Are Free Degree Programs as Good as Expensive Programs?

Written by Grad School Center Team We are a passionate team of experienced educators and advisors at GradSchoolCenter.com, dedicated to guiding students through their graduate education journey. Our experts, with advanced degrees across various disciplines, offer personalized advice, up-to-date program information, and practical insights into application processes.

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Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 8 minutes

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Some students pursue graduate degrees in hopes of a better and more secure future. However, one thing to seriously consider before taking this large leap is the cost. The daunting debt that graduates will incur after earning their master’s degree is increasingly deterring prospective students from pursuing master’s degrees. The good news is that you can actually get a master’s degree for free.

There are many ways to graduate from a master’s degree without having to stress out on repaying debt. But while there are now many fully-funded graduate programs, it’s equally paramount to determine their quality and whether they are as good as the expensive graduate programs. Let’s break down and understand if this is a possible case. 

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Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Should Universities Offer Free and Fully-Funded Master’s Degrees?

It’s a frequently asked question with a difficult and sometimes ambiguous response. In fact, many universities that offer graduate programs don’t advertise their offerings as completely free right off the bat.

But as college costs increase and student debt increases, the subject is increasingly frequently raised. Should schools really offer them for free? After all, there is proof that graduate programs have the potential to improve workforce development, advance skills, and potentially increase salaries. 

If you start your search for free master’s degrees now, you won’t be disappointed. There really are many graduate programs offering diverse ways for you to fund your higher education.

However, the question about the difference in quality offered by these institutions compared with the expensive programs can be discovered by doing intensive research, visiting the campus, checking the coursework, and speaking with academic advisors and alumni. 

What are the Advantages of Free Degree Programs?

What are the Advantages of Free Degree Programs - Image

First, it’s best to understand the perks of enrolling in a free graduate program. Here are some advantages below:

Social Benefits

Positive domino effects would result from more Americans gaining more credentials and qualifications with free graduate programs. They can contribute to many industries, communities, and societies.

Free education supporters contend that as more people sorted themselves into better-suited, higher-paying jobs, the economy would be more productive, and GDP would rise. The social impact is an ultimate advantage of offering free graduate education for students. 

Economic Impact

The economy may benefit from free master’s degrees in a variety of ways. The workforce is taught advanced skills first, increasing competitiveness and productivity. In turn, more prospective employment is created, and the economy expands.

Creative endeavors and business endeavors increase as advanced education becomes more accessible. More people having access to education and creativity leads to the emergence of innovative companies and solutions, which boosts the economy even more.

Escape Student Debts

There is a significant issue with student debt. Growing debt affects millions of individuals, influencing their decisions in life and mental well-being. Programs offering free graduate programs may hold the key to solving this looming problem. Lower tuition fees provide students the financial independence and peace of mind they deserve by enabling them to finish their degrees without the stress of growing debt.

You will lose a significant or complete amount of money during your graduate studies. However, accessing free or financially supportive programs will put you in a better financial situation as they handle tuition coverage or sustain some funds for graduate study.  

Increased Accessibility

The democratization of educational access is the main objective of free graduate degree initiatives. Eliminating the high cost of tuition removes a significant obstacle for many potential students. It is especially crucial for underprivileged students whose financial constraints might have deterred them in the past.

After this barrier is removed, colleges and universities should see a huge rise in diversity as they welcome students from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and nations. It also improves the campus’s intellectual and social atmosphere even more.

How to Address Potential Quality Differences Between Free and Expensive Graduate Programs

One of the main causes for concern is the potential for educational quality in free graduate programs to deteriorate. When more students join, institutions risk overcrowding due to their limited funding. In bigger courses, students may receive less individualized attention, which might affect how effectively they learn.

It’s also challenging to maintain the same educational standards in light of growing demand and stagnant or even diminishing funding.

One best practice is for colleges and universities to make the admission process and requirements more competitive. Those who have good academic performance can get higher chances of being awarded than those who have poor track records. By controlling the number of admissions, colleges, and free graduate programs can continue to retain their quality and rigor. 

Straining the admissions could also result in students being more committed to graduate studies. Since they applied and overcame hurdles to get it, they can understand the value of it. At the same time, these institutions would be able to retain quality teaching and training to limited graduate students for free.

What are Some Tips for Finding the Best Free Graduate Program?

What are Some Tips for Finding the Best Free Graduate Program - Image

Full financial grants at the master’s level are less common, but they do exist. However, the words free or fully funded are usually not mentioned on university web pages for master’s programs. They are more likely to state that master’s students can or will earn a Graduate Research or Teaching Assistantship if they provide complete financing options.

Here are some tips to consider when finding the best free graduate program to enroll in:

Speak to people in the industry.

It’s crucial to speak with professionals in the field to learn about the qualifications and experience required to follow your ideal job path and to gain insight into their perspectives on different kinds of graduate programs.

Attend business networking events or speak with associations to make the necessary connections. Ask them where to find free graduate programs that offer good quality, like expensive programs.

Research financial aid options available.

Look for financial help opportunities, such as scholarships, grants, work-study, military benefits, and so on. Fellowships might offer the chance to get free tuition in a certain subject. Though it’s not usually the case, the fellowship may occasionally compel you to work for a set amount of time following graduation in a particular area or industry.

Visit the financial aid pages for the school you’re applying for to understand their offerings. 

Consider the interest rates while applying for private student loans. You can calculate how much you should borrow and how much you will have to pay back each month with the aid of an online student loan calculator. Remember that graduate students can also apply for scholarships. Extend your search beyond your area of expertise. There are diverse kinds of scholarships that you can apply and qualify for. 

Explore employer’s benefits.

The good news is some companies offer free graduate studies as part of the employer’s benefits. For some professionals, for example, they may get a reimbursement for the tuition of their higher education fees and costs. There might be conditions in order to avail of this benefit. For instance, you might be required to maintain a GPA of some sort. 

The key is that when looking for a career, find out about the benefits package and make sure you know whether there is tuition reimbursement. If you already have stable employment, find out if your company provides this benefit and make sure you understand the rules and conditions.

Consider research or teacher assistantships.

Though many private and public schools offer them, these programs aren’t often extensively marketed. Many higher education colleges and universities do offer research and teacher assistantships. This is another effective way to find means for graduate study. In essence, students receive a living stipend and complete tuition reimbursement in exchange for teaching a class or conducting research.

Free Degree Programs as Good as Expensive Programs - fact

It would be a better use of time and money to wait a few years before enrolling in graduate school if your motivation is to escape the real world or because you are unsure of what to do next. Earning a graduate degree requires a lot of money, time, and effort. However, there are now many ways to get this advanced education for free.

Depending on the university or college, these free graduate degrees can end up having the same quality and rigor as expensive programs as long as they limit admission and make it more competitive. 

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.