Cost of a Psychology Degree

For many students considering psychology school, finances play a major role in determining their future course. The cost of attending school for psychology varies widely around the U.S. Costs vary based on where the school is located as well as what level of degree is sought. Three major types of academic institutions offer degrees in psychology: public colleges and universities, private colleges and universities, and for-profit colleges and universities.

The most affordable route for most students wanting to attend school for psychology is through a public college or university. These schools, which include local community colleges, city colleges, and state universities, are subsidized by local taxes and therefore can offer much lower tuition and more-affordable costs. These schools are often a bargain because their subsidized status and generally superior research departments often attract top-caliber professors and resources, but at a fraction of the price of private and for-profit institutions.

  • Depending on the school, students can earn their associate degree, bachelor degree, master’s degree, and even their doctorate degree through public colleges and universities, and each of these programs varies dramatically in price.
  • Community colleges offering associate’s degrees in psychology can charge as little as a few thousand dollars in some cases, whereas bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at larger, in-state colleges and universities can range from $20,000 to well over $100,000 during a student’s course of study.

The next most-popular option for students interested in psychology is to attend a private college or university. These schools vary widely in both price and academic caliber, but are not subsidized by tax funds, so tuition is almost always significantly more expensive than at their public counterparts. They often feature smaller classes, smaller campuses, and more individual attention for their students. Nevertheless, many of the more prestigious colleges and universities receive endowments from alumni that can help to fund financial aid, grants, and scholarships for high school seniors (for both athletic and academic performance) to offset their higher tuition. Four years of attendance at one of these institutions can easily cost a student somewhere between $60,000 and $140,000 before any financial aid. For students interested in pursuing a psychology degree at private schools, investigating different financial aid packages, grants, and scholarships is a must.

Cost of a Psychology Degree

The final option is for-profit colleges and universities. These schools, which are a relatively recent addition to the academic game, focus on providing a basic education to students who many not qualify or be able to complete degrees in the other two conventional academic environments. They typically allow credit transfers, will count work experience in lieu of classes (but for a price), and offer a wide range of online and satellite locations for students to attend classes. Although many of these schools pride themselves on being great democratic institutions–since, generally, anyone who can afford to pay is granted admission–they’re often a quite expensive option because they aren’t subsidized by local jurisdictions, and they often don’t have the coffers to sustain scholarships and financial aid funds the way non-profit, public, and private colleges and universities do. They are businesses, first and foremost, and aim to provide alternative students with an alternative education, for a price.

The actual price of any psychology school program will vary dramatically based on its location, the degree it’s offering, and whether it’s a public, private, or for-profit school. The price to attend psychology school, in general, can range from less than $10,000 to well over $100,000, depending on the factors described above.

Paying for a Psychology Education

Financing is obviously a major concern for most students interested in attending psychology school. Few students today can afford to walk into a college or university, pull out a checkbook, and cover their full tuition amount out of pocket on their own. Tuition is a major cost, no matter how you look at it, but fortunately there are a number of ways to pay for an education in psychology. Students unable to afford their entire tuition themselves can look for assistance through grants, scholarships, financial aid, and student loans. Many students ultimately rely on a combination of all four types of assistance when covering the financial burden of putting themselves through school.

Grants are sums of money that are given to deserving students, generally without an expectation of repayment. They are often awarded to students in honor of their performance or participation in a particular area such as community service, academic performance, or athletic ability. Scholarships are sums of money that, like grants, often do not require repayment. But unlike grants, scholarships often have stipulations of performance attached to them.

    • Like grants, scholarships are often awarded based on performance or participation in areas of civic, academic, or athletic life, but they are often given with the expectation that such performance or participation will continue throughout a student’s educational endeavors. Continued performance is required for awarding and renewing a scholarship.

Paying for a Psychology Education

  • Financial aid is distributed both through the government and through private institutions, and is frequently given without the expectation of repayment, based on a demonstrated need or financial circumstance. Student loans are the most prevalent source of financing for many students, and are sums of money provided up-front to students (through their programs) to pay for their studies (including tuition, books, fees, room and board, etc.).
  • Student loans come with the expectation that they will be paid back in the future, with interest added. There are a number of private and public student loans available to psychology students.

Financial Aid for Psychology Students

“Financial aid” is a general term for funds dispersed by both private and public sectors to offset the costs of a student’s education. Generally, financial aid is given based on a student’s demonstrated financial need, rather than being related to any previous performance or participation in any particular activities. In most cases, financial aid is disbursed to students to mitigate the cost of their education, and repayment of this “discount” is not expected.

