If you’re thinking of going to graduate school, you might wonder, “How much does a master’s degree cost?” The cost of graduate tuition and fees is based on a few different factors, from whether you’re attending an out-of-state school to your chosen field of study.
According to Peterson’s, an educational services company, the average cost of a master’s degree at a public school is almost $30,000 annually, just for tuition and fees. Comparatively, private school graduate students spend an average of nearly $40,000 per year on tuition and fees.
Here’s what to expect when it comes to the average cost of a master’s degree, factors that affect tuition, and how to pay for your graduate school education.
Peterson’s range above offers a high-level view of the cost you can expect when pursuing a graduate program. To help you understand specific master’s degree tuition costs, we pulled tuition and fee data, for resident and nonresident students, at 10 universities across the country.
|Cost of Master’s Degree Tuition and Fees|
|School||Annual Tuition and Fees|
|University of California, Los Angeles||● Residents: $17,272|
● Nonresidents: $32,374
|University of Maine||● Resident: $15,952*|
● Nonresident: $46,432*
● MBA nonresident: $25,702*
|University of Florida||● Resident: $12,740|
● Nonresident: $30,134
|Murray State University||● Resident: $13,056**|
● Nonresident: $19,200**
|Texas A&M University – College Station||● Resident: $15,248 §|
● Nonresident: $33,280 §
|Colorado State University||● Resident: $15,130 §§|
● Nonresident: $30,858 §§
|University of Idaho||● Resident: $9,876|
● Nonresident: $29,112
|Kansas State University||● Resident: $12,198|
● Nonresident: $25,036
|University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill||● Resident: $11,038|
● Nonresident: $28,764
|Pennsylvania State University||● Resident: $21,960|
● Nonresident: 37,694
|*Based on 15 credit hours per semester|
**Excludes education, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology (CDI), and applied engineering and technology management (AETM) programs
§ Based on 9 credit hours per semester
§§ For 2020-2021 tuition and fees; excludes MBA, business, EMS, science, IST, engineering programs
There are a handful of factors that influence how much your master’s degree tuition will cost.
- In-state or out of state: Many graduate schools distinguish tuition rates based on whether you’re an in-state versus an out-of-state student. Resident master’s degree tuition is generally lower, since state residents pay taxes into the public institutions that offer graduate programs. This also gives in-state students an incentive to study at a local program instead of an out-of-state school. In comparison, out-of-state graduate tuition can be thousands of dollars more, as shown above.
- Online or on-campus: Graduate programs may be offered online in addition to a traditional on-campus environment. The tuition and fees for online master’s degrees can differ compared to getting your graduate degree on-campus. For example, Pepperdine University’s average MBA cost for full-time, on-campus study over three trimesters is $79,080. Online MBA students, on the other hand, pay at least $94,380 for the entire 52-unit program.
- Profit vs. nonprofit institutions: For-profit schools are designed to offer scheduling flexibility and fast-track students toward a degree or certification. Generally, for-profit schools charge considerably higher tuition compared to nonprofit institutions. It’s important to note that credits from for-profit schools may not be transferable to nonprofit schools, so tread carefully before enrolling.
- Subject of study: The cost of master’s degree tuition varies depending on the graduate program you enroll in at a particular school. For example, at the University of Texas in Austin, 2020-2021 graduate tuition for the Cockrell School of Engineering costs $10,554 compared to the $9,274 paid by graduate students under the College of Education.
When figuring out what the average cost of a master’s degree might look like for you, consider these distinctions to find a program that works for your budget.
The high cost of graduate programs may require you to seek financial aid, if paying for a master’s degree out of pocket isn’t possible. Here are a few options to explore.
Scholarships and grants
Scholarships and grants can help you pay for the graduate degree expenses. This kind of financial aid may be awarded by federal and state governments, the graduate school you’re attending, or third-party companies and organizations. Some examples of scholarships and grants for graduate students include:
- Federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. A federal grant available to undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, or graduate students attending a participating TEACH Grant school and enrolled in an eligible graduate program.
- Florida Stormwater Association Scholarship. This is a merit-based scholarship funded by the Florida Stormwater Association. It’s available to eligible graduate students studying water quality, stormwater management or finance at a Florida college or university.
- USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association (APAA) Scholarship. A scholarship that’s based on need and merit, and is available to students attending the University of California full-time.
- Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship. Available to eligible women and black, Hispanic/Latino or Native American MBA students who are interested in a position as a Goldman Sachs summer associate.
These are just a few examples of the range of scholarships and grants available, based on different types of affiliations. The biggest advantage of using scholarship and grant funds toward your graduate degree is that these awards don’t need to be repaid. This means you’ll take on less student debt toward your master’s degree.
Federal student loans
Graduate students who need additional financial aid beyond scholarships and grants can consider federal student loans. Direct unsubsidized loans and Direct PLUS loans are available to graduate students. Here’s what to know about each option:
- Direct unsubsidized loans. Direct unsubsidized loans are not need-based, but schools determine the loan amount. Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 in direct unsubsidized loans per academic year at a fixed interest rate that’s currently 6.08%. Interest accrues as soon as funds are disbursed. The maximum total amount of direct loans (subsidized and unsubsidized) that each student is allowed to borrow is $138,500, with no more than $65,500 coming from subsidized direct loans.
- Direct PLUS loans. Graduate students who are enrolled at least half-time and working toward a graduate or professional degree or certification at an eligible school can apply for a direct grad PLUS loan. The school determines the amount you can borrow, based on the cost of attendance minus other financial aid you’ve received. Currently, the fixed interest rate on grad PLUS loans is 7.08%. A credit check is required.
If you must borrow to pay for your master’s degree, federal student loans offer protections, like student loan forbearance, income-driven repayment options, and deferment if you’re unable to make payments. Also, eligible federal loan borrowers may qualify for forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Private student loans
Private student loans can make paying for master’s degree costs possible if you’ve exhausted scholarship, grant, and federal loan options. Private student loan rates can be fixed or variable, and term durations vary depending on the lender. Some examples of private student loan lenders include:
- Commonbond. The lender offers graduate students fixed- and variable-rate private student loans. Interest rate ranges are 3.74% – 10.74% APR and 3.87% – 9.40% APR, respectively, which includes a 0.25% autopay discount. Commonbond doesn’t charge prepayment penalties, has a cosigner release option, and offers loan deferment for up to 12 months.
- Discover. Borrowers can get up to 100% of graduate school costs covered. Interest rates on fixed-rate loans are 4.49% – 11.99% APR and variable-rate grad loans are 1.99% – 11.49% APR, while enrolled in automatic payments (i.e., the 0.25% autopay discount). The lender doesn’t charge additional fees and students with a 3.0 GPA or higher earn a one-time cash reward.
- Citizen’s Bank. The bank offers graduate student loans starting at 2.89% – 7.09% APR for fixed student loans and starting at 2.19% – 6.73% for variable loans. You can borrow $1,000 to $150,000 toward a graduate degree; if you’re pursuing an MBA, law school or health care field, you may be able to borrow more toward your education.
To apply for a private student loan, you’ll need to undergo a credit check. Lenders have different credit requirements and terms when approving borrowers.
What kind of master’s degrees can I pursue?
There’s a broad range of master’s degrees you can pursue across Humanities, Science, and more. Some examples include a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, and a Master of Arts in Linguistics.
How much does an MBA cost?
According to The Princeton Review, the average cost of an MBA at a prestigious business school can be higher than $130,000. However, there may be more affordable MBA programs available, if you look at in-state schools or online programs.
What is the return on investment for graduate school?
The return on investment (ROI) for graduate school depends on the discipline you choose to study. For example, the ROI for social work and education graduate degrees may be lower compared to the ROI for STEM graduate school programs.
What are some of the miscellaneous student fees that graduate students need to pay?
Depending on your graduate school and area of study, you may encounter additional fees, like health center fees, administration fees, or student body fees. For example, University of Houston graduate students are charged mandatory fees for student services, the university center, and the recreation and wellness center.
How do I know which master’s degree is best for me to pursue?
When deciding on the right master’s degree for you, consider what your professional future might look like after grad school and whether you’re passionate about the career path. Ask yourself what the prospective earnings are in your desired job, how interested you are about the field, and whether it’ll be an in-demand occupation once you’re done with school. Using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook can help you answer some of these questions.
Kat Tretina contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 6.15%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.80% – 9.36%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.91% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.53%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.15% – 4.42%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|2.00% – 5.63%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews! |
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of May 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.15%-4.42% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
7 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
8 Important Disclosures for Nelnet.
Checking your rate results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score.
