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Paying for graduate school

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One of the greatest things about Bio medical PhD programs, is the fact it is paid for, plus you get a stipend. Even so, I anticipate needing more than the stipend will provide. What advice is out there about taking out student loans (federal or private) or other ways of financing graduate education? 

I have done the standard google searches, so I am mostly looking for what people have experienced personally and what their recommendations are. 

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I'm unsure if you've taken out student loans out in the past, so my advice might be redundant, but here goes.

Whatever you do, avoid private loans like the plague (if possible). Assuming you're a US citizen, your best bet is to take out a minimal amount Stafford loans. They have the most flexibility when it comes to repayment options. The downside to Stafford loans is that you can only take out about 20.5k a year in grad school, so if you're living you're expecting to live somewhere very expensive, it might exceed this.

https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/loans/subsidized-unsubsidized

If you exceed Stafford loans, there's graduate student PLUS loans, which aren't terrible, but certainly not as flexible as Stafford loans.

If you're an international student, I have no clue. Sorry. :( 

 

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If you are an international student, it will be almost impossible to get a loan from a US bank right away. You might be able to get a personal loan later on, once you have built some US credit history, but this would be at a pretty high interest rate and you will be charged interest immediately as it is not a student loan. Basically loans are only a good idea for international students for absolute emergencies (but look for on-campus help first) or very low interest loans for things like a car loan.

An international student may be able to take out a student loan from their home country though. Some countries will allow their citizens to take a subsidized government loan to study abroad.

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All that said, my recommendation would actually to be to not attend a school where the stipend is not enough for what you need/want to live on. However, I realise this is not practical advice for everyone because some people have high expenses (e.g. medical, dependent support etc.) where you may have no choice but to take out loans. You don't have to justify yourself of course, but I'm just saying that maybe some schools just have stipends that are too low and it's worth considering another better-funded offer more strongly.

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16 hours ago, TakeruK said:

All that said, my recommendation would actually to be to not attend a school where the stipend is not enough for what you need/want to live on. However, I realise this is not practical advice for everyone because some people have high expenses (e.g. medical, dependent support etc.) where you may have no choice but to take out loans. You don't have to justify yourself of course, but I'm just saying that maybe some schools just have stipends that are too low and it's worth considering another better-funded offer more strongly.

Seriously, it might sound harsh. But what you said is exactly right. If you are taking out loans for graduate school (especially in Biomed) you are doing something wrong. Remember too, that Stipends are taxed differently, and your health insurance will either be free or heavily subsidized. For instance, I personally took ~$7500 paycut to go back to graduate school. However, my take home pay is basically identical when you account for health insurance and tax differences.. 

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On February 17, 2016 at 5:36 PM, TakeruK said:

All that said, my recommendation would actually to be to not attend a school where the stipend is not enough for what you need/want to live on. However, I realise this is not practical advice for everyone because some people have high expenses (e.g. medical, dependent support etc.) where you may have no choice but to take out loans. You don't have to justify yourself of course, but I'm just saying that maybe some schools just have stipends that are too low and it's worth considering another better-funded offer more strongly.

I completely agree with this! In biomed, you shouldn't accept an offer to a place where you can't afford to live on the stipend. $27,000-$35,000 is the range of stipends I've seen, and you should be able to live comfortably most places (maybe not California). I turned down an offer because I knew I couldn't live on the stipend, but I ended up at my dream school, where the stipend affords me a comfortable apartment very close to my school. I'm able to save money each month and could add a car payment if needed. In my case, I had some health issues last summer, but because my stipend goes so far, I was able to take care of them without taking out loans. In my opinion, it is more worth not having a vacation each year (though I do go on one) or name brand shoes than it is to go deeper into debt to continue to have a certain quality of life. There are some things that are not dispensable, but I find that so long as I budget, I get to do all of the things I want, and I'm very happy.

I have health insurance, including dental (but not optical) that I don't pay for at all. Also, as a student, I get back nearly everything I pay into federal taxes, and my state has no state income tax.

If at all possible, pick a place where you can afford an apartment + utilities on less than half of your stipend and where your other expenses will be low enough for you to put back a bit. If you can't do that, see if you can afford it with a roommate.

Edited by biotechie
Clarifying health insurance and stipend amounts

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On 2/17/2016 at 2:08 PM, Neist said:

I'm unsure if you've taken out student loans out in the past, so my advice might be redundant, but here goes.

Whatever you do, avoid private loans like the plague (if possible). Assuming you're a US citizen, your best bet is to take out a minimal amount Stafford loans. They have the most flexibility when it comes to repayment options. The downside to Stafford loans is that you can only take out about 20.5k a year in grad school, so if you're living you're expecting to live somewhere very expensive, it might exceed this.

https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/loans/subsidized-unsubsidized

If you exceed Stafford loans, there's graduate student PLUS loans, which aren't terrible, but certainly not as flexible as Stafford loans.

If you're an international student, I have no clue. Sorry. :( 

 

I was offered 20.5K in direct subsidized loan for grad school. I was reading on the website that unsubsidized loans have accrued interest and I'm having trouble understanding what that means.

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On 6/12/2017 at 6:49 PM, Aleh290 said:

I was offered 20.5K in direct subsidized loan for grad school. I was reading on the website that unsubsidized loans have accrued interest and I'm having trouble understanding what that means.

Normally, when an individual takes out a loan, said loan immediately begins to accrue interest. If you buy a car, this is generally what happens. And this is exactly what an unsubsidized loan is. An unsubsidized Stafford loan will immediately begin to accrue interest, even if you're still in graduate school. 

In contrast, a subsidized loan doesn't begin to accrue interest during qualifying events. For example, subsidized loans do not accrue interest while one is still pursuing a degree. 

Does that help? I admit I'm not always the clearest!

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On ‎2‎/‎17‎/‎2016 at 3:43 PM, Torbjornen said:

One of the greatest things about Bio medical PhD programs, is the fact it is paid for, plus you get a stipend. Even so, I anticipate needing more than the stipend will provide. What advice is out there about taking out student loans (federal or private) or other ways of financing graduate education? 

There are grants and fellowships that are available through various places. I took a grant writing class in order to learn how to find them. Private, non-profit and public corporations may have monies; however, they are usually very specific in their application. For instance, I just learned (too late to apply for this fall) that my honor society annually provides about $1M in fellowships to first year Ph.D. students. Although the deadline has passed for me to apply ahead of time, I can file for next year and it will apply retroactively if I am awarded a fellowship. There are many specific research grants. For instance, I found a grant that provides both money and time in the Kennedy Library for doing research on Ernest Hemingway. I saw other grants on things as vague as the history of books, for which many applications would apply. You have to scour the internet using word searches to find them, but they are there in every field.

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my prof told me he will provide the stipend but i have to pay the college fees? what does that mean? is it good thing to try for that program?

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On 9/24/2017 at 5:57 AM, AD said:

my prof told me he will provide the stipend but i have to pay the college fees? what does that mean? is it good thing to try for that program?

college fees are fees not related to your classes (i.e. tuition) but everything else, essentially. Those fees can cover, for example, access to gym/swimming pool/recreational facilities, school shuttle buses, school varsity teams' events, etc.

Typically most people hate that kind of fees but they are not a deal breaker for whether one attending that particular program (or not).

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