Master's: Financial Information
Links for Prospective
Master's Students

Program Details
Career Development
The Bren Experience
Financial Information
Fellowship Programs
Visiting Bren

We know graduate school is an investment of both your time and your money. A graduate degree from the Bren School is very affordable and comes with great payoff! Here are quick links to resources related to financing your graduate education at UCSB:

Cost of Graduate Education Establishing California Residency
Fellowship Opportunities Financial Aid and FAFSA
Employment Opportunities Veteran College Tuition Waiver
Other Funding Resources  

Cost of Graduate Education at UC Santa Barbara

The cost of a graduate education at UC Santa Barbara is very affordable, especially when compared to other world-class universities. A comprehensive summary of quarterly fees and expenses is available on the UCSB Office of the Registrar's website here. For the 2018-2019 academic year, the quarter program costs for graduate students are as follows:

Quarterly Fee +Tuition Costs
(MESM is 6-quarter program)
Domestic Resident
Academic Fees + Tuition
Campus-based Fees
Health Insurance (UC SHIP)
Non-Resident Tuition, Year 1
Non-Resident Tuition, Year 2
N/A if establish residency
Total Costs of 2-Year Program

Please note that fee and tuition costs are subject to change at the discretion of the University of California Office of the President (UCOP). The Bren School is being considereed for professional degree supplemental tuition to be applied in 2020-21, the amount will be determined after a review by the UC Regents.

The above totals account only for projected UCSB student fees and do not include cost of living expenses, such as housing, transportation, food, or school books/supplies. An up-to-date graduate-student cost budget, including living expenses, can be found on the UCSB Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships website under its Cost of Attendance section.

Health insurance is mandatory for all registered UCSB students and is a condition of enrollment. All full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students are automatically enrolled in and charged for the University of California Student Health Insurance Plan (UC SHIP) unless they choose to submit an online insurance waiver confirming they have acceptable health insurance coverage. Visit the UC SHIP website to learn more.

Bren School students meet a substantial portion of their educational costs through fellowships, work-study, teaching assistant positions, personal funds, federal loans, and/or external employment, all of which will be discussed below.

*Domestic non-California residents can establish California residency for tuition purposes for their second year of enrollment. See next section for more details.

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Establishing California Residency

Many out-of-state students are able to establish California residency after their first year of enrollment, which helps to lower the costs of attendance substantially. Learn more about establishing residency on the University of California Office of the President (UCOP)'s How to establish residency page on the Understanding Residency section of its website.

If you are currently not a California resident but attended high school in California for at least three years and graduated from a California high school, you may be eligible for in-state rates. Visit the UCSB Office of the Registrar web site for more information about establishing residency for fee purposes.

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Fellowship Opportunities at the Bren School

Every year, the Bren School receives funds from the Graduate Division, which are known as block grants, that are used as recruitment incentive awards in the form of payment for fees, non-resident tuition, and/or stipends. The Bren School also has funds available for recruitment incentive awards, thanks to the generosity of a number of donors who have provided the school with gifts and/or endowments to be used for student prizes and fellowships. Here are the various fellowship opportunities for which MESM applicants may be considered:

  • General Recruitment Fellowships
    Each year the Bren School is able to offer general Recruitment Fellowship funding to 25-40% of its incoming MESM students. Recruitment Fellowships provide incoming students with support for their first year in the MESM program. Recruitment Fellowship recipients are selected by the faculty-led Admissions Committee and demonstrate professional and academic promise. All MESM applicants are automatically considered for these general Recruitment Fellowships; no supplemental application is required. If an applicant is selected for a Recruitment Fellowship, that person will be notified of this at the same time he or she is notified of admittance into the program.