Interest rate reduction of .25% for automatically withdrawn payments from any designated bank account (“auto debit discount”). Auto debit discount applies when full payments (including both principal and interest) are automatically drafted from a bank account. The auto debit discount will continue to apply during periods of approved forbearance or deferment if the auto debit discount was in effect at the time of receiving the forbearance or deferment. Auto debit discount will remain on the account unless (1) the automatic deduction of payments is canceled or (2) there are three consecutive automatic deductions returned for insufficient funds at any time during the term of the loan.
Request for the cosigner to be released can be made by the borrower after 24 consecutive, on-time payments (not later than 15 days after the due date) of principal and interest have been made. Borrowers in deferment or forbearance must make 24 consecutive, on-time payments after re-entering repayment to qualify for the release. The borrower must be current on their payments at the time of the cosigner release request and show the ability to assume full responsibility of the loan(s) by meeting certain credit criteria on their own at the time of the request, including, but not limited to, being a U.S. citizen or having permanent residency in the United States, being the age of majority in their permanent state of residency, providing sufficient proof of income, and having no student loans in default.
Hardship forbearance allows you to temporarily suspend payments on your loan(s) while you are experiencing financial hardship. It is offered in increments of two or three months, with a maximum of 12 months available, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. If your loan(s) are in good standing at the time of your request, you will be eligible for forbearance in increments of two monthly payments. If, at the time of your initial request, your loan(s) are considered past-due, you will be eligible for forbearance in increments of three monthly payments. Future increments of forbearance, up to a life-time maximum of 12 months, may be requested upon the completion of making a certain number of principal and interest payments. During the two- or three-month forbearance period, you will not be required to make payments; however, any unpaid interest will continue to accrue and will be capitalized (added) onto your principal balance at the end of the forbearance period. You may continue making payments in any amount without penalty during the forbearance period. Your loan repayment term will be extended by the number of months in the forbearance period.
Refinance Loan Eligibility: You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security number, and be the legal age to enter into binding contracts in your permanent state/territory of residency, or be at least 17 years of age and apply with a cosigner who is at least the age of majority in their state/territory. Non-residents can apply with an eligible cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security number. The student loans you refinance must be in their grace or repayment period, and you can no longer be enrolled in school on a half-time or more basis. You must have at least $5,000 in student loans to refinance. You, or your eligible cosigner, must have an annual income of at least $36,000. Approval subject to credit review. Other credit criteria may apply.
Refinance Loan Limits:
Loan Refinancing Risks: Federal student loans include benefits that may not be offered with private student loans. Carefully review any potential benefits that may be lost by refinancing federal and private education loans, such as the loss of any remaining grace periods. To learn more about what to take into consideration when refinancing federal student loans with private education loans, click here
Selecting ‘Get Started’ results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score.
Fixed interest rates range from 2.99% APR (with auto debit discount) to 6.25% APR (without auto debit discount). Your interest rate will depend on your (and if applicable, your cosigner’s) credit qualifications. The fixed interest rate will remain the same for the life of the loan.
Variable interest rates range from 2.00% APR (with auto debit discount) to 5.63% APR (without auto debit discount). Your interest rate will depend on your (and if applicable, your cosigner’s) credit qualifications. Variable rates may increase after consummation. The variable interest rate is equal to the One-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (“One-Month LIBOR”) plus a margin. The One-Month LIBOR in effect for each monthly period (from the first day of the month through and including the last day of the same month) will be the highest One-Month LIBOR published in The Wall Street Journal “Money Rates” table on the twenty-fifth (25th) day (or if such day is not a business day, the next business day thereafter) of the month immediately preceding such calendar month. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a variable interest rate loan will change monthly on the first day of each month if the One-Month LIBOR index changes. This may result in higher monthly payments. The current One-Month LIBOR index is 0.15% as of 5/4/2021.
The lowest interest rate for each loan type requires automatically withdrawn (“auto debit”) payments, a five-year repayment term, and the borrower making immediate principal and interest payments. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rate. The interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) may be higher depending upon (1) the credit history of the borrower and, if applicable, the cosigner, (2) the repayment option and loan term selected, (3) the loan type selected, and (4) the highest level of education attained. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate qualified for within the stated range.
*Checking your rate results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score. **Your actual savings may vary based on interest rates, outstanding balances, remaining repayment terms, and other factors.