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Financing Your Education

The School of Public Affairs understands that financing your education can be a challenge, which is why we offer multiple sources of financial support to eligible graduate students. Merit awards and donor-funded scholarships are administered by the School of Public Affairs' Office of Graduate Admissions. Need-based awards are administered by the American University Office of Financial Aid. There are also a variety of awards designated directly from American University and many opportunities from external sources. In addition, we support our nation's service members and their dependents through generous veterans benefits.

Our Office of Graduate Admissions is always available to applicants interested in learning more about planning for this important investment in your future. Please contact us at 202-885-6230 or with questions.

Your tuition costs and fees are customized based on the total number of credits you enroll in each term. Tuition is calculated on a per-credit basis and based on 2018-2019 rates of $1,708 per credit hour. Full-time graduate students pay $351 and part-time students pay $100 in fees each semester.

For further details, please review the 2018-2019 academic year tuition and fee schedule.

A typical part-time student enrolls in six credits per fall and spring semester each academic year. A typical full-time student enrolls in nine credits per fall and spring semester each academic year. Students in some degree programs may have the option to complete summer courses.

Estimated Semester Tuition Costs (2018-2019)

Estimated Tuition Costs (Based on 2018-2019)
  Fall 2018 Spring 2019 Summer 2019

Tuition per Credit




Mandatory student fees for full-time enrollment




Estimated Semester Tuition Costs (2018-2019)

Estimated Semester Tuition Costs (2018-2019)
  Tuition Fees* Total

3 credits ($1,708 per credit)




6 credits ($1,708 per credit)




9 credits ($1,708 per credit)




*Please note that there is no student fee charged during the summer.

Estimated Non-Tuition Expenses (2018-2019)*

The following expenses are discretionary for students and are included here to assist you in planning your budget.

Estimated Annual Non-Tuition Expenses

Room and Board (off campus)


Books and Supplies




Personal Expenses


Student Health Insurance**


*Please note that these expenses, based on 2018-2019 rates, are discretionary for students and are included here to assist you in planning your budget.

**For more information on student health insurance options, including premiums, enrollment, and waivers, please visit the AU Student Health Insurance website.

Both part-time and full-time students may apply for need-based assistance, although only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible for federal need-based aid. To apply for student loans, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before the American University deadline. American University's FAFSA code is 001434. SPA applicants should contact American University's Office of Financial Aid at or 202.885.6500 to learn more about federal financial aid and student loan options.

We strongly recommend that you complete the FAFSA online, but if you do not have Internet access, you may schedule an appointment with the American University Office of Financial Aid to complete the form electronically there, or submit a paper form if you prefer. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid to find out what information you will need to bring with you.

AU's Financial Aid office also maintains a comprehensive list of private loans and scholarships.

Questions/Concerns regarding SPA’s merit aid options may be directed to or 202.885.6230.

As a nationally ranked School of Public Affairs, SPA attracts the best and brightest students from across the globe to its seven traditional master's degrees. The School's applicants demonstrate impressive records of academic performance and a demonstrated commitment to public service. Our approach to merit aid allocation is to offer a variety of partial tuition assistance awards to a broad base of highly qualified master's degree candidates. Merit aid awards are limited and prioritize strong, admitted—domestic and international—candidates who meet priority deadlines. 

SPA merit awards are typically renewable based on satisfactory academic progress and performance. Merit aid is awarded to students using traditional indicators such as GPA, strength of recommendation letters, extra-/co-curricular involvements, and professional experience. Prospective students' application files are the basis for award decisions; no additional application is required for consideration.

Prospective students are compared/contrasted to other applicants within the current enrollment cycle's (Fall or Spring) applicant pool to determine award levels and to ensure consistency. SPA merit awards include assistantships, scholarships and, most often, tuition remission. Priority deadlines for first round merit award consideration are February 15 for Fall and November 1 for Spring admission.

  • SPA Tuition Remission
    The most common type of merit aid award is an offset of tuition costs. SPA prides itself in a deliberate strategy of examining the strength of the applicant pool for any given matriculation term (Fall or Spring) and offering tuition remission awards to strong, admitted students within the applicant pool in order to assist students with the cost of tuition. Most common are awards that “pay for the tuition costs for one class a semester” for four consecutive terms of full-time (9 credits) enrollment. This is a value that exceeds $20,000.
  • SPA Assistantships
    Graduate assistantships are awarded to admitted students based on an alignment of skills, experience, and/or interests that would serve SPA faculty, research institutes, centers, and administrative operations. Graduate Assistantship (GA) positions normally require 10- 20 hours of work per week and offer a stipend amount that ranges from $2,250 to $4,500 per semester.
  • Endowed Scholarship Awards
    A limited number of private AU scholarships are funded annually or through an endowment by gifts from donors. Eligible admitted students are automatically reviewed, and a separate scholarship application is not required. Criteria may be based on merit, academic program, need, or other factors as designated by the donor. Awards range from $100 to $10,000.
  • Affiliations & Sponsorships
    SPA prides itself in recognizing priority affiliations of strong, admitted students. A partial listing of the “sponsored” and/or “priority” merited programs include Rangel, Pickering, and PPIA Fellows, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), McNair Scholars, Florida A&M University (FAMU), HCBUs, HSIs, First Generation College, AmeriCorps, Teach for America (TFA), and Bonner Scholars. Most often, candidates with priority affiliations will be offered an application fee waiver and priority merit aid consideration.

Still Have Questions?

Please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions (OGA) at 202-885-6230 or We're here to help!

48 percent of Fall 2018 admitted applicants received merit aid