Graduate degrees provide many benefits in today’s job market; however, these advantages come at a cost. According to the New America Foundation, graduate students account for about 40 percent of the over $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. When deciding which university and degree program meets your personal and career goals, it is important to understand every fee associated with obtaining your degree. Being a smart consumer can be the key to saving money. By doing your homework up front, it is possible to pursue your master’s degree at a reasonable and affordable price.

Students that conduct comparison shopping better understand if they are receiving a good deal. To find cost-effective programs, start by knowing what the cost drivers are. Students have the option to attend for-profit or not-for-profit schools with courses online, on-campus, or in a hybrid format. Universities will vary in their pricing models. Some may charge a flat cost while others take the per-credit-hour approach. Furthermore, programs can differ in their total credit hour requirements. This makes comparing programs more difficult. Universities will also charge students a variety of miscellaneous fees. These can be for auxiliary facilities, athletics and recreation, transportation and parking, technology, healthcare, tutoring, library, matriculation, and other sustaining services. These little costs can add up quickly, especially when they are not initially factored into your budget or if they are not included as part of an institution’s “sticker price” that is promoted to students.

Applying to graduate school can be expensive. Schools often demand application fees to cover their processing costs. Besides these fees, many institutions require students to take common entrance examinations such as the GRE and GMAT. While these exams are widely accepted by other universities, there can be added costs to send the scores to multiple schools. Some schools may require applicants to visit the campus for interviews which are commonly self-funded trips. These fees can accrue swiftly if you are applying to more than one university. Students should also be aware of potential prerequisite coursework that may be needed to begin master’s level work.

To craft a comprehensive budget for the cost of your graduate education, students must calculate the costs of application fees, tuition, books and supplies, living expenses, and miscellaneous institution fees. For full-time students, the opportunity cost of forgoing a couple of years of full-time employment should be factored in as well. Students must make careful decisions about the return on investment for their advanced degree. Graduate school debt can affect your financial life long after graduation. In addition to financial aid, students should explore funding options like scholarships, grants, fellowships, and graduate assistantships to help cover tuition and living expenses during graduate school. Working professionals should inquire about tuition reimbursement plans and university partnerships with their current employers. The decision to continue your education is deeply personal. It pays to comparison shop and consider all potential costs before enrollment.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 18 percent of jobs will require a master’s degree by 2022. Master’s degrees help students gain specialized knowledge to advance in their fields. Choosing the right university is an important investment in your future. At Stevenson University Online, we understand that hidden fees can be frustrating. This is why we have simplified the cost of your education by eliminating all fees. Our tuition is based on a cost-per-credit model. Stevenson offers convenient, online sessions for working adults. Led by accomplished faculty with extensive real-world experience, our career-focused programs provide specialized skills for growing industries. To learn more about our programs, contact us at or 1-877-531-7118.