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Earning a Graduate Degree Without Drowning in Debt - How to strategically fund your master's degree

Sreyoshi Battacharya


A master's is an investment in one's future, a commitment to academic and professional advancement. With introspection, analysis of your financial resources and research, you can afford a master’s without draining your coffers or drowning in the quagmire of education loans.

Cognizant of the financial commitment of a master's degree, graduate schools offer options to make education more accessible, from online programs to scholarships and financial aid. The return on your investment increases when you pursue affordable programs such as the Daniels School of Business offers.

“I was fortunate enough to receive a merit-based Krannert scholarship from the Daniels School of Business that was awarded based on a thorough evaluation of my academic achievements, skills and potential contributions to the field of marketing. This scholarship substantially eased my financial burden and enabled me to focus more on my academic endeavors in the Marketing program.”  - Sukriti Dangi, MS Marketing ’23

The Daniels School of Business, renowned for its commitment to excellence in education and groundbreaking business scholarship, understands the financial challenges that often deter students from pursuing their academic aspirations. In response to these challenges, the school offers multiple options to ensure that higher education remains accessible.  

Merit-based scholarships

The go-to funding source has long been merit-based scholarship, but the options for graduate students vary according to school and program. Your first step would be to research options within and outside of your prospective school.

For starters, you may try searching graduate school scholarships or ask your search engine “Are there graduate school scholarships?” You may find answers such as these.

Next, you may also want to contact the program specialist for your program to find out school and program-specific financial support – from need-based to merit-based.  Program specialists or recruiters are experts in the programs you hope to pursue, and they want to help you.

For in-residence students, the Daniels School of Business offers merit-based scholarships up to $5000 across its academic departments. Scholarships are awarded based on a range of criteria provided to the admissions committee. Trisha Hartman, Program Administration Specialist fo Master's Programs says the following tips will help you maximize your chances.

  • Academic records: Test scores, GPAs, previous schoolwork and academic credentials lay the foundation for getting the committee excited about you.
  • Resume: A professional resume will give the admissions committee a fair idea of your accomplishments.
  • Interviews: Hartman emphasizes that interview performance significantly impacts the scholarship awards, so preparing for the online interviews with the academic program manager matters. Write an outline of talking points that best articulate your achievements and future goals to show off your preparation for rigorous academics. Be aware that questions are department-specific and assess academic aptitude.

To stay informed about scholarship opportunities, application procedures, deadlines and eligibility criteria, prospective Purdue students are encouraged to explore Purdue University's official scholarship and financial aid website. Additionally, for specialized scholarships or assistantships, applicants are encouraged to explore opportunities within their intended departments or colleges. 

“To apply for the athletics scholarship, I had to perform exceptionally well in track in high school. Once I performed well, I got asked to come visit the school and after visiting, I was sent a contract and I signed it. The scholarship helped tremendously! It paid for all my academic costs for both undergraduate as well as my business master’s degree! This allowed me to not take a loan out and now I’m in the real world without any debt!” -  Justin Becker, MS Marketing ’23 (recipient of the athletics scholarship)

Co-curricular Scholarships

Besides academic scholarships, many schools may offer co-curricular scholarships applicable to athletes. If you compete as an athlete, ask your program specialist about opportunities. The Daniels School of Business offers many co-curricular scholarships. Each year, Purdue student-athletes can apply for scholarships through academic departments encourage student athletes to apply for both athletic scholarships. Stay updated about the student-athlete's quest to find these scholarships at Purdue .

On-campus jobs and paid internships

Many full-time students take up part-time work positions on campus that can offset the cost of living and other expenses. Ask your program specialist or academic advisor where such jobs are posted and monitor opportunities while you are still evaluating schools and programs. When you are accepted to the school, you can begin the process of applying for open positions.

