How can I afford graduate school?

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the cost of graduate school. Rightly so… there’s no way to sugar coat the fact that grad school is expensive, especially at a private institution. While the Office of Graduate Admissions can’t reduce the tuition, we can certainly point you in the direction of resources that make it more affordable on the front and back ends.

For those of you in the early phase of your graduate school search, I encourage you to peruse our list of external scholarships for graduate applicants/students.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it is a comprehensive guide to external scholarships, grants and fellowships specifically for those interested in schools/careers in international affairs.

These external scholarships are of course in addition to Josef Korbel School scholarships which range from $10,000 to full tuition.

The thought of taking out $50,000 or more in loans to cover graduate school tuition is daunting to put it lightly. The thought of sleeping in your parent’s basement, inability to cover bills, exchanging your car for a bike and not indulging at your favorite restaurant every few weeks gives rise to sleepless, anxiety filled evenings when considering life after the six-month loan grace period.

There are two, fairly new federal programs that are particularly helpful to prospective and current graduate students interested in careers in international studies/affairs/relations: Income Based Repayment (IBR) and the Public Loan Forgiveness program.

Income Based Repayment
Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is a repayment plan for the major types of federal student loans that caps your required monthly payment at an amount intended to be affordable based on your income and family size.

To qualify for Income-Based Repayment, the following:

  • You must demonstrate partial financial hardship to qualify.
  • Payments are 15% of your discretionary income. (Discretionary income equals your Adjusted Gross Income minus 150% of the Federal Poverty Rate).
  • Payments are adjusted annually based on your Adjusted Gross Income and family size.
  • Payments can be as low  as zero.
  • If, after 25 years of payments, there is still a principal or interest balance on your loan, this remaining amount can be forgiven. For individuals who qualify for Public Service Loan. Forgiveness (see below), the forgiveness can occur after 10 years of payments.
  • Use this IBR Loan Calculator to determine if you qualify for the IBR plan.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness program
Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, you can qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on your federal student loans after you have made 120 payments while employed full-time by certain public service employers. The 120 required payments need to be made under the Direct Loan (DL) Program (meaning you may need to consolidate your loans into the DL Program upon graduation if your current loans are borrowed through the bank-based FFEL program).

To qualify, you must make payments under one of the following repayment programs:

  • Income Based Repayment.
  • Income Contingent Repayment.
  • Standard Repayment.

I hope this information is helpful as you consider your graduate school options. Be in touch if you have any questions,

Nicole Vilegi-Sandage
Associate Director of Graduate Admissions
Josef Korbel School of International Studies


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