How To Fund Grad School

Featured photo by Shane on Unsplash

We recently surveyed our MSW students to learn:

How they’re funding grad school


If they think it’s worth the investment

Are students in school full time? 

  • 55% of our currently enrolled students are full-time  (*Full time Advanced Standing and Accelerated students included)
  • 45% of our currently enrolled students are on part time tracks (3 year and 4 year options) See more at the UNE Social Work Website

Do students work AND go to school? 

Over 75% of those surveyed report they work part time or full time jobs (average 15-20 hours/week).  (*Note, no full time students are working full time.  It’s one or the other.)  Our students find work in a variety of settings:

  • Schools – Special Education, BHP, Substitute Teaching
  • Service industry at one of Portland’s many restaurants or pubs 
  • At one of Maine’s many Nonprofits
  • Nannying
  • Crisis and Emergency Services
  • DHHS (30% Tuition reduction rate for all full time DHHS employees) 
  • Sweetser (30% Tuition reduction rate for all full time Sweetser employees)
  • Political Canvassing
  • Retail work
  • Creative Freelance
  • and much much more!

How much do students pay for housing? 

Over 75% of those surveyed report paying $500 or more for their rent each month (~ 50% report paying between $500-1000).   UNE’s Living Off Campus Housing Resources HERE  can help with finding roommates and affordable housing.  Others report using craigslist, zillow, or social media rent/find a roommate pages.  Though less than 10% of our students report living with friends and family at no cost, it certainly helps if you have family nearby willing to host you!

Do students get scholarships? 

Over 80% of those surveyed reported receiving some form of financial assistance outside of loans.  Many are receiving scholarship or stipend funding from the school of social work, while others report receiving alumni scholarships from their undergraduate universities, private scholarships, veteran education benefits, family loans, or tuition reimbursement from their employers.  Be sure to check the HR department where you are employed to see whether or not they have a tuition reimbursement program!

School of Social work funding:

TRIAD: UNE School of Social Work is currently offering $10,000 stipends to MSW students interested in receiving additional training around Aging and Diversity as part of the Training in Aging, Diversity Project .  Funding extends to those interested in focusing on Substance Use Disorder within populations 45 yrs+ (TRIAD FELLOW).

Merit Scholarships: UNE’s School of Social Work offers merit scholarships annually.   Admissions is rolling and scholarships are offered as applications are processed (See deadlines HERE). Simply check the box in the GradCAS application portal to indicate you’d like to be considered.

AmeriCorps: UNE’s School of Social Work is  an AmeriCorps Matching Institution and offers a $1,000 matching scholarship to AmeriCorps alumni entering our on campus program.

DHHS and Sweetser partnerships: UNE School of Social Work grants a 30% per-credit-hour discount for all DHHS and Sweetser employees to pursue an M.S.W. degree.

For more information on Scholarships and Stipends visit our website HERE

Do students take loans? 

Yes! Nearly 90% of those surveyed responded that they are taking Subsidized, Unsubsidized, and/or Grad Plus Loans.  For more information about Loans visit UNE’s Graduate and Professional Student Financial Services. 

Are MSW students participating in loan reimbursement programs? 

Yes! Here are some of the possibilities:

HRSA National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program 


Do students feel it’s worth the time and money?

In response to this question (Is it worth the investment? If so, why?) we’ll let students speak for themselves:

“I knew I wanted to be a social worker and the UNE MSW program has taught me the skills I need to be successful in the field, has helped me to build a strong network of fellow clinicians in Maine, and was flexible enough to accommodate  my changing life circumstances.”

“The advanced standing program is only a one year commitment, I will earn my MSW in less time with less financial burden.”

“I am gaining so much invaluable knowledge that I could be in debt forever and it would be worth it”

“The Trauma Certificate.”

“The flexibility”

“There are great opportunities for interprofessional work, good professors, interesting classes, etc.”

“It’s what I want to do.”

“It is one of the cheapest Advanced Standing options I could find in the country while still providing excellent education.”

“It offers in state, quality education with a focus on trauma and the arts.  I wanted to stay in the community where I was already working and would be in upon graduation.”

“The Applied Arts and Social Justice Certificate program was a perfect match for my goal to use music and art as tools in my social work practice.”

“It’s a smaller program with a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration as well as an emphasis on field placement experience. I felt I would be able to get the one-on-one attention I know I benefit from when learning.”

“I knew I wanted to be in Maine and I really appreciate UNE’s prioritizing of internships as well as interprofessional opportunities. For me, I need this investment to lead to the job I want.  So, if it means paying more upfront for a job right out of school, that is worth it to me.”

“I felt as if nowhere else could give me the type of education, and the personalized attention that UNE could give me as a smaller private school.”

“Their unique interprofessional opportunities surpass those at any other school in the country. ”

“When I came to UNE just for the initial introduction and was personally greeted by people who really seemed to care, it was an immediate decision maker.  I had continued contact with staff who made sure  all my questions were answered and made me feel heard.  If this was the way they treated strangers, I knew I would feel welcome as a student as well.”

“Connection to community, small cohort, engaged faculty.”

“At UNE, the MSW program is totally worth it. You have access to all the professors and are given exceptional support by staff.  The opportunities to bolster your resume are endless.”

“A livable salary while also doing something that brings great meaning to my life.”

“The overall challenging, comprehensive and collaborative health care educational training which fully prepares students for today’s workforce. While in this program, I’ve had the opportunity to advance my clinical and community knowledge beyond the classroom, by attending (and being certified-in) specialized training in trauma, substance abuse, aging diversity (elderly), and interprofessional team immersion (IPTI). These types of unique educational offers have strengthened my abilities to serve  vulnerable populations, while simultaneously enhanced my ability to obtain future employment in the state of Maine and beyond.  My final thoughts as to why I think the MSW program is worth the investment centers around the high caring quality of its professors and staff members, who on a daily basis are genuinely concerned about students’ academic and professional successes, coupled with their overall well-beings. Plus, I haven’t found a more, beautiful and relaxed college campus as the UNE!”

Any other tips?

“Research scholarship funds before you enter the program”

“Working part time and going to school part time helps a lot.  My side gig is nannying which pays better than most part time jobs and is much more flexible.”

“Find work that is flexible and willing to work with your schedule.  I work on the weekends.”

“You don’t need to buy coffee every day.”

“Create a monthly budget and stick to it!”

“Apply for TRIAD!”

“Find roommates!”

“Utilize student discounts.  Streaming services, athletic establishments, computer software – all areas that offer student pricing. Not sure if a place does? Ask.  It never hurts.”

Hope this helps as you begin to think about how you can fund YOUR passionate academic endeavors! for more information contact Meg Webster at