The first step in receiving consideration for financial aid is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is an official government form. Generally, this form is required for consideration for any type of need-based financial aid, as well as some federally subsidized loans (covered in more detail below). The FAFSA is not only a requirement for federal aid consideration, but is generally required for any school that may offer its own private funds toward a student’s financial aid package.

When filling out the FAFSA application form, students should be prepared to answer in-depth demographic and biographical questions, and have income information from their own, or in some cases, their parents’ or spouse’s most recent tax filing with the IRS. Much of the FAFSA is used to determine the student’s current financial situation, what type of income he expects to earn during his studies, and what other funds, savings, or support he’ll be able to rely on from outside channels (such as parental or spousal support, savings accounts, trust funds, assets, etc.).

Qualifying for financial aid depends largely on a student’s current and anticipated income during his future studies, but FAFSA also considers other “hardships” or financial situations that may necessitate financial assistance for the student to complete his education. Things like number of siblings in a household, number of dependents, child-support payments, mortgages, recent unemployment, outstanding loans, or debt are also factors in determining a person’s financial situation for the FAFSA.

Once the government and schools have this information, students may quality for financial aid. Financial aid is not distributed evenly, and in most cases, there isn’t a simple formula to determine which students get a specific amount of money. But many schools have general guidelines for who may be eligible and for how much money they may qualify. The best way to gain information and learn the specifics of financial aid that will affect and apply to your education is to contact the financial aid office at the school you wish to attend. Each school should have at least one individual in this position who can walk you through the necessary steps to apply for financial aid and receive consideration.

Grants for Psychology Study

Grants are sums of money awarded to students to help them continue to pursue their studies, generally in honor of their participation or performance in a particular area, such as community service, academic performance, or athletic ability. Generally, grants are not expected to be repaid, are based on prior performance or participation, and do not require additional future performance or participation. Grants are available from a wide variety of both private and public sources.

The federal government awards a large number of grants every year to deserving students for a wide range of behaviors and interests. These grants often come with specific stipulations (such as financial need, race, gender, or other specific designations) in addition to basic requirements to apply for them. Many grants require applicants not only to meet certain pre-existing criteria, but to be pursuing a specific course of study, and to submit a full application with references and essay components to be considered for the grants. Students interested in looking into federal grants should visit the website to learn more about potential public grants available. In addition, many state, city, county, and local governments offer grants to local residents to pursue their studies. Checking local jurisdictions’ websites or visiting local municipal offices can unearth a large array of grants that are available to students for a wide range of interests and studies. This can include grants set up specifically for the spouses and children of certain public employees (such as firemen, police officers, military families, etc.).

In addition to public sources, numerous private colleges, universities, and independent organizations offer grants to students. Organizations like the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) often issue grants to their members for showing an interest in their group’s mission statement and planning to pursue a course of action befitting that mission. These organizations require applicants for grants to demonstrate an active interest in the group and meet the criteria set forth in the individual grants available. Many charities and local organizations have grants that are available to students as well, often in memory of former members and their respective interests. These grants may have specific guidelines or requirements in addition to membership and academic pursuit, such as demonstrated financial need, academic performance, school spirit, civic involvement, interest in the ideals of the organization, specific academic pursuits, and declared areas of future study. To learn about grants that may be available, check with local organizations, charities, and institutions with which you, your family, or your friends may be involved. Ask around to see if they have any grants available and invest the time to research the criteria. Researching and applying for grants can be a time-consuming process and at times can feel like a shot in the dark, but it’s often a lucrative investment that can significantly help to offset the cost of an education and help students interested in psychology school succeed.

Scholarships for Psychology

Scholarships are sums of money that are issued by individuals, groups, organizations, businesses, or financial institutions to offset the cost of an education, and often do not require repayment. Like grants, scholarships are often (but not always) awarded based on demonstrated financial need and impressive performance in areas such as civics, community service, athletics, or academics. In addition, many scholarships have stipulations attached to them requiring their recipients to continue the performance or participation that originally qualified them for the scholarship throughout their academic career for the money to continue to be dispensed. Whereas grants are often one-time disbursements of money, scholarships often have the ability to be renewed or granted repeatedly if the designee continues to meet the criteria guidelines established within the scholarship.

Most public and private colleges and universities have scholarships available to their general student bodies. The number of these scholarships and the amount of money they provide to their recipients, however, vary dramatically. For example, large universities with competitive NCAA sports teams will often provide their most promising student athletes with large scholarships, sometimes covering their entire tuition costs, in exchange for the student’s commitment to continue to play sports at their institution. Other schools recruit top academic performers to their institutions by issuing large scholarships to students entering their school with particularly high academic grades or test scores. In both of these cases, scholarships are issued to students based on their past performance, but also on the agreement that they will continue to perform well at that institution. If their performance or participation changes, the scholarship may be revoked.

The criteria required for receiving scholarships vary dramatically from school to school and from scholarship to scholarship. Generally, scholarships cover at least a portion of the tuition costs associated with attending the school, and some scholarships will cover additional costs such as books, fees, and room and board.

Unlike grants, many scholarships do not require application processes (though some do, so check with your school to find out the specifics of the scholarships it offers). Many scholarships are issued to students before they even apply to individual schools as a means of recruiting students with specific skill sets to specific institutions. Students may receive letters in the mail informing them that they’ve received a scholarship, in the hopes that the scholarship will inspire them to attend the institution issuing the scholarship.

Other scholarships may require applications similar to grants. They may require biographical information about the student (particularly demographic information like gender, race, ethnicity, religion, income level, geographic area, etc.) and supplemental information like reference letters and essays. Applying for these scholarships can be a stressful and time-consuming process. But scholarships can significantly reduce the financial burden of attending an academic institution, so applying is often quite worthwhile.

In addition to academic institutions, a variety of businesses, organizations, and charities offer valuable scholarships for a wide range of experience and performance. Researching scholarships can be a tedious process, but most public libraries offer guides and directories of scholarships that are free to access. There are also a number of private companies (many online) that specialize in matching students with scholarships, but these services often charge a fee (sometimes quite high) and don’t necessarily guarantee that an applicant will be awarded any of the scholarships she turns up in her search. Although this option may interest people with extra money and little time, generally, good old-fashioned elbow grease and time is the best way to find scholarships that are a good fit for psychology students.

Student Loans for Psychology Majors

Student loans are the most prevalent source of financing for many students. These are sums of money provided up-front to students to offset the cost of their education. These loans typically come from private lenders and banks, and can be used to cover the cost of tuition, books, fees, room and board, rent, food, utilities, general expenses, and the like while a student is enrolled in school. Although college loans are the most prevalent, and historically the easiest form of financial assistance for students interested in psychology, they are not free money, and are loaned with the expectation that they will be paid back in full, often with interest.

To apply for a student loan, psychology students have a number of options. They can simply visit their local bank and apply for a loan in person with a banker. They can also often apply online for student loans. Private student loans are often available at lower rates than typical loans for non-educational purposes, and frequently have better interest-accruing packages or payback deferral options that allow students to avoid making monthly payments until after their studies are complete.

In addition to the private student loans available, there are programs such as the federal Stafford Loan program. Stafford loans are one of the most popular forms of student loans and are governed by a program that requires private lenders to meet specific requirements when issuing and collecting loans from students. To qualify for a Stafford loan, students must be enrolled in either undergraduate or graduate classes at least half-time. Students interested in taking only one or two classes per semester will usually not qualify for Stafford loans.

Generally, private banks that have agreements with the individual schools issue Stafford loans. Check with your school’s financial aid office to see which Stafford loan lenders they prefer, to expedite your payment and make the loan process easier. The benefits of having a Stafford loan are the lower interest rates they often come with (sometimes as low as 4.5%) and the increased limits as to how much a student can borrow. Some students qualify for up to $20,500 per academic year, so check with your institution and lender to see how much you may receive. The other benefit of Stafford loans is that they’re given regardless of credit history (usually). And because they’re regulated by the government, they cannot accrue interest while the student is enrolled at least half-time in school. Basically, that means if you take out a lump sum while in school, the day you graduate, you’ll still only owe that lump sum. The loan will not begin to accrue interest at all until your education is complete or you’re no longer enrolled at least half-time in school. That can save students a lot of money, as compared to private loans without such regulations.

Both the Family Educational Loans (FFEL) Program and the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program fall under the umbrella of Stafford loans. Under these programs, students who will be receiving support from and are considered to be dependents of their parents may also qualify for PLUS and GRAD PLUS loans, based on a number of factors including their own and their parents’ financial scores. Unlike typical Stafford loans, these loans may require payment within 60 days of the loan being taken, because they assume the student will be receiving assistance to qualify for the loan.

Psychology School Articles – Main