Financing Graduate School – PhD Programs

Direct and Indirect Costs

The direct costs of attending graduate school include tuition and fees. Students are also often required to buy themselves health insurance in order to be enrolled. Each school has different tuition and fee charges and different insurance costs. Tuition and fees also vary at state schools for in-state residents and out-of-state nonresidents. The indirect costs include things like room, board, books and supplies, travel, loan fees, and personal expenses. This handout provides a comparison for different types of programs, costs associated, and contributions expected from students.

Internal Funding

Funding is often offered for many doctoral programs; in exchange, students are often required to complete teaching assistantships, research assistantships, fellowships, and trainee-ships. Although it may take longer to complete your degree if you have teaching, research, or other obligations, such experience may also be crucial preparation for your career. Teaching assistantships are generally awarded to second-semester or second-year graduate students and may include a tuition waiver and stipend in exchange for leading a discussion section, supervising a lab, or grading papers. Research assistantships are also awarded by the institution, typically to second-semester or second-year graduate students. In return, you will receive a partial or full tuition waiver and a stipend. Some examples of the internal aid at Yale are available at the Yale Graduate Funding and Aid Office.

Internal funding opportunities generally provide tuition support and health insurance in addition to a stipend for living expenses. Different programs offer different amounts over a different number of years. You will need to check whether a program you are considering offers this kind of support and complete any necessary application materials.  If you are considering a state school where you are not a resident, be sure to research if, and for how long, the support they offer would cover the cost of out-of-state tuition and the likelihood of gaining residency within that period.

Master’s-only programs are less likely to offer the same level of financial support as doctoral programs; however, some do offer support. In addition, funded doctoral programs that provide a master’s on the way may offer tuition, health insurance, and a stipend while students are earning the master’s degree.

External Funding

External grants and awards can sometimes provide better funding and support than internal assistantships and fellowships offered. Sources of funding can be explored at Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Fellowships page and a list of nationally competitive external fellowships can be found on Yale’s Fellowship and Funding page. The following sites also have lists of external funding that students can explore:, Fastweb!, ProFellow,, Peterson’s,, and MSU’s Grants for Individuals.

Need-Based Funding and Loans

Financial aid is also available through a school’s office of scholarships and student aid (names of the office may vary) in the form of need-based loans or grants. Be aware of the terms of any loans and the fact that loans can accrue interest while you are still in school.

By Meredith Mira
Meredith Mira Senior Associate Director Meredith Mira