Financing MS with TA or RA

[About the author: Sanket Gupte is currently doing his PhD in Stanford University. He did his undergrad in BITS Goa and currently writes on LinkedIn, helping aspiring graduate students and computer scientists.]
 
Have you considered pursuing a Masters degree abroad, but don't know how to finance it? The cost of graduate education, especially in the US, can be prohibitively high. For instance, just one year at Stanford costs $76k (check link in the comments) and you may end up paying up to 80-90L INR for your degree. Understandably, international students from middle class families are apprehensive about taking out a huge education loan to finance their higher education, and many prospective students I've spoken to had abandoned their dreams because of this single factor.
 
However, most folks are unaware that the number quoted above is just the sticker price, and that a STEM Masters degree can be surprisingly affordable. No, I'm not talking about scholarships or fellowships - they are extremely, extremely competitive and only a small fraction of students are awarded them. Some may consider on-campus jobs like working at a restaurant, or at the library, but these typically only cover the cost of living, leaving you on the hook for the tuition fees.
 
But if you can get a position as a research / teaching assistant (RA / TA), the equation changes. In addition to getting paid an hourly rate, most universities provide a tuition fee subsidy or waiver to RAs and TAs. As a concrete example, RAs and TAs at Stanford get a full tuition fee waiver (worth $12,500 per quarter) along with a monthly stipend (about $4k per month) which comfortably covers living expenses (check link in the comments).
 
I will leave the specifics of how to get an RA / TA position for a future post, along with details of other funding sources. While these positions are not guaranteed, there are usually several openings (depending on the university and department) in STEM fields. So if you were discouraged from applying for an MS in the US because of financial constraints, don't give up hope.