One of the challenges of a graduate education is obtaining the funding to pay tuition. Fortunately, there are government agencies that help students afford a master’s degree through federal scholarships or grants that do not have to be repaid. According to Grants.gov, a federal grant is financial assistance to carry out a specific public purpose. Though qualifications vary by agency and category, service commitments are the norm.

Education

Congress created the Teach grant in 2007 to help with teacher shortages in low-income areas. The grant provides up to $4,000 per year for tuition for students who intend to teach in elementary or secondary schools that serve students from low-income families. Graduate students must enroll in one of 900-plus schools that participate in the Teach program and choose an appropriate teaching degree (such as master’s in education). They then must agree to serve as a full-time teacher in a high-need field (including bilingual English, science and special education) for at least four academic years within eight calendar years of completing the degree.

Public Service

The Truman Foundation (Truman.gov) provides up to $30,000 in grants to college juniors pursuing graduate degrees in public service fields such as government, advocacy and the nonprofit sector. Criteria for admission include an agreement to choose a qualifying master's degree (such as a master's in public administration, public health, social work or public policy) and a commitment to work in public service for three of the first seven years after completing the graduate degree. Originally passed by Congress in 1975 to memorialize the late President Truman's dedication to public service and education, this federal grant has been awarding dozens of civic-minded students with the financial support needed to make a difference and become a "change agent."

Technology

The Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service (sfs.opm.gov), funded through a National Science Foundation grant, pays for two years of master's level study in the information assurance and computer security fields in exchange for two years of federal cyber service after graduation. The goal is for students to become information technology specialists who will protect the United States government's information infrastructure. In addition to receiving funding for room, board, tuition and books, graduate-level students will also receive up to $12,000 in stipends per year (as of 2010). Though students are provided with a summer federal government internship during the program, they and are responsible for their own job search to fulfill their service requirement upon graduation.

Health and Human Services

The National Health Service Corps (nhsc.bhpr.hrsa.gov/scholarship) provides access to funding in hopes of increasing its shortage of professional health care in certain areas. It pays for tuition, other educational costs and provides a monthly living stipend (approximately $1,200 for 2010) in exchange for working at a federally supported health center. Recipients serve areas with the greatest need throughout the country, including public health clinics, prisons and immigration centers. Master's degree students must pursue degrees relating to family nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife or physician assistants.