Once you have decided to apply for an international Masters programme, you will also need to come up with a long-term plan for financing your degree, especially if you intend to apply for a scholarship, grant or an education loan.
Contrary to what many people think, starting graduate studies abroad does not have to be unfavourable for your wallet. As long as you are responsible and learn how to handle your finances, your Masters programme will not cost you a fortune. If you are particularly interested in study loans and would like to find out how they work, the following paragraphs may be of help.
Put simply, a loan differs from other forms of funding in that it has to be repaid once the student graduates or gets a full-time job after graduation. Postgraduate loans can be administered by governmental and non-governmental institutions as well as by banks. Although loans are technically issued after securing a spot in a Masters course, give yourself sufficient time to get to know what options are available to you.
Government education loans
Depending on where you come from and where want to study, your country’s government may have an appropriate funding scheme for you. It is a good idea to consider the possibility of taking out a government-sponsored loan before any other because of the low interest rate and the favourable conditions for students. While some governments focus their funding efforts on domestic students, others can issue loans for foreign nationals as well as aiding their citizens in their studies abroad.
For example, if you are an EU national who wishes to study at a university or college in England the UK government may deem you eligible for a postgraduate loan. In other cases, government funding schemes are designed only for local citizens while internationals are encouraged to apply for other funding opportunities such as scholarships or private loans. This is also the case in the US – if you plan to get your Masters degree there and would like to apply for a federal loan funded by the government, you need to be a US national or a US permanent resident.
While researching your options online, you may have come across the term “non-means tested loans”. These refer to a funding scheme in which your income or your parents’ income does not affect the amount of money you receive. If you believe your family’s earnings are much lower than average, you may want to consider applying for various need-based scholarships which take your financial situation into account.
Private education loans
Private student loans are not issued by governments but by banks, credit companies or universities. Fortunately, today you can find information about the most favourable terms for you through the websites of the study programmes you are considering. Universities typically have special conditions for taking out a loan to attend their programmes and can refer you to a bank that they collaborate with. They may have favourable interest rates or a different “grace period” – the period of time before you must begin repayment of your loan. The grace period is usually set at six months after you graduate.
Another option you should keep in mind is the Erasmus+ Master Degree Loans programme which offers “EU-guaranteed loans with favourable pay-back terms that can help you finance a Master course in an Erasmus+ Programme country.” One of the student-friendly terms of the programme is the possibility to take up to two years after graduation to find work before beginning to repay your loan. At the moment, this funding scheme is available through universities and banks in Spain, France, the UK, and Turkey for outgoing students from these countries and for students from other Programme countries going to Spain or the UK.
If you already have your shortlist of Masters programmes to apply for, take the time to review the information provided by the school in advance – they will be more than willing to help you out. As IE Business School (Spain) advises: “Some [financial institutions] may have important limitations that do not exist with others (for example, limitation regarding the total amount to be financed, receiving a provisional diploma for the completed programme until the loan is fully repaid, etc.) or additional requirements for your application. Make sure to find out more about these peculiarities by calling the IE Financial Aid Department.”
One such condition you could encounter when deciding on the type of loan is having to arrange a cosigner – a person who agrees to repay the loan if the student is unable to do so. For government-sponsored and federal funding schemes, this is not usually a requirement. However, for many of the private loans offered by banks or other financial institutions, you may need to have a cosigner at the ready. The arrangement is not too complicated if you have your parents or another trusted person by your side to support you through your studies. Still, if you prefer not to involve other people when arranging your student loan, you will certainly be able to find agreeable terms that do not require a cosigner, such as the MBA and Masters loans provided by Prodigy Finance.
If you have decided to apply for external funding to assist with your tuition fees or living expenses during your Masters studies, go through all the available options – not only loans, but also scholarships and grants. In some cases, a combination of different funding schemes is also possible so be sure to exhaust all possibilities that could be of help on your way to your dream Masters degree!