Financing Your Graduate Education

Financing your graduate education is no small feat and if you’re one of the few who can pay out of pocket, my hats off to you!

You can finance your education either with some savings you’ve kept in the bank for the last several years, apply for grants and/or scholarships (many of which can be found with a search on the Internet), contact the AANA or the state chapter of the nurse anesthetist association and inquire about grants/scholarships, federal student loans and lastly, private student loans.

Unfortunately, for me, I needed to finance a large portion of my education and living expenses for 2 years. Despite the fact that my program’s tuition was ~$34,000, I still needed ~$46,000 for living expenses. Some of you may be gasping at the thought of borrowing $50,000 for living expenses. Perhaps it was overboard but I wasn’t going to let myself eat ramen every single day for 2 years (then again, I found myself eating $2 Banh Mi sandwiches 3-4x/week just to keep food costs to a minimum). Additionally, housing and the overall cost of living in this city is absurdly high. Anyways, in retrospect, I don’t necessarily regret my decision to borrow $80,000 for graduate school. My only justification is at least it beats the across the city competitor by tens of thousands of dollars. 🙂 Sorry, didn’t mean to rub it in to those who ended up having to foot a huge bill.

Prior to graduate school, I had accumulated $60,000 in undergraduate loans. This was all because of an itch I had to live in the northeast. Accelerated nursing programs these days aren’t cheap. Even in a mid-tiered city, an accelerated nursing program is around $30-$40,000. At the time, when I was in my very early 20s, I just thought, what’s another $20,000 if I can experience what I believed to be at the time, a once in a lifetime experience. My living expenses were paid for by this school. I was given a sizable scholarship, but clearly, not big enough to cover the $60,000 tuition bill.

Back to the topic at hand, financing your graduate education. How did I do it? Well, I took out a mix of federal and private school loans. Federal loans are pretty straightforward to apply for. If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask in the comments section below. For this post, I’ll be focusing on the private school loans I applied and why I went with this particular provider.

Before school started, I did an exhaustive search and compared the terms of conditions with every provider. I ended up signing up with Discover’s Health Professions Student Loans because I was offered the lowest interest rate. I opted for variable interest rate loan. I cover the topic of fixed versus variable interest rate here. Additionally, Discover offers a 1% cash reward for good grades. After graduating from my program, I sent in my transcripts as I had a high GPA and received a $2000 credit to my pre-existing loans. Finally, hard work paying off to some extent. So as long as you can maintain a GPA of 3.0 or greater, you’ll receive a one-time cash reward of 1% of the loan amount you have with Discover. Check out the terms here.

As far as interest rates were concerned, I was initially offered a 4% variable interest rate and I went with that over a 6% fixed interest rate. That 4% interest rate remained relatively constant throughout the 2 years I was in school. It never went higher than 4.25%.

It’s always been my personal philosophy to get the best deal on my loans so I’ve always gone with a variable interest rate, knowing full well that if the terms begin to change in a way that does not favor my financial situation, I can always refinance/consolidate with another provider (e.g., SoFi), which is a topic I’ll be covering in a different post.

Financing your education is no joke. Think carefully about how much you need to borrow because when you start working as a CRNA, just know you’ll be making sizable monthly payments to pay off that loan. I know some people who have to pay $2500/month. I, myself, am paying $1800/month. However, I am doing so with the knowledge that I will be paying off my loans in late 2022. Maybe one day I may increase my monthly payments in order to pay off my loans sooner, but then again maybe I’ll save up a sizable chunk and invest it in an index fund to get a better return on my money (a topic that will be covered later in this site).