Latin American Fisheries Fellows class of 2013MESM Class of 2013 LAFF Fellows

  • Latin American Fisheries Fellows (LAFF) Program
    The Latin American Fisheries Fellows Program provides full fellowship support for up to four highly qualified students who are pursuing a two-year Master of Environmental Science and Management(MESM) degree at the Bren School, with a concentration in Coastal Marine Resources Management and are dedicated to pursuing a related career in Latin America. Learn more and apply.
  • Sustainable Water Markets (SWM) Fellowship Program
    Made possible by the generous support of the Walton Family Foundation,SMM provides full and partial fellowship support for up to selected Bren School master's and PhD students who are committed to pursuing careers in sustainable water markets. Learn more and apply.
  • Forest Sustainability Fellowship
    Forests, and the many services that they provide, face new challenges in this era of unprecedented global change. Global markets for wood products, human population pressures, and a changing climate impact forests throughout the world. Forests must be managed not just to provide timber, but also to provide wildlife habitat, enhance water supplies, sequester carbon, and support cultural and psychological well-being. The Forest Sustainability Fellowship (FSF) Program, generously supported by the Michael J. Connell Memorial Fund, focuses on scientific understanding and policy tools required to manage forests for long-term biological, physical, and social sustainability. Through training, research, and communication, the FSF program prepares a new generation of high-impact leaders in forest science and management. Learn more and apply.

UCSB abides by the Council of Graduate Schools resolution stating that prospective students are under no obligation to accept a financial award until April 15. Click here to see a PDF version of the resolution.

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On- and Off-Campus Employment Opportunities

MESM students meet a substantial portion of their educational costs through personal funds, federal loans, work-study, extramural fellowships, and/or self-generated employment. In addition to the information below, you may want to review the financial information available on the UCSB Graduate Division Financial Support pages.

  • Teaching Assistantships
    Nearly 60% of MESM students were hired as TAs or Readers the 2016-17 academic year! Both first- and second-year Master's students secured TA positions in a variety of UCSB departments, including Earth Science, Anthropology, Technology Management Program, Physics, and Ecology and Evolutionary Marine Biology, to name a few.

    Many MESM students are successful at securing Teaching Assistant (TA) positions each year. Because the Bren School does not have an undergraduate program in Environmental Science and Management, MESM students TA in other UCSB departments. Each program or department at UCSB will have its own TA hiring process and criteria: some distribute TA application announcements as a need is identified; many wait until closer to the start of the academic quarter to solicit TA applications, and others have a very formal and standardized TA application process. Therefore, students should contact departments directly when inquiring about TA opportunities.

    The most abundant source of TA positions for MESM students has been the Environmental Studies Program (ES), a large undergraduate program in the College of Letters and Sciences. Since ES does not have a graduate program, it employs graduate students from other departments to cover its TA needs. The ES Program posts an application for TA positions for the upcoming academic year typically in late April or early May.

    Although the Bren School does employ TAs, there are no TA positions available for MESM students within the Bren School itself, as MESM students are not permitted to serve as TAs for MESM courses (students cannot TA peer-to-peer due to a conflict of interest). The few TA positions that the Bren School does have available are filled by PhD students. (See Student Assistant section below for more employment opportunities within the Bren School.)

    For information about TA compensation and requirements, please visit the Academic Appointments section of the UCSB Graduate Division's Financial Support > Employment page.

  • Graduate Student Researcher positions
    A Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) is a graduate student who assists a faculty member with scholarly research and is paid from extramural funds that the faculty member has secured through funding agencies. Often, a GSR collaborates in the publication of research results, as determined by supervising faculty members. As such, GSRs are selected for their high achievement and promise or for their productive scholarship. GSRs are not assigned teaching, administrative, or general assistance duties.

    GSR positions are arranged on an individual basis between the student and a faculty member who is the Principal Investigator on a research grant, and generally are not “applied for” as one would a Teaching Assistantship. Most faculty members use PhD students to fill their GSR positions and hire MESM students more often as student assistants (described below).

    For information about GSR compensation and job requirements, please visit the Academic Appointments section of the UCSB Graduate Division's Financial Support > Employment page.
  • Student Assistant positions
    Periodically, Bren School administration and individual faculty have part-time employment opportunities

    Approximately 26% of MESM students surveyed in February 2016 indicated that they worked as a Student Assistant during the academic year.

    for students to provide administrative, tutoring, or research assistance (not typically provided by or appropriate for a GSR). Students who have a work-study allocation are especially attractive applicants for these positions. Student assistant positions pay an hourly wage.
  • Other on-campus employment opportunities
    Some UCSB departments employ graduate students as Readers and Tutors. Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS) employs students as Tutors, Peer Learning Skills Counselors, and Intake Counselors for course-specific tutoring and academic skill development. A number of UCSB faculty, departments, and organizations employ students in administrative and service functions. Visit the UCSB Career Services website for more resources.
  • Off-campus employment opportunities

    About 29% of the MESM respondents from the same survey indicated that they were completing part-time employment outside
    of UC Santa Barbara.

