I recently decided to go back to school for a degree in software
engineering. My short terms goal after school is to apply for a job
with one of the top software application companies. My long term goal
is to eventually start my own business specializing in creating custom
apps for businesses and/or individuals. I am in debt from previous
undergraduate loans and credit cards also. I am familiar with Fastweb
and have started researching on graduate grants and loans for women in
technology fields. I've read some of your articles but would like more
information when it comes to graduate education. Will my credit
history determine if I get a grant for school? Does FAFSA use credit
score or debt to determine how much you get for school? What is the
best way to get the maximum money for grad school?
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Financial aid for graduate school differs from financial aid for
Financial aid from the college or university tends to be
decentralized, with each graduate department awarding its own
financial aid funds. This is in contrast with undergraduate financial aid,
which is much more likely to be centralized in a single financial aid
office for the entire institution.
Graduate students, especially those in science and mathematics, are
often funded through research contracts procured by individual faculty
members. These graduate students work for the faculty member as a
research assistant (RA). The research assistantship usually provides a
tuition waiver and a small living expense stipend. More than half also
include health insurance. Accordingly, the graduate student's fortunes
are more closely tied with those of the faculty member and the
Graduate students may also be funded by teaching assistantships (TA),
where the graduate student performs teaching duties, such as running a
recitation or tutorial session for a large undergraduate class,
grading assignments and tests, holding office hours and teaching one
or more undergraduate classes. Teaching assistantships tend to be
less generous than research assistantships. A teaching assistantship
is less likely to offer a living stipend or health insurance, and may
provide only a partial tuition waiver.
In addition to graduate fellowships from the graduate department, some
graduate students win private fellowships from foundations and
corporations. Fastweb not only lists scholarships for undergraduate
school, but also fellowships and other forms of financial aid for
graduate school. The tips from Secrets to Winning a
also apply to graduate fellowships.
There are no federal need-based grants for graduate school like the
Pell Grant for undergraduate students. Individual federal agencies may
offer their own fellowship programs, such as the
National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship
and the US Department of Education's
Jacob K. Javits Fellowship
in the arts, humanities and social sciences. These tend to be focused
more on academic merit than financial need. After all, most graduate students
demonstrate financial need, since they no longer are considered
dependent on their parents for financial support (except perhaps for
students in law school or medical school).
Graduate students who are working may be supported by their employers
through employer tuition assistance programs. Typically the employer will
require a minimum of a B average for continued support and the student
must agree to work for the employer at least one year after graduation
for each year of support.
There are also education tax benefits, such as the
Lifetime Learning Tax Credit
which can provide some money through the federal income tax return
based on amounts paid for tuition and fees. The Lifetime Learning tax
credit provides a non-refundable tax credit based on 20% of the first
$10,000 in qualified higher education expenses, up to a maximum of $2,000.
Finally, there are student loans, the most common form of financial
aid for graduate school. Graduate students are eligible for up to
$20,500 per year in unsubsidized Stafford loans ($40,500 for certain
medical school programs). There is an aggregate limit of $138,500
($224,000 for medical school students), including undergraduate
Stafford loans. After a graduate student has exhausted his or her
Stafford loan eligibility, the graduate student may borrow from the
Grad PLUS loan program. The Grad PLUS loan has an annual limit of up
to the full cost of attendance minus other aid received, with no
aggregate limit. There are also private student loans, such as bar
study loans for law school graduates and residency/relocation loans
for medical school graduates.
Most federal student aid programs do not depend on the student's
credit history, nor the amount of prior debt. For example, the
Stafford loan program does not depend on the borrower's credit history
in any way. To be eligible for the Grad PLUS loan program, however,
the borrower must not have an adverse credit history. An adverse
credit history does not depend on credit scores. Instead, the borrower
cannot have a current delinquency of 90 or more days on any debt. The
borrower also cannot have had a bankruptcy discharge, foreclosure,
repossession, tax lien, wage garnishment, default determination, a
charged-off account or an account in collection within the last five
Private student loans depend on the credit scores and credit history
of the borrower and cosigner. (More than 90% of private student loans
require a cosigner, as most students have thin, non-existence or
negative credit histories.) Eligibility for a private student loans and the
interest rate are based on the higher of the two credit scores. In
addition, most private student loans use secondary criteria that are
stricter than the Grad PLUS loan's adverse credit history
criterion. Borrowers who do not qualify for a Grad PLUS loan are
unlikely to qualify for a private student loans.
Graduate students who are married often trade off, with one spouse
working while the other goes to graduate school.
Based on the 2007-08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS),
about two fifths (41%) of graduate and professional students receive
some form of grant aid, including graduate fellowships from the school
or private sources, assistantships or employer tuition
assistance. Graduate fellowships from the school are received by 12.3%
of graduate and professional students, assistantships by 15.2%,
employer tuition assistance by 20.9% and private fellowships by 3.7%.