If you’re thinking about earning a master’s in education, you’re probably also starting to figure out how to pay for grad school. Knowing that the degree will deliver a good return on investment over time is all well and good, but it does not answer the question of how to pay for the degree now.
Here’s some good news on that front: According to the Education Data Initiative, a Master of Education is among the less-expensive graduate degrees, with an average cost of about $52,000. You can earn a high-quality education master’s from a prestigious university for considerably less than that; the online Master of Education degree at Tulane University, for example, costs about $36,300. Widely available discounts (see below) can bring that price down considerably.
So, what is the best way to manage your education costs? We have five suggestions to help fit that master’s degree into your budget. Read on to learn more about:
- Scholarship and grants.
- Loan options.
- Working while you earn your degree.
- Military benefits.
- Tax savings.
Scholarships and Grants for Master’s in Education Programs
Scholarships and grants are the most desirable options for defraying education costs because, unlike loans, they do not have to be repaid. Scholarships and grants reduce your tuition and expenses by the amount of their value at no present or future cost to you.
Many different institutions — including the federal government, state governments, businesses, organizations, religious institutions, and individual schools — offer grants and scholarships. It can take some effort to identify and apply for them all, but many find it well worth the effort. After all, each scholarship or grant you secure represents that much less money you might otherwise have to borrow, resulting in significant long-term savings.
Education students should consider the federal TEACH grant, which awards up to $4,000 per year to teachers in high-need fields who pursue graduate-level education degrees. Governments, organizations, and institutions offer other scholarships and grants to teachers of particular subject areas, grade levels, or student demographics.
Schools are also a significant source of scholarship and grant funding. Tulane University, for example, offers students in its online Master of Education degree program a 20 percent discount if they meet one of the following criteria:
- Full-time educators and paraprofessionals.
- Graduates of HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions.
- Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) members.
- Tulane alumni.
- Active and retired public safety personnel (firefighter, police officer, or paramedic).
- Veterans and active-duty military personnel.**
- Employees who work for government offices in Jefferson or Orleans Parish or City.
- Individuals over the age of 60.
- Tulane SoPA adjunct faculty currently teaching a course at SoPA.
**This scholarship is capped at 20 percent of tuition regardless of how many criteria you meet. Students receiving a tuition waiver or scholarship covering 100 percent of tuition are not eligible.
Loans for Master’s Degree Programs
The federal government offers graduate students several borrowing options. As a master’s degree candidate, you can borrow up to $20,500 in direct unsubsidized loans per academic year. If your demonstrated borrowing need (as determined by your school’s financial aid office) exceeds that amount, direct PLUS loans can provide supplemental funding.
Qualifying for federal student loans is relatively simple. Just complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Note that you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to receive federal loans and must attend your program at least half-time. The deadline for all applications is January 1 for the spring semester, May 1 for the summer semester, and August 1 for the fall semester.
Private lenders also offer graduate education loans, but it makes sense to exhaust your federal options before turning to the commercial lending market. Federal loans tend to have more advantageous interest rates and repayment plans.
Work While You Earn Your Degree
Continuing to work while you earn your Master of Education degree can mitigate costs in several ways. First, you’ll be earning money to help offset tuition and fees. Second, if you are like most working students, you’ll attend your graduate program part-time, reducing your per-semester expenses. That can reduce or eliminate your need to borrow money for school.
Your employer may offer education support as part of your benefits package. A growing number of businesses and organizations offer their employees tuition assistance or reimbursement; others provide alternate forms of financial support. Additionally, many states offer tuition assistance to teachers pursuing graduate degrees. Louisiana, for one, maintains the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) Tuition Program for Teachers to cover the cost of attending postsecondary courses at a Louisiana college or university. Contact your human resources representative to learn whether you qualify for your employer’s education assistance plan. If you do, complete SoPA’s online form to start the process of securing financial support.
Continuing to work while you study yields another valuable benefit: you’ll be able to apply what you learn in the classroom immediately to your professional life. Academic principles and practices will come to life in practical, real-world situations, reinforcing learning and improving your effectiveness at work.
The U.S. military offers robust support for continuing education to veterans, survivors of veterans, and active military personnel through the GI Bill and its successors, tuition assistance, ROTC scholarships, and Department of Veterans Affairs programs. Candidates may be eligible for more than one benefit, although they may only take advantage of one benefit program at a time.
Tulane University has earned the Silver Award Military Friendly® designation indicating that the school’s “commitment to serving the military and veteran community is comprehensive in scope and meaningful in terms of actual outcomes.” The university proudly participates in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program for eligible master’s-level students. The School of Professional Advancement provides unlimited additional funds for master’s degree programs without an additional charge to GI Bill entitlement. The Yellow Ribbon program uses SoPA resources combined with funds from the VA to fill the gap between your maximum GI Bill tuition benefit and SoPA graduate tuition.
Students must be eligible for 100 percent of the Chapter 33 (Post-9/11) benefits to qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program. Candidates must have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after September 10, 2001. Those on active duty, honorably discharged veterans, and those discharged with a service-related disability after 30 days may qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
Learn more by visiting SoPA’s military benefits page.
Education-Related Tax Benefits
In addition to scholarships, grants, loans, and military benefits, the government provides education incentives through the tax code in the form of both tax deductions (amounts you subtract from your income before calculating your taxes) and tax credits (amounts you subtract from your income after calculating your taxes).
Here are some ways to gain a tax advantage by pursuing a Master of Education degree:
- Lifetime learning tax credit: The lifetime learning credit (LLC) covers both tuition and related expenses for any qualifying degree program, including undergraduate and graduate programs. Eligible students can deduct up to $2,000 per year from their tax bill.
- Student loan interest deduction: Once you start repaying your student loans, you may qualify to deduct a certain amount of the interest you pay (up to $2,500) from your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). This option is open only to taxpayers below a specified income threshold (in 2023, it was $80,000 for single filers and $160,00 for joint returns). Loans from relatives or employer plans do not qualify for this deduction.
- Business-related deductions: Work-related education expenses may be deductible. The term “work-related” is essential; if what you’re learning doesn’t help you do your work or advance in your profession, it does not qualify. If you are self-employed, you may deduct qualifying expenses on your Schedule C. If you are an employee, you may take this deduction only if you file a Schedule A.
Tax credits and deductions change from year to year; a tuition and fees deduction was eliminated from the tax code in 2020. Also note that some benefits — the American Opportunity tax credit, for one — apply to undergraduate study only. Like all tax matters, it can get complicated. An admissions advisor can help you sort through it all.
The Online Master of Education at Tulane University Will Advance Your Career
Whether you hope to advance your education career within or beyond the classroom, a Master of Education can provide the skills and knowledge necessary to excel. The degree is equally suited to teachers and to school and district administrators, education policy professionals, curriculum planners, instructional designers, assessment administrators, and equity and social justice advocates.
You can earn an online MEd from Tulane University School of Professional Advancement anywhere you can access the internet. The program includes opportunities to earn certifications in equity-centered education leadership, learning experience design, teaching English learners, and special education as part of their Master of Education curriculum.
As you work through your financing options, know you are not alone. If you have questions or need information, reach out to an enrollment advisor. They’re eager to help!