How to Get a Graduate School Loan as an International Student in the U.S.
Obtaining a graduate degree in the United States will open up enormous career opportunities, but is also very expensive. Covering the cost of graduate school is a particular challenge for international students, who have more difficulty in obtaining student loans than American citizens.
However, there are American lenders that aim their services specifically at immigrants. This article explores the cost of graduate school, lists some options for funding your degree, and provides cost-saving tips for getting through school.
How Much Does Graduate School Cost in the U.S.?
The cost of obtaining a graduate degree in the United States varies greatly based on the school, location, and the length of the program. Public schools are generally substantially cheaper than private nonprofit universities, and the cost of tuition largely depends on whether the student is paying in-state or out-of-state tuition. Also, students must factor in the cost of living along with tuition, which greatly increases the overall cost of education.
FinAid.org puts the average cost of obtaining a Master’s degree at between $30,000 and $120,000. While the average MBA costs about $40,000, an MBA program at a top private university can cost as much as $120,000.
Out-of-state tuition can easily be twice as much as in-state tuition. For instance, at the University of Michigan, engineering graduate students paying in-state tuition paid $10,957, while out-of-state students paid $20,616. Since international students will likely be paying out-of-state tuition, they can expect to fall on the upper end of the cost spectrum.
How to Pay for Graduate School
Funding your education is rarely simple or straightforward. Instead, students usually patch together various different sources of funding. See the following list for some ideas on how to pay for graduate school.
Pay for Tuition Outright
The simplest way that you can cover tuition is by paying cash upfront. For individuals with substantial funds available, or with some kind of financial support from friends or family, simply covering tuition is the best choice.
Utilize University Aid
Universities offer their own financial aid programs. Some of these programs are merit-based scholarships that you must apply for, while others are grants for students from low-income families. Inquire with the financial aid office about the programs your school offers, and see which you may be eligible for.
Many civic institutions, nonprofits, and companies offer scholarships. These are typically tied to academic performance, sports, the arts, or other extracurricular activities. Also, some scholarships are awarded through essay contests or arts-projects. Find any scholarships with criteria for eligibility that matches your own experience and skill, or scholarships that you can win with an essay.
Scholarships may only cover a small portion of your tuition, but each piece of funding for your education is valuable.
Take Out a Personal Loan
If you don’t have access to grants, scholarships, or financial aid, the best bet is a personal loan. Personal loans can be obtained easily, and you can pay back the loan amount after you graduate when your earnings increase.
The Borrowing Problem Facing International Students in the U.S.
International students in America do not have the same access to credit and loans as American citizens, for numerous reasons.
First, most student loans are granted by the U.S. government, therefore excluding noncitizens. Institutions that will lend to international students often have eligibility requirements that immigrants cannot meet. Lenders who focus on credit history discriminate against immigrants, who generally lack such a history in the U.S.
Furthermore, international students are in the country on visa status, which can change at any time. Student loans cannot be discharged even in bankruptcy, which means lenders can count on recouping their loan, even if it is much later. However, international students may leave the country at any time, in which case the lender will be unable to recover the loan.
These problems are compounded by the fact that international students, because they pay out-of-state tuition, often must take out particularly large student loans. Lenders are often simply unwilling to disburse such amounts to borrowers without a credit history whose stay in the U.S. will be temporary.
Graduate School Loans with Stilt
While the market for personal loans is shallow for international students, there are lenders targeting this niche and providing loans for underserved communities. Stilt is one such lender, with eligibility criteria and a business model aimed at including immigrants and noncitizens.
How to Take a Graduate Loan with Stilt
Getting a graduate school loan from Stilt involves three simple steps which can be completed end-to-end in a day or two.
Start the process by completing a loan application. In this application, you will provide financial information, along with your employment and educational history. Stilt will also complete a soft credit-pull. If your application meets the eligibility requirements, then Stilt will approve your application within 24 hours.
You will be offered a range of loan amounts that you qualify for, along with a selection of repayment schedules, and an interest rate. Upon choosing an amount and repayment schedule, you only have to sign a promissory note agreeing to the terms of the loan and you will receive the funds.
5 Tips for Saving Money in Grad School
Even if you have the funds for graduate school in place, you should still cut costs and boost your available funds however possible. The following list provides some examples of how you can accomplish this.
Use Student Discounts
One of the benefits that come with attending graduate school is that many businesses offer discounts for students currently enrolled at a university. Everything from movie tickets to books to food may be discounted for students. Keep an eye out for businesses which offer student discounts, and, if such a discount is not advertised, inquire anyway before you purchase!
Buy Your Books Used
One of the simplest and most straightforward ways that you can save money in university is by purchasing used books instead of new ones. New books for a full semester of classes can run $500-$1000. You can easily get a 50% discount on the retail price of new books by choosing used ones. Also, consider renting your textbooks, which can generate even more savings.
Work While in School
Having a part-time job while you are in school, or working during the summers, can lend substantial funds to your educational budget. Grad students, in particular, should have ample opportunity, whether it is working as a research assistant at the school, tutoring, or working paid internships.
Create Budget and Stick to It
You should closely monitor your spending and try to find areas that you can trim expenses. This can mean avoiding going out for dinner, buying groceries in bulk, or avoiding recreational expenses like going to the movies.
Make the Most of Scholarships
Scholarships ultimately amount to free money, so you should vigorously pursue any scholarship opportunity that you may qualify for. Find scholarships that you can win simply by writing an essay, or that ask for qualifications or skills in your graduate field. Some students even cobble together enough funds to cover their entire tuition from a variety of smaller scholarships.
Graduate school is prohibitively expensive for most students who do not have access to student loans or cannot win scholarships and grants. Too often, this group has included most international students. However, immigrants and noncitizens now have the option of covering their educational expenses with a student loan from an inclusive lender like Stilt.