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How America Pays for Graduate School

A snapshot of the national study by Sallie Mae® and Ipsos

This report looks at graduate students’ attitudes, aspirations, and actions as they choose to study—and pay—for an advanced degree.

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Career goals are driving students to grad school

9 in 10 believe a degree will mean increased earnings

Two-thirds see a grad degree as a new minimum standard for professional careers

They’re ready to move ahead

63% begin school within 12 months of an undergrad degree

24% already have an advanced degree

42% are male and 58% are female


have some experience working in a field related to their graduate program

They’re determined to get their degree

57% are going full-time; 43% are part-time

The average time for a degree, estimated by master’s students

The master’s matters

48% are studying for a Master of Science

22% are studying for an MBA

24% are studying for a Master of Arts

Cost isn’t the deciding factor in choosing a school

choose a school based on quality or convenience

choose based on cost

How students pay for graduate school

Average amount spent: $24,812

77% of costs are paid by students

of costs are covered by student borrowing

of costs are covered by student earnings—income and savings

of costs are covered by grants, scholarships, fellowships, and tuition waivers

of costs are covered by external contributions from family or friends

They’re anticipating loan forgiveness

49% of students with federal loans expect them to be forgiven

47% of grad students have at least one federal loan


Additional resources

How America Pays for Graduate School Report (PDF)

How America Pays for Graduate School Infographic (PDF)

How America Pays for Graduate School Social Media Kit (PDF)

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"How America Pays for Graduate School," by Sallie Mae, the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company, and Ipsos, the world's third-largest market research company, reports the results of 1,597 telephone interviews Ipsos conducted between 05/18/17 and 07/19/17 of students age 20 or older enrolled full-time or part-time in graduate school.