Balancing the demands of work while also seeking an advanced degree may seem challenging, but with commitment and planning it can be done. According to higher education admissions expert Joshua C. Rosenthal, “One of the best ideas an individual can have in order to sharpen their industry knowledge, skill set, and acumen is to pursue a graduate-level degree while working. ”  The benefits of on-campus jobs include  real-world application of knowledge, tangible improvements in work quality, enhanced value to employers, and increased classroom engagement. This dual commitment to work and education amplifies skill development and career advancement. On-campus paid positions that students engage in that not only serve as a source of income for students, but also prepare them for life by teaching them how to:

“My part-time job has been a blessing that has allowed me to become self-sufficient and has significantly enhanced my CV by offering practical skills and experiences that are very relevant to the current market requirements. It is a win-win situation that has not only eased my financial stress but also enriched my educational journey."  - Yash Chitravanshi, MS Marketing ’23
  • Balance academic demands
  • Time management
  • Real work experience
  • Networking opportunities through enhanced communication and negotiation skills
  • Skill development
  • Responsibility and ownership

The Daniels School of Business offers many valuable and resume-enhancing flexible paid internships allowing students  to learn as they earn. These positions provide financial support, covering educational and living expenses while enabling students to gain practical experience as Mitali Verma, MS Marketing ‘23 says:

“My marketing analyst internship at the Daniels School of Business not only covered my educational and living expenses at Purdue but also allowed me to save for the future. Additionally, it significantly strengthened my resume by providing practical experience in data analysis and marketing strategy which eventually helped me crack job interviews as the projects were very beneficial and related to actual work that I was going to work in corporate setting.” 

Beyond internships, you may seek on-campus paid positions. The best part about these positions is that you can apply even before you arrive as full-time students.

Budgeting and Employer Funding

Some graduate programs such as weekend or executive MBA programs and online specialty master’s make it possible for professionals to pursue education while remaining employed full-time. Executive MBA students frequently finance their education through a combination of program and external scholarships, personal income, or savings and/or corporate sponsorship. Corporate sponsorships benefit companies because their managers bring value back to the organization.

A few tips that can be useful to keep in mind when approaching your company for employer funding for a master’s program are:

"Depending upon the course of study and the company, there are a lot of students that can get funded, especially in our EMBA and weekend MBA programs by the companies they work with." - Trisha Hartman, Program Administration Specialist for Master's Programs
  • Do your homework: Research what your company offers and the specializations you are interested in so you can pitch it to your supervisor.
  • Chart a roadmap: Knowing what you expect from the degree and what value it will add to your company through you.
  • Time yourself right: Be perceptive about the ideal time to bring up the topic in conversation with your team lead and/or manager for a constructive discussion.
  • Sell yourself: Persuade your employer about the value addition you will bring to the table, reiterate your loyalty to the company and show them what is in it for them
  • Cost calculation: Provide a detailed breakdown of the cost structure and expenses that your company will bear in helping you earn the master’s degree will show commitment and sincerity.

Thinking long term

The return on investment (ROI) on our master’s allows students to offset the cost incurred over the course of earning their degree. For instance, the ROI for the Master of Global Supply Chain Management program is 144% for in-state students, while it is a satisfactory 103.43% for international students in the same period in comparison to other universities of similar rankings on the East Coast. Similarly, the Master of Business Analytics and Information Management program promises a one-year ROI of 136% for international students and an ROI of 179% for in-state students which guarantees quality education and excellent earnings potential. The advantage of a Daniels School master’s is most are STEM-certified, which allows international students the three-year OPT period option of working in the US and earning back the money that they invested in their education. Other programs are STEM-infused giving Purdue graduates a technical advantage.

A master's degree need not be fraught with financial worries. The Daniels School of Business at Purdue University offers a range of opportunities that arm students to pursue their academic dreams without drowning in debt, knowing your investment is worth it.  “You are making the choice to invest in your future, and that is how you just have to see it – as an investment that no one can take away from you,” says Hartman.


If you would like to receive more information about pursuing a business master’s at the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, please fill out the form and a program specialist will be in touch!

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