    The Bren School’s Career Development team circulates dozens of announcements for internship and part- or full-time employment opportunities offered by local companies and organizations throughout the school year. Many of these positions are created specifically for Bren School students, offering MESMs the chance to gain experience relevant to their interests while also off-setting the costs of their graduate education. For more information about MESM student employment or internship placement statistics, please visit the Career Development: Prospective Students page.

    In addition to the Bren School's internal employment resources, UCSB students can also turn to other resources for opportunities.
    The Santa Barbara News-Press classified section lists job openings in the Santa Barbara area. Handshake — the UCSB "job board" — has listings from area businesses and residential employers for full-time, part-time, and seasonal employment. General job search sites such as Craigslist or Indeed also offer the ability to search positions by key word and/or location.

Incoming students should bear in mind that the Bren MESM program is a full-time program that most students find quite challenging. You should expect to spend at least 40 to 50 hours per week on your studies. As such, most students find it difficult to work more than about 10 hours per week, though this varies from student to student. Many choose not to work at all, while others have worked as many as 20 hours per week. We generally advise students to take the first quarter and assess whether they truly have the time and energy for both the MESM program and a job.

If you have significant constraints on your time due to work, family, or personal considerations, please feel free to discuss with us the possibility of taking more than two years to complete your degree, keeping in mind that the University requires that full fees and other university expenses be paid each quarter regardless of how many units a graduate student takes.

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Financial Aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Approximately 46% of MESM students surveyed in February 2016 indicated that they took out student loans to help pay for their graduate education, and 75% said they used some personal funds or savings
to finance grad school.

U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens may apply for need-based loans and work-study awards through the UCSB
Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. Eligible non-citizens are those who are in the U.S. for other than a temporary purpose. You meet this requirement if you have an I-151 Alien Registration Card, an I-94 Arrival-Departure Report Card stamped "refugee" or "applicant for adjustment," or have been granted asylum in the U.S.

These financial aid programs are based entirely on demonstrated financial need. Students' eligibility for aid is determined by comparing the "Estimated Student Budget" with the individual student's actual resources. Assistance from the Financial Aid Office is usually offered as a combination package of work study and direct loans.  

At UCSB, financial aid in the form of federal work-study and federal subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans are handled by the UCSB Financial Aid office, not by individual units, such as the Bren School. You will need to work with the Financial Aid office, not the Bren School, to obtain information about aid available to you through federal financial aid programs.

The Bren School expects all prospective and current domestic students to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available online or at the financial aid office of any college or university in the United States. The FAFSA is required in order to be considered for any federal, University, or Bren School-based financial support. The FAFSA is used to compile a “need analysis” in determining distribution of all financial support packages, including grants, fellowships, work-study, and loans. While graduate students can submit the FAFSA at any time, the priority deadline is March 2 for the subsequent Fall quarter.

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California Veteran College Tuition Waiver

The College Tuition Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents benefit waives mandatory system-wide tuition and fees at any State of California Community College, California State University, or University of California campus. This program does not cover the expense of books, parking or room and board. There are four plans under which dependents of veterans may be eligible. Visit the California Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information about the four plans, eligibility, contact information, FAQ’s and additional resources.

Not all fees are waived under this program. Fees which are eligible for exemption at UCSB campus include: tuition and student services fee. Once you submit the authorization letter, and once your fees are assessed prior to each quarter, the waiver will automatically apply to your BARC billing account waiving the tuition and student services fees.

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Other Funding Resources

Numerous public and private fellowships and scholarships are available to graduate students. The Graduate Division website has list of resources for helping to identify extramural funding. The Bren School also maintains a list of potential funding opportunities that are brought to our attention by students in the environmental field.

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