People typically do not like to discuss finances. It's a stressful subject given 31 percent of the U.S. population are severely struggling from a financial standpoint. However, the first step in making better financial choices is to talk about the options you have. If you have completed or are considering a graduate degree in teaching, this is your chance to make a solid plan for how you are going to pay for it.
There are primarily three ways you can pay for a teaching graduate degree. You can either pay with a large sum of money that is specifically set aside for your education (i.e. savings, scholarships, grants, etc.); pay-as-you-go with funds from your monthly income; or get student loans and address them later. If you have concerns about paying for your teaching graduate degree, we have put together some information that we think will be very useful.
The following categories represent various methods for securing the financial resources necessary to finish your teaching graduate degree. Of course, it is always best if you have the money up-front, but we realize life is not perfect and it requires us to sometimes get creative.
Secure tuition funds before you start school
We don't all have a trust fund, but that doesn't mean we can't take matters into our own hands. Take control of your destiny and secure tuition resources before you start school.
Save money. This is easier said, than done, right? Saving money is very difficult and requires a lot of discipline. When we don't have savings set aside for our education, we are often stuck in a difficult situation. If you further your education, you will get a better job and make more money, but will be left with school debt. On the other hand, if you don't obtain your teaching graduate degree, you won't be competitive for higher public school teacher salaries, which would have long-term effects on your family income. The best thing to do is start saving as much as you can as soon as you decide to get your teaching graduate degree. There are many reasonably priced courses online that offer great advice on how to save money, such as this Udemy budgeting course.
Get scholarships. Scholarships are literally free money that you are not required to pay back. This is why it's so important to send out as many scholarship applications you can find. If you are interested in researching scholarships, the best place to start is by searching your university's website to see what they offer. You can also check with local entities to see which ones support students pursuing a master's in the field of education. Masters In Education.net is also a great resource for finding scholarships that may apply to you.
Apply for grants. Anytime you plan to attend a college or university, it's important to apply for Federal Student Aid. Like scholarships, federal grants are not student loans and you are not required to pay them back. College Scholarships.org provides a comprehensive overview of the many types of federal grants you can receive as a student. There are specific grants based on your need and your merit, and grants that cater to women, people with disabilities, fostered youth, and other under-represented groups.
Pay your tuition as you go
If you must pay for your tuition as you are attending your teaching graduate program, here are some ways you can make extra money.
Work while you are a student. This is very common for credentialed teachers, as obtaining a Master's in Education often bumps you up to a higher payscale. However, if you are not yet credentialed, many schools offer the opportunity for an emergency credential or a substitute permit, especially if you are on track for obtaining your graduate degree and credential. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing provides a lot of detail on how to do this.
Teach summer school. If you are a credentialed teacher and already have a full-time teaching job, teaching summer school is a great way to get some extra cash. Yes, you are missing out on some fun and much-needed relaxation, but as long as you go into it with an end-goal in sight, we trust you will make it through.
Take on a leadership role or coach a sport. Another fairly easy way teachers can make extra money is to take on a leadership role, such as a department head, or coach a sport. These roles provide an extra stipend and will give you a good chunk of change that an go toward tuition or books and fees.
Tutor on the side. There is no other person more equipped to tutor than someone who is already in the teaching profession or is on track for becoming a teacher! Similar to summer school, you are giving up a lot of freedom by taking on tutoring gigs, but we promise the payoff of not drowning in student loan debt will be well worth it. Interested in becoming a Noodle tutor? Check us out and submit your application to become a Noodle Pro.
Pay on student loans after graduation
If you were left with no choice but to take on student loans, there is hope for you yet.
Tax credits. Teachers are eligible for a lot of tax breaks. Educators are notorious for covering classroom expenses when school budgets are tight, and there are a lot of expenses teachers are able to deduct. However, the main tax break for teachers is the "educator expense deduction." Check out TurboTax's article on teacher deductions for more insight. Once you have processed your deductions, put that money toward your student loans.
Federal loan forgiveness. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) offers a Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. If your loan types meet the criteria, you may be eligible for forgiveness of up to $17,500 if you teach full-time for five consecutive years and in a low-income school or educational service agency, and meet other qualifications. DOE also offers other loan forgiveness programs for which teachers are also eligible, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers, and State-Sponsored Student Loan Forgiveness Programs.
Leverage home-buying savings. Do you have savings set aside for buying your first home? You might be able to redirect those funds toward your student loans. There are many programs available to teachers who are interested in purchasing, refinancing, or selling their home. For example, the California Housing Finance Agency offers an Extra Credit Teacher Home Purchase Program that assists with down payments and closing costs. Supreme Lending, of Dallas, Texas, has an Educator Mortgage Program that covers closing costs, offers a fast loan program, and even donates to your school.
There is no doubt financial stress is overwhelming, and paying for school can only make things worse as life takes off and you have other priorities to consider. If you are stuck in a situation that seems insurmountable, don't give up. Own the fact that you made certain choices in life. Keep your head up and looking forward, and work toward making it better. It's never too late to create a financial plan for yourself and your family.