruing too much debt. The program continues to pay the tuition for all four years they are enrolled and even covers the fifth year when medical students do research. Photo Credit:
    Colleges That Are Worth the Cost
  • Colleges That Are Worth the Cost

    While universities can be wallet-bustingly expensive, many prove to be worth the investment over time. Check out this roundup of 20 colleges that really are worth the cost. Photo Credit: Brave Sir Robin
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