Financial Aid for Online College

Category: Education

