Assess graduate school costs for value

Before pursuing a master’s degree, prospective students should consider assessing whether graduate school is worth the investment, by identifying all expected costs and benefits to ensure the decision has economic merit.

Jullie Thieu, a current senior at Stevenson University, has been working on a master’s degree in Forensic Science since the start of her junior year, and anticipates graduating with that degree next year. (Photo from SU Marketing and Digital Communications)

For the 2015–16 academic year, the annual cost for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board was estimated to be $16,757 at public institutions, $43,065 at private nonprofit institutions, and $23,776 at private for-profit institutions, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. However, many undergraduate students can take advantage of available financial aid packages in order to defray some of that cost.

There are also many financial aid resource options for graduate students. Like undergraduates, graduate students can apply for financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

In addition, graduate students in need of financial assistance can search for external scholarship opportunities through sources such as the Maryland Higher Education Commission and Fastweb. Prospective students should contact the financial aid office at the university of their choice for more information on financial aid resources. For financial aid information specific to Stevenson University, call the office at 443-334-3200.

Stevenson University offers online master’s degree programs through Stevenson University Online, and has  multiple opportunities and partnerships available for students to obtain a degree in a financially responsible manner.

Stevenson University Online’s Bachelor’s to Master’s option allows students to take graduate classes while simultaneously working toward their bachelor’s degree. Amanda Millar, the director of admissions for Stevenson University Online, said that “once students are accepted in the Bachelor’s to Master’s option and have around 75 credits, they can start taking graduate courses while they’re still completing their undergraduate degree. As long as students are taking 18 credits or less per semester, it is included in their undergraduate tuition.”

The graduate degree programs include Business and Technology Management, Communication Studies, Community-Based Education and Leadership, Crime Scene Investigation, Cyber Forensics, Forensic Accounting, Forensic Investigation, Forensic Science, Forensic Studies, Healthcare Management, Nursing and Master of Arts in Teaching.

Stevenson University Online also caters to the working professional; for example, some partnerships with healthcare and corporate organizations offer a 20 percent tuition reduction to accepted graduate students who are employees of one of the university’s partners. The full list of partners can be found on the website.

U.S. workers between the ages of 21 and 64 with a master’s degree or higher earn an average annual salary of $55,242, versus those with a bachelor’s degree, whose average annual salary is $42,877, according to the United States Census Bureau. That difference, an average of $12,365, is significant.

In fact, some employers require employees to have a graduate degree. In some fields, getting a graduate degree can allow more return on investment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM, business, education, and healthcare and social services are among several career fields in which workers often earn more with a master’s degree than with only a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to searching for a program that a student is most interested in, “it is best to educate yourself, because there are different options out there,” said Murry Baskerville, student success coach with Stevenson University Online.

For more information about Stevenson University Online, visit the website.

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