There are a variety of programs that provide financial aid for a fifth year of college. Most graduate students require loans to finish their education. They can often find support within the particular university department of their graduate program, through access to federal grant programs, foundations or philanthropic organizations. Graduate school funds are distributed from each departmental office, association or foundation, and individual student merit often determines who receives financial aid.
To be eligible for any federal or state financial aid for a fifth year of college, you must complete and file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once you file your FAFSA, you become eligible to receive funds from one or more financial aid programs, such as Federal Stafford loans (6.8 percent fixed-interest rate), Federal Perkins loans (5 percent interest) or PLUS loans (7.9 percent to 8.5 percent interest). You must be a U.S. citizen/national or an eligible non-citizen, to qualify for federal loans.
A grant is a one-time money award that never has to be repaid, and they are awarded to students based on financial need or academic merit. Relatively new to the grant programs, the TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) grant was first offered for the 2008-2009 school year, and it is available to graduate students who are enrolled in courses designed for a career in teaching and who also meet other specific guidelines (studentaid.ed.gov). As of 2011, other grants offered as financial aid for a fifth year of college include the Federal Pell Grant ($976 to $5,350), the SMART (Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent) Grant (up to $4,000) or a state grant called LEAP (Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership) funded by the federal government with awards that have ranged from $100 to $5,000.
Federal Work Study
The Federal Work Study Program offers part-time employment to currently-enrolled students. The program urges students toward working in a job related to their course of study or community service work, and students are paid on an hourly or salary basis. Your school’s financial aid office should be able to provide you with more information about this program.
Military Financial Aid
The Montgomery GI Bill provides eligible veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces with educational benefits up to $39,600 for the 2011 academic year, and if you are involved in a particular occupational specialty, you may be eligible to receive additional benefits from the Army or Navy College Fund. Depending on the specialty in which you are enlisted and the length of your enlistment, the Department of Defense may pay some or all of any federal loans (Stafford, Perkins) you acquired for your education.
The school you attend may provide financial aid for a fifth year of college in the form of grants, scholarships and fellowships awarded based on merit, financial need or special talent. Many universities also offer internships, research and teaching assistantships and on-campus employment opportunities. Graduate students pursuing certain fields of study may apply for awards and grants through the National Research Council (NationalAcademies.org) or the Fulbright Scholars (iie.org).