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How do I pay for my education?

How do I pay for my education? You’ve likely asked yourself this question if you are applying for graduate school. The answer can seem elusive at times.

As someone who works as a Director of Admissions, I wish paying for graduate school was an easy and obvious process. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every student’s situation is unique. However, I do know that we are ready to help—you don’t have to figure out the finances on your own.

For many people, the idea of taking out (or taking on more) student loans can be crippling. I have seen the fear of loans keep people from pursuing the career they have felt called to for decades. That fear is normal. The fear of being responsible for debt is often a fairly healthy thing. We are a culture reacting against a recession we witnessed that exhibited the effects of unjustified or irresponsible debt.

However, we also have a responsibility to be good stewards of not just our financial resources, but also our talents and skills. Your talents are worth the investment. There’s a proven return on investment for those who complete graduate school.

How are we to feel if we neglect our skill or ability to be of service to others who are hurting just because we are fearful of student loans? Student loans are not monsters waiting to devour us. If we are responsible enough to research and understand our loans, then we may be able to use them as tools and resources to fulfill our own careers and callings.

At Richmont, our Admissions and Enrollment team works to inform you about all the resources available to you before you start your graduate school education. We offer three forms of financial aids for students:

With these three forms of aid, we have been able to help thousands of counselors and ministers fulfill their calling to do God’s work of healing, restoration, and transformation in the lives of individuals, churches, and communities.

We feel very fortunate to be able to provide private scholarships to our students. We recognize that not many graduate programs are able to offer their own scholarships or even help their students qualify for financial aid. Occasionally, we hear of students from other programs who were awarded their graduate or terminal degree on a “full ride.”

However, awards known as “full rides” are rarely fully explained or understood. Typically, the recipient of a full ride will have a job or two on campus as part of their “fellowship award.” Richmont departs from these types of awards. Instead, we offer our students scholarships that do not require them to work or serve any purpose other than being a student. This is not typical of graduate universities. We want our students to be able to have time with their families and friends, to even pursue a part-time job.

The Graduate Assistant (GA) jobs that Richmont offers are part-time positions for students to help the school serve other students by operating the Atlanta and the Chattanooga campuses. The positions range from 5 hours to 20 hours per week, and the student receives a competitive hourly wage. Work schedules for GA jobs automatically fit students’ class schedules—they are logistically more convenient than working off-campus jobs.

Applying for GA jobs on each campus is competitive, and pursuing one of these positions is similar to applying for a real job. Prospective students should inquire with their Admissions Counselors early in the process if they’re interested in GA jobs. The more counselors know incoming students, the better the counselor can recommend them for certain jobs, like the records office, the library, or assisting faculty.

Unfortunately, most of the public grants, foundations, lottery scholarships, or “free money” that assisted you in your undergraduate education are not available for your graduate education. Instead, we seek to provide federal financial aid resources and services to all of our students, especially those who may not be familiar with FAFSA or Federal Student Aid.

The Admissions and Finance staff works to create open and transparent conversations about how to use and plan for student loans and to not default on them. Richmont is ranked first overall with a 0.00% default rate, listed on The Student Loan Report’s 2017 Default Rates. And for students who want to pay for their education independently, we help them create realistic payment plans.

Talk to someone. That’s the first step in understanding the financial aid resources available to you. I always recommend that you meet with school staff, current students, or alumni who have experienced what you are about to experience. Talking to them can help you normalize the anxiety you have about new financial responsibilities. You are not alone in what you are feeling, and it is fine to feel that way!

And more than just talking to people, try to learn from them. Chat with people who have been able to pay off their student loans, listen to their experiences, and learn how you can achieve your goals. There is no one universal solution to paying for graduate school or student loans. But don’t forget you have people around you with stories and experiences that can speak into your own understanding and preparation for graduate school.