Five funding options to consider for your doctorate

October 9, 2019

Not only is considering the academic side of a doctoral degree imposing but contemplating how to pay for it can be, too.

Loans are perhaps the first thing to come to mind, but there are also other options to pursue. Alana John, Capella University Graduate Financing Coach, gives her top five.

Federal work study

Federal work study is available at the graduate level to full-time or part-time students who demonstrate financial need determined by the Department of Education. This government program provides part-time employment while students are in school. The program is likely to emphasize working in a field related to your course of study, or in community-service oriented jobs, which can include working for your school. It’s not a loan; it’s income you earn to pay for school. How much you can earn depends on when you apply, how much you need, and your school’s funding level.

Tuition assistance

If a student is already employed, it’s definitely worth checking into whether the employer offers tuition assistance. Not all do, and of those that do, not all publicize it widely, so checking with the human resources department is a good idea. How much an employer may contribute to a doctoral degree varies based from company to company, and it may come with some strings (a guarantee that the student will remain employed at the organization for a defined amount of time or meet certain academic standards). Generally, an employee tuition benefit is not something that has to be paid back.


Students might have more success in researching local or regional scholarship programs for advanced degrees. However, Capella offers scholarships at the graduate level based on the degree program and eligibility requirements. Scholarships are not loans and do not have to be repaid.

Military discounts

Capella offers tuition discounts to members of the military, past and present, as well as their spouses and dependents. There is also the possibility of leveraging military experience into course credits, which may reduce the overall tuition costs.

Payment plans

You may not be able to pay the entire tuition bill out of pocket each semester, but if you can pay even a little, you might be surprised how those small payments add up to reduce the overall cost while you earn your degree. There are multiple approaches to this. One is to pay a fixed amount each quarter ($500, for example) for tuition and only take loans for the rest of what you need that term. Another idea is to make an occasional principal payment to your loan. For example, if you receive a tax refund in the spring, apply that directly to the principal of your loan, which reduces the principal and the interest. You could also make interest payments while you’re in school. Loan repayment is deferred while you’re actively in school, but the loan still accrues interest. If you pay the interest, that reduces the overall amount due when you graduate.

There are many options for funding a doctorate. Research your options with a financing coach, and find the right combination of resources to help you meet your educational goals.

Learn more about options for funding your doctorate.

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