Thursday, August 21, 2008

Paying for Massage School

One of the biggest obstacles I see for people wanting to become massage therapists is paying for massage school. Tuitions alone run in the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands. Typically, tuition costs $9.00-$10.00 per contact hour. On top of tuition, students must find resources to cover related school expenses like books and supplies and pay for their living expenses while in school. Below are some ideas for funding your massage school experience.

  • Federal Financial Aid
    Some of the larger massage schools offer federal financial aid. This means their students are eligible for federally backed student loans. In order for schools to be eligible for federal funding, they must be accredited by a national accreditation organization. The fees for accreditation are expensive for the school and the staff time necessary to receive and maintain accreditation is also a big investment. This means that the smaller, more intimate massage schools usually are not nationally accredited. The last time I saw the statistics, less than 1/5 of massage schools offered federal financial aid. With the increasing corporatization of massage education, I’ll be curious to see if these numbers increase.

    The benefits of federal financial aid are that funding is more accessible and interest rates can be lower. Without federal financial aid, some students are unable to get loans at all. The downside about federal financial aid is that the schools that offer federal financial aid are often more expensive than those that don’t. I’ve seen federally funded schools cost as much as $20 per contact hour. Recent surveys indicate the average annual salary for massage therapy is about $25,000. At this rate of pay, repaying large student
    loans can be tricky.

    Other Student Loans
    There are non-federally backed student loans available. Students should check out student loans products carefully. I have seen some companies charge as much as 18% interest for non-federal student loans.

    Right now, one company I can recommend for this is SLM Financial. Their phone number is (888) 272-5543. They offer a Direct Career Training Loan product that your school may be able to help you with.

    Personal Loans
    For students with good credit and collateral, personal loans can help with tuition. Interest rates on personal loans are generally higher than on federally backed student loans, but personal loans can pay for schools that don’t qualify for federal funding. In addition to personal loans, home equity loans are a good option. The interest rates for home equity lines of credit can be lower than for personal loans.

    Other Resources
    When I started Rocky Mountain Institute of Healing Arts in 2001, I met with a representative of the Small Business Association (SBA) to discuss business loans. His recommendation was to look to, as he called it, “the Bank of Friends and Family” for financial backing. For some lucky massage students, The Bank of Friends and Family is a viable form of support.

    I remember a student whose grandfather helped each of his grandchildren with their college tuition. Her grandfather recalled the “massage parlors” of the past that were just a cover for prostitution and was not at all enthused about funding his granddaughter’s enrollment in massage school! The granddaughter took it upon herself to educate her grandfather about massage therapy as a career and healing modality. Somewhat hesitantly that he decided massage school could qualify as “college” for his assistance, but by the time she graduated, he was a convert.

    This approach of education and inclusion can be invaluable when a student is receiving financial support from a family member or friend. Parents or grandparents may want to contact the school’s administrative staff to discuss their educational programs or the field of massage therapy. If the student familiarizes him or herself with the financial potential of massage therapy and is realistic about employment opportunities, it can help assure family members who are considering giving financial support.

    In reality, scholarships from massage school are difficult to locate and receive. I don’t intend to discourage anyone from looking for scholarships, but it’s important to realize that they are probably not the answer to massage school funding needs. At the time of publication, two organizations that offer massage school scholarships (The Spa Foundation and American Speciality Health), have postponed their scholarship programs. Libraries have scholarship books that list various scholarships; just ask the reference librarian for help. There are also websites that give information about scholarship opportunities.

    In many years of working at massage schools and running my own, I have heard a lot of massage students’ stories. There are many stories of people who have wanted to go to massage school for years. They held onto their dream, saved money as they could, and attended school when the timing was right.

Being a massage therapy is very rewarding. I encourage anyone who wants to become a massage therapist to keep working toward the goal of massage school. The profession needs people who are passionate about it! Sometimes (most of the time?), what we’re passionate about takes dedication, patience, and hard work.

For those of you who have already gone to massage school or are currently attending, please leave your stories about paying for school in the comments of this post. It would be helpful for others who are in the process of looking right now!

© 2008, Rebecca Mauldin, All Rights Reserved


Damon Wratislaw said...

I was lucky enough to be backed by the Bank of Friends and Family, myself. I had saved a bit when I was ready to start school, but with an hour commute every morning and every evening, I was lucky enough to not be forced to maintain a full time job on top of going to school. Rebecca was also very flexible in allowing the students to pay on a monthly basis, which is a lot easier than coming up with such a huge chunk of money all at once.

Rebecca Mauldin said...

Hi David,

I'm glad you found the blog and thanks for your links. I look forward to checking them out.