There's nothing easy about working full time and then going to class four nights a week. But part-time study allows some students to foot the bill, at least in part, from cash flow and perhaps to take advantage of employer-paid tuition. The best part-time programs are those where the same instructors teach both full-time and part-time students.
Live like a student
For those who attend school full time, graduate schools estimate the student budget for yearly housing, food, and personal expenses at an almost laughably low $15,000 or so. (Students who have dependent children can often have their living expense budgets increased to pay for child care costs, which increases the amount you can borrow.) But you can save yourself debt by taking in roommates and brown-bagging lunch. "The living expense choices that students make will affect how much they have to borrow," says Gina Soliz, director of financial aid at Syracuse University's College of Law. Students who manage to keep their debt to a minimum are the ones who say, "I don't need digital cable right now. I can get a roommate and live like a student." Even part-time students can trim their borrowing with a little belt-tightening. Every dollar you can divert to tuition from luxuries like cable TV or high-priced cafe lattes is a dollar you won't have to pay in interest down the road.
One grad student's story
J. Briggs Cormier has financed his nine years of graduate study the way many graduate students do: with equal measures of hard work and debt. Cormier studies theater at Ohio State UniversityColumbus, which costs him roughly $42,000 in tuition, fees, and living expenses per year. As a master's degree student at the University of Memphis and now as a Ph.D. candidate at Ohio State, Cormier has paid for his schooling by working in a variety of graduate assistantships: He's done stints as a tour coordinator, a box office manager, a teaching assistant, a theater journal editor, and president of Ohio State's Council of Graduate Students. Each of those jobs has come with a stipend, ranging from about $900 to $1,200 a month. Nonetheless, he's had to borrow to cover living expenses. "When you add up rent, utilities, car insurance, and health insurance, you can't live on your stipend," says Cormier, who currently receives about $1,100 a month as a graduate associate in student affairs. His student loan debt, including what he borrowed as an undergraduate, is more than $100,000.