Brazen Careerist

Yes, sugar daddy! With student loan debt topping a trillion dollars, it doesn't sound half bad, does it? But before you start getting vulgar ideas, we're talking about legal ways to get other people to pay for some or all of your educational expenses.

If you've been in the business world for a while, you're accustomed to assessing things in terms of ROI. And with scary stats like the cost of graduate school and the debt some grads carry afterward, it's no wonder many people who are looking to get ahead in their careers are thinking twice about pursuing that MBA or a similar degree.

But then you hear all those learn-to-earn facts, how those with a master's degree can expect to earn more every week than those with just a bachelor's degree. Add that doctorate and professional degree holders make even more than those with master's degrees (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), and you've got yourself a good case for heading back to the classroom.

Which brings us back to the sugar daddy scenario. Here are a few creative ways to fund your way through grad school:

Work your loan off

There's one sure way to get student loan lenders off your back -- through loan forgiveness. You may be eligible for significant loan reductions if you choose to give back to society after the completion of your degree by committing to public service through organizations like Teach for America, Peace Corps or AmeriCorps.

As a bonus, you'll feel good because of all the great work you'll be doing for others. Win-win!

Give your boss a pimp hat

No, not literally. But employer tuition is pretty much all about your workplace paying your way through school.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics' report "Trends in Student Financing of Graduate and First-Professional Education," 21 percent of all graduate students received employer tuition assistance in 2008. For MBA study, that number climbs to 40 percent.

In other words, there's a good chance your employer will be willing to foot some of your tuition bill. (Go ahead and picture your boss in a purple and orange pinstripe suit and a cane -- we won't tell!) Be aware that some conditions will apply, like maintaining a certain grade point average or agreeing to keep working for that employer for a specified amount of time.

Flaunt your assets

Show 'em what you got! After all, your work and volunteer experiences could actually be worth hundreds -- if not thousands -- of dollars because they could earn you college credit. Many career-focused degrees and vocational programs offer prior learning assessments so students can bypass a couple of those pesky introductory courses.

You can also try taking CLEP exams, which allow you to test out of prerequisite courses if you already have the foundational knowledge.

Adult-rated college cash

Don't assume that only high schoolers are eligible for federal aid assistance. The same goes for scholarships, which are sometimes earmarked for nontraditional or online degree students. To score some nontraditional student aid, your best bet is to apply via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It's worth a shot!

By staying open-minded about your education financing options, you can take ownership of your future on someone else's dime. Not a bad deal!

(Dawn Papandrea is a contributor to Brazen Careerist. She is the managing editor of MyEducation.com, which helps aspiring students explore and research degree programs. The MyEducation blog features admissions advice, financial aid tips, degree spotlights and higher education news. Brazen Careerist is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. This isn't your parents' career-advice column. Be Brazen.)