How did you pay for your MLS degree?
March 31, 2011 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Do MLS students ever receive full funding?

I know this varies by program, but what kinds of financial aid do MLS programs typically offer?

I'm finishing up a doctorate in the humanities this summer. My program was quite generous -- I received tuition waivers, multiple fellowships and a teaching stipend. Now I want to earn a graduate degree in library science. I've worked in a library, and I currently volunteer at my local historical society. But I really know nothing about how graduate degrees in library science are financed or funded.

I'm specially looking at Simmons, which is near to the school where I'm earning my doctorate. It seems like they offer a combination of internships and scholarships. Does this typically cover the full cost of tuition, plus living expenses? Or must most students take out loans (I'm trying to avoid this)?

Of course I'm open to applying to other schools, especially if they offer generous financial aid packages.

Basically I just want to know if MLS degree programs offer full funding much like other graduate degree programs. It's a bit difficult to tell from the schools' websites exactly how much financial aid is available. All I can tell is that students receive different types of aid depending on their academic accomplishments and financial need. I can't tell if some students receive full funding, however.

I'm also interested in hearing how other people financed their MLS degrees.
posted by Ylajali to Education (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It's my understanding that most of these programs are not terribly well-funded. A lot of people work while they pursue their degrees. Some go part-time as a result.
posted by valkyryn at 9:57 AM on March 31, 2011

I've never heard of anyone receiving the kind of funding you describe for an MLIS program.

The only funding available at my school is loans. Nearly everyone works full-time and takes classes part-time. That's what I do. I chose not to take out any loans and am paying for it out of pocket.
posted by anderjen at 10:05 AM on March 31, 2011

I went to Simmons and took out loans. While I was there, I did not know anyone who was getting stipends or full funding or the like, but there were a few who had workstudy grants. I doubt they earned enough to survive on them. Instead, the valuable thing was getting decent library experience, which made them highly fought over.

Most librarians just get the MLS, which is all you really need unless you plan to go on to teach or do some in depth field research. Those going for a PhD usually do so after a few years in the field.

And while you didn't ask, I'd suggest you look around at other library programs before committing to Simmons. I went there because it was the only game in town. If I was not already working at a library in the area, I would have gone elsewhere.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:07 AM on March 31, 2011

I attended UNC-Chapel Hill, and was lucky enough to get a competitive fellowship (Carolina Academic Library Associate Fellowship, fwiw), which did pay tuition for 2 years/4 semesters. You worked 20 hours/week in the position assigned you...which wasn't always what you actually wanted (hey there, Serials Cataloging department!). But it was a full ride, at a great school.

I've no idea what other programs do...but at UNC, it's possible.
posted by griffey at 10:10 AM on March 31, 2011

My husband lucked into a fellowship which covered tuition because they wanted someone at an odd time of year when another student left and we lived in town. But this was totally atypical, particularly for a masters' and not a Ph.D. I think of the 30-40 students, one or two might've been in that situation. For the rest (and for the first year of his studies), just loans and work study. This was at Wisconsin.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:13 AM on March 31, 2011

I received 100% full tuition funding through an IMLS grant in 2008. It can be done, but I wasn't provided with living expenses as well. I would check with their organization as well as the individual schools at which you are applying.
posted by amicamentis at 10:18 AM on March 31, 2011

I had a full scholarship, but this was a long, long time ago. University of Michigan also used to offer University Library Associate postiions, which sound identical to the UNC positions described up top. There were similar deals for the residence hall libraries.

Usually, however, they are funded in cold, hard cash, like most other professional degree programs.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:26 AM on March 31, 2011

(OK, by cold, hard cash I mostly mean loans you took out yourself, or by your employer, or from a locker of buried pirate treasure.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:27 AM on March 31, 2011

I went to the University of Pittsburgh in 08-09, and I was enrolled in the Partner's Program. This entailed working 20 hours a week for a pretty low wage, but also tuition was knocked down by 1/2.

One word of caution though is to make sure you get what exactly your financial aid is going to be in writing so that you're not surprised when you find out it's less than you thought.

Several MLIS students I went to school with felt misled about exactly what we received, and whether it was intentional or not (I think it probably was), we ended up getting less assistance than we thought.

I think the fact that there are hordes of MLIS students out there dampens the incentive to provide financial aid, since if you don't go to X school, odds are someone else is going to anyway. YMMV.
posted by elder18 at 10:40 AM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the incredibly helpful answers! Looks like I'm going to have to finance this degree myself, unless I secure one of the few fellowships or grants available. One of my other options is securing an administrative position (I have experience in university administration) at a university that offers the MLS degree and then using the employee tuition discount.

And thanks robocop is bleeding for the head's up about Simmons. I'll start exploring other options (which I should do anyway since I'm really not tied down to any specific part of the country).
posted by Ylajali at 10:50 AM on March 31, 2011

I attended LSU SLIS 2003-2005, full time. I had a graduate assistantship (I don't remember the time commitment per week) that lowered my tuition by 25% each semester until it was zero my last two semesters. It sounds weird now that I think about it but I'm pretty sure that's what it was. I also worked at the archives on the side, and lived on campus in a very cheap graduate apartment (around $200/month all inclusive) And I was an out of state student, but paid in-state tuition from the start. Even with all this, I graduated with about 15 grand in loans, and I was waaaaaaaayyyyy better off than most of my classmates.
posted by CheeseLouise at 11:13 AM on March 31, 2011

I mean I owed less in loans, not that I lived higher on the hog or anything.
posted by CheeseLouise at 11:14 AM on March 31, 2011

The University of Michigan still offers University Library Associate positions. There are also a number of full or partial tuition scholarships. Depending on one's skill set and research experience there are also opportunities as teaching or research assistants, which typically require 20 hours of work per week and include tuition remission and a stipend.
posted by needled at 11:18 AM on March 31, 2011

My friend was able to get her MLIS fully funded by St. John's University in NYC through the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. Check here and here to see some of the schools that have been awarded the grant.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:30 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

A couple people I know paid for their Pitt MLS degrees by getting a job at the university, waiting six months, and then exercising their 90% tuition benefit to take two classes a term. This is how I'll be doing it, too... Only the first $5Ksomething dollars is tax-free, so as one friend put it, Fall term is a lot more expensive than Spring, but every little bit helps....
posted by FlyingMonkey at 11:32 AM on March 31, 2011

I attended San Jose State University for my MLIS. There were little to no funding opportunities beyond small scholarships. I worked part-time and took out loans. In retrospect, this was a very, very bad idea, and I would not recommend it to anyone!
posted by chez shoes at 11:45 AM on March 31, 2011

Student loans and jobs. The jobs were great, not so much the student loans. And I did it in Milwaukee, where the living is fucking cold cheap.
posted by grapesaresour at 12:50 PM on March 31, 2011

I went to UIUC, and I was fully funded. I had a graduate assistantship where I worked 10 hours a week at our institutional repository. I was an in-state resident, so I didn't have to pay out of state tuition. My friends with GA jobs that were from out-of-state had to take out loans to pay for the out-of-state portion of tuition, but got a good deal with the in-state tuition waiver.

It is my understanding that a lot of the GA jobs at UIUC have been cut or have been turned into hourly positions (which don't have a tuition waiver attached to them) because of budgeting/funding problems.

When I applied for the MLIS, I got full ride offers from 5 places (UIUC, UNC, Pitt, Syracuse, and Washington). This was in 2007, and I imagine times have changed a bit since then. All of these offers had jobs attached to them; no one was giving me a no-strings-attached fellowship! I also got partial scholarships/funding from another 7 schools (I don't have the full list but I do remember Wisconsin, Texas, Pratt, Michigan, and Albany). I applied to 16 schools, so I was a little... crazy. I tell you all of this to let you know that there was, at least in 2007, some money floating around in MLIS programs.

Now I'm in the PhD program at UNC and I have a few friends who have the CALA fellowship that griffey described above. It sounds like a really good deal; all of my friends are in-state residents so I'm not sure if the people from out-of-state have to pay that part of their tuition.
posted by k8lin at 1:20 PM on March 31, 2011

Also, Simmons is private, so it's going to be more expensive.

And I have other friends here at UNC who have other positions that aren't CALA fellowships who have their tuition waived. Grant projects, like the ones HotPatatta discussed above, will sometimes have funding for a few master's students. I do know someone who got her in-state tuition funded from Iowa, for example, on one of these grants.
posted by k8lin at 1:22 PM on March 31, 2011

I went to UT-Austin (out-of-state) from 1996-1998. There were only a handful of scholarships/internships, and it was one of the bigger programs in the country. Also, there was a lot of competition for on-campus and off-campus paid paraprofessional jobs since a lot of grads stay in Austin and tend to be underemployed. I was lucky enough to land a part-time job at the Texas State Library, and some of the other "paraprofessionals" there were MLS grads biding their time until others retired or died. The money sucked; I still owe $$$ that won't be paid off until my own toddlers are in college, and I have never worked as a professional librarian because the job market was pretty crappy back then and I suspect it may be worse now. Don't go into megadebt for an MLS.
posted by candyland at 1:38 PM on March 31, 2011

Here at UW-Madison, there are a number of TAships that MLIS students can take. Really, any qualified student can take any TAship, though clearly most departments will prefer their own students first. But at a larger university, where we have something like 42 large and small libraries, we have several direct library assistantships (including in my own office) and others, such as serving as research assistants and providing general departmental help, that are less department-specific but gladly take library students. A friend of mine had one in sociology, I think. All of these cover tuition remission as well as a (small) stipend.

I think you'd have the same issue many people have: not knowing how to find funding before the first year of a two-year program. However, your background gives you a leg up on the competition, especially if you make yourself known early in the game.

I have several friends/colleagues here who have been through the program, which I think is pretty darn vibrant and great, so feel free to MeMail me for more information.
posted by Madamina at 2:10 PM on March 31, 2011

I went to Simmons for my MLS. I got 100% of my tuition paid by my fellowship. I had to work 20 hours per week in the Tech Lab, and during non-school times (breaks, vacation weeks) I had to work 40 hours. I got my MLS in one calendar year, but I could have taken longer as far as the fellowship went. There were only four of us working in the Tech Lab at the time, but I think there were a few other fellowships in other parts of the program.

I didn't get any other money, however, (and in reality I believe my program consisted of a tuition waiver) so I worked a PT job for a while to cover rent and expenses. And the second half of the year I took out some loans. Much less than I would have had to to get my degree, however, so it didn't seem so bad.

Simmons is the only game in the Boston area, so if you're committed to the area (as I was) you'll want to contact them for info.

Feel free to memail me if you have any specific questions. I also taught undergrad at Simmons, so I was there for a total of eight years. I have some insight!
posted by clone boulevard at 8:13 PM on April 1, 2011

As a PhD holder, make sure to apply for a CLIR Fellowship! And if you don't get a fellowship, consider moving to the state you want to go to school in a year before you want to start school, and then apply as an in-state student. Most assistantships that come with tuition waivers only cover base in-state tuition.
posted by MsMolly at 8:14 AM on April 7, 2011

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