How to Get Financial Aid for Online Education

Although online education is typically more affordable than traditional campus programs, you may still need some help to get started. Lets take a look at what student financial aid is available, who is eligible, and how your online college can help you.

Aid from Online Colleges

The first step to getting financial aid for your online education is to talk to your online college. For most students, loans are a big source of their financial aid package, so it’s important to only borrow what you need. Fortunately, if you’re getting your degrees online, you will only need to pay for tuition, fees and books. Living expenses and other campus fees normally part of the cost of college do not apply. Your online college can tell you what financial aid they offer.

Are You Eligible?

Most adults pursuing an online education assume that they will not be eligible for financial aid. That’s simply not true. There are many grants and low-interest loans available regardless of your GPA, financial need, or credit history.

Most federal and state aid programs don’t have age limits. Federal and state governments are typically the largest source of student financial aid with colleges and universities next, and private sources including community and professional organizations last. Many large companies offer tuition assistance programs, so it also pays to check with your employer.

Applying for Financial Aid

After you’ve checked with your school and employer for financial aid, you will want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. In most cases this one application will determine the amount of federal and state financial aid you will receive.

Once you complete your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). This report will list your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which is basically what the government expects you pay for your education. The EFC is based on the information you reported on your FAFSA including income, savings, the size of your family, and what other family members are also in school.
Your school will also receive the information on your FAFSA. They will then send you a Financial Aid Letter which will detail the total amount of aid including grants, scholarships, loans and work study, for which you are eligible.

Scholarships

Scholarships are forms of financial aid which don’t need to be paid back. They can be used to pay any online education expenses such as tuition, fees, textbooks and supplies. Eligibility for scholarships are based on qualities such as academic merit, financial need, or your affiliation with a particular group or organization.

Keep in mind that if your parent or spouse is a veteran or part of an organization such as the Elks Club or Rotary, you may be able to get a scholarship based on your connection.

Grants

Grants are similar to scholarships in that they offer student financial aid which does not need to be paid back. Grants are awarded for study in a particular field, conducting certain types of research, or completion of work in the arts or letters. They are often issued by public or private institutions or corporations. You may also qualify for a grant through the state in which you reside.

The most common grant in the Federal Pell Grant which is awarded based solely on your financial need. In order to be eligible for a Pell Grant you must:

  • Be an undergraduate
  • Be working on your undergraduate degree
  • Attend a federally-approved school
  • Not be incarcerated in a state or federal prison

To learn more about preparing for your online education, read: Optimizing Online Education and Tools and Tips for Education Online.