YES! That is the short but truthful answer. Yes, yes, and yes! Between available grants and scholarships for masters students and assistantships, fellowships, and research assisting opportunities for doctoral students, pursuing a graduate education is doable. If I can do it, you can do it. And no, you won’t need to eat Ramen noodles every meal.
First, if you are a potential masters student there are always supplemental aid opportunities. Because Masters degrees are typically two years long, the light at the end of tunnel is not far away. The turnaround to pay off any loans is therefore a quick one.
Second, if you are a doctoral student I would go so far as to say “Don’t go to a program that does not have some type of funding source.” Doctoral programs typically provide fellowship or research assisting opportunities for students. These allow you to kill two birds with one stone. That is, the work you do in these roles will also count toward your growth and development as a scholar and progress as a student. When there is no such opportunity, then the next best option is to seek an assistantship. Assistantships are similar to work-study opportunities you find as an undergrad or masters student. However, the difference is that assistantships often cover all of your tuition AND provide a stipend. So even though these are not the gold mines that fellowships and research assisting are they still provide the financial assistance anyone would want.
Now back to my first point. If none of these opportunities are available as a potential doctoral student, then I would recommend you seriously consider applying to said program. Why? Because doctoral programs can be evaluated by the money brought in by the faculty. Is that a fair measure for evaluation? Absolutely. Ask around with those familiar with the doctoral world, you will find that most would agree that a strong department made of strong faculty is one in which the faculty–by and large–bring in research funding. It is a fair measuring stick. It doesn’t need to be the only way to measure, but it should be a measure. Definitely.
So can you afford graduate school? You bet.