How to Get Student Loans to Pay for Grad School

graduate photoThinking about going to grad school, but not sure how to pay for it?

Graduate programs can be incredibly enriching and awarding, leading to improved education, qualifications, and in many cases, boosted lifetime earnings.

Those hoping to pursue research or teaching positions may just be taking a step toward their ultimate goal of achieving a PhD or similar level of education.

But graduate programs can also be expensive–sometimes costing $30,000 or $40,000 per year, depending on the area of study.

That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. There are many options available to students looking to pursue a graduate education including both federal and private loan options.

This article will explain some of the options available, their limitations, and how to choose the right option for you.

Federal loans for grad students

Much like as an undergraduate, grad students are eligible to receive loans through the U.S. Department of Education.

Direct Loans

The William D. Ford Direct Loan program provides funds for students pursuing Master’s and other advanced degrees at any accredited Title IV college or university in the country.

Grad students can borrow up to $20,500 per year through the Direct Loan program and are eligible to receive a total of $138,500.

Interest rates on Direct Loans for graduate students are set yearly and are currently set at 6.08%.

There is also a loan origination fee of about 1%, which is deducted from the first loan disbursement.

Learn more about Direct Loans for grad school

PLUS Loans

Because graduate students are considered independent students, they are also eligible to receive PLUS Loans through the U.S. Dept of Ed. This loan program (previously Parent PLUS Loans) does require a credit check and credit qualifications for borrowers. However, there is the option to add a co-signer to the loan if the borrower does not meet credit requirements.

Grad students are eligible for PLUS Loans equal to the full cost of attendance at their college/university, minus any financial aid they will receive.

The interest rate for PLUS loans is set yearly and is currently 7.08%.

In addition, PLUS loans come with a loan origination fee of just over 4%, which is deducted from the initial disbursement.

Learn more about PLUS loans for grad school

Your Student Loan, Your Way.

Variable rates from 1.86% - 11.52% APR


Private loans for grad students

Aside from federal loan programs, there are also private lenders that can help you pay for grad school. These loans do not always offer the same types of consumer protections as federal loans, so you will want to carefully evaluate your options when considering a private lender. There are many options to choose from, but it’s important to know what to look for when finding the right one.

Here’s some things you’ll want to look for:

  • Competitive interest rates
  • Favorable repayment terms (i.e., the right length)
  • Unemployment/hardship protections
  • No pre-payment or other fees
  • Goo customer service review

Find the best lender for grad school loans

 RatesTermsEligible Degrees 
Compare rate offers from about 8 lenders
1.04%* + variable APR
3.30%* + fixed APR
5 - 15, 20 yearsUndergrad & GradLEARN MORE ›
lendkey-logo-500px-trans1.13% - 11.23% variable APR
3.50% - 12.60% fixed APR
5, 10, 15 yearsUndergrad & GradLEARN MORE ›

*APR includes a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrollment in automatic payments.



Lender Rates (APR) Eligibility
Sallie Mae logo.
2.00% - 12.35% Variable
3.75% - 13.72% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Credibe company logo.
1.19% - 11.98% Variable
3.20% - 12.99% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Lendkey company logo.
Undergraduate and Graduate
Ascent company logo.
0.98% - 10.04% Variable
3.22% - 13.16% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
College Ave company logo.
0.94% - 12.99% Variable
3.22% - 13.95% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
1.41% - 6.30% Variable
2.94% - 7.25% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Earnest company logo.
0.99% - 11.44% Variable
2.94% - 12.78% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
1.86% - 11.52% Variable
3.20% - 11.99% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
College Raptor is not a loan lender and does not assume responsibility for suggesting a loan to a user who may not be eligible for it. Rates, terms, conditions, eligibility, approval, and other considerations are the decisions of the lenders and may vary depending on which lender or marketplace the user selects. We urge users to carefully consider and review all loan options and terms before committing to taking out a loan.

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