Why Is Grad School So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

At the mention of graduate school, people think about the advantage it can give when searching for a job, as well as the small fortune one would spend to receive further education.

While grad school is worth the large sum of money, it’s unclear why this is so. Here’s what I found!

Why Is Grad School So Expensive?

1. Grad School Is Considered The Key To Gainful Employment

For many, earning an undergraduate diploma is no longer enough to guarantee a job that will lead to financial stability and a successful career.

That said, research has shown that over 30% of Americans over 25 have obtained a college education, making a college diploma insufficient for employment today.

To address this, more people are pursuing further education to appear more appealing to employers and recruiters.

As a result of the sudden influx of people seeking postgrad education, the cost of grad school has also increased significantly.

2. Graduate Diploma Holders Make More Money

In addition to the interest in grad school, it has been found that the average starting salary for graduate diploma holders is significantly larger than that of their undergraduate counterparts.

In 2021, it was found that those with a master’s degree earned up to 87% more than those with an undergraduate degree.

For many, this is an indispensable advantage of law school, leading them to pay a higher price in pursuit of a graduate degree.

3. Costly Applications And Tests Are A Necessity

Before getting into grad school, you would have to be admitted into a postgraduate program first.

That said, this entails paying application fees, which can cost hundreds of dollars if you apply to more than one university.

Additionally, some programs may require additional tests such as GMAT, GRE, and English proficiency tests, which you will also have to pay for.

Also, international students must shoulder the costs of student visa applications before choosing to go abroad for grad school.

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All these factors contribute to grad school being an expensive experience overall.

4. Esteemed Faculty Members Teach Graduate Programs

The faculty of a postgraduate program greatly contributes to the high cost of grad school.

Generally, the faculty members of a specific program are experts in their chosen field of study and thus offer a wealth of knowledge to their students.

As such, their expertise is invaluable to graduate programs, which requires them to be compensated accordingly by the institution.

The renown of a program’s faculty and their salaries, therefore, influence the high price of attending grad school.

5. Grad School Offers A More Specialized Curriculum

5. Grad School Offers A More Specialized Curriculum

Apart from the faculty teaching postgrad, the curriculum offered in grad school makes it more expensive.

Compared to undergrad courses with broader and more general scopes, the curriculum in corresponding graduate programs tends to be more specialized and technical.

Additionally, this calls for multiple instructors who are knowledgeable in grad students’ fields of interest.

As such, these contribute to what makes grad school costly.

6. Learning Materials And Equipment Are Expensive

The learning materials and equipment needed tend to be expensive as well.

For one, it’s not unheard of for the cost of grad school textbooks to reach thousands of dollars every year.

Additionally, some programs may require powerful laptops, laboratory space, and equipment relevant to the program, all of which can cost a small fortune.

These things further contribute to the hefty sum you would pay for grad school.

7. Fewer Scholarship Grants Available For Postgrad Applicants

In contrast to the numerous scholarships available to undergraduate students, a finite number of grants are afforded to those planning to attend grad school.

While the institutions and private donors offer some scholarships, these often tend to be merit-based, and thus only a few grad students can take advantage of them.

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Because of this, many of those planning to pursue grad school will have to find ways to finance their further education.

8. Studying Out-Of-State Is More Expensive Than In-State

Where you choose to attend grad school can make the program more expensive.

While several graduate programs are offered in universities and institutions, the one you wish to pursue may not always be offered within the state.

If that is the case, then it’s likely that you will end up going out of state for grad school.

However, choosing to study out-of-state means you’ll have to pay nearly double the amount you would if you decided to study in your state of residence.

This is because out-of-state students do not pay taxes in the state they are studying in, thus allowing the federal government to create revenue by charging non-taxpaying students more.

As a result, the cost of attending grad school out-of-state is higher than in-state.

9. School’s Location Can Make Grad School More Expensive

Aside from the price of attending grad school, the overall costliness of the grad school experience can also be attributed to other expenses.

Apart from paying more for the education itself, out-of-state grad students will also have to pay for their residence either on or off-campus while in grad school.

Additionally, students attending grad school in cities with a high cost of living will inevitably spend more money on things like food and transportation for the duration of their program.

These things, all combined, contribute to the large amount of money spent on obtaining a graduate diploma.

10. Larger Borrowing Limits For Grad School Loans

While there may be fewer grants and scholarships available for graduate students, one benefit of pursuing a graduate degree is that you can ask for bigger loans to pay for it.

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According to the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, graduate students may borrow up to $20,500 annually to finance their education.

Furthermore, private loans are available to make up for the remaining balance that must be paid.

So, although these loans lighten the load of having to fund your studies, they come with the caveat that you would have to pay them back eventually.

11. Higher Interest Rates For Grad School

As student loan amounts for grad school are larger, so are the interest rates at which you’ll have to pay back these loans.

The Office of Federal Student Aid offers a fixed APR of 6.4% for graduate students, while other companies offer private student loans with far higher interest rates.

Because of this, you’ll be paying back the loans with interest and will be paying more than you borrowed to begin with.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why law school is so expensive, why Penn State is so expensive, and why preschool is so expensive.


There are several reasons why grad school is costly, and these primarily relate to its impact on graduate diploma holders’ earning power and the focused curriculum.

Furthermore, the cost of learning materials and other equipment and the cost of living close to the institution tend to play a part in what makes pursuing graduate studies expensive overall.

As such, it’s unsurprising that grad school is so costly today.


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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