From government grants to loans to scholarships, it is possible to obtain financial aid to help pay for your online college degree. The primary requirement is that the institution for which you want the assistance needs to be a qualified educational institution.
A “qualified” educational institution is simply any post secondary (meaning beyond high school) educational institution that is eligible to participate in a student aid program administered by the Department of Education. As you can imagine, this qualification applies to a wide variety of colleges and universities. In short, if you want to acquire additional education, and if you qualify for financial aid, you should be able to find it for your online education.
The most common sources of funds for undergraduate students are the government grants and loans. These begin with the completion of the federal financial aid form known as FAFSA. Even if you are not financially qualified for Pell or Stafford loans that originate with the Federal Government, you must complete this form. In addition, you may be required to complete the CSS/Financial Aid Profile. The difference is that the FAFSA is for application using something known as Federal Methodology while the Profile form uses Institutional Methodology. We won’t get into the complications of the two different forms, but, in a nut shell, the Profile form is used by specific schools to determine how much aid a school can offer through its own programs. This method is primarily used by private schools. If you go to a State college you will use the FAFSA which is actually much easier to work with. The financial aid is also easier to obtain using the FAFSA. However, the choice will not be left to you.
Once your eligibility has been determined, the school you choose to study with will have financial aid advisors who will help you with applications to specific scholarships or grants.
Financial aid obtained via the FAFSA or Profile forms is available primarily to undergraduate students. Often, however, students who take advantage of online education are seeking master’s degrees or advance certificates. In this case, you will most likely need to explore some additional sources of financial aid, including fellowships and loans.
If you are currently employed, one of the first places to look for financial assistance is with that employer as many employers value additional education and are willing to pay for your courses once you can demonstrate success. You may have to pay for a course or for part of a program up front—via your own resources or a loan, but the back end reimbursement would then allow you to pay for the following courses.
If your employer does not support educational programs, or if you are not working, you can apply for scholarships or fellowships. Many colleges offer graduate fellowships, although the availability of these for online study is still a bit limited. However, student loans are available for graduate as well as undergraduate study. In fact, statistics show that more than 60% of all financial aid is in the form of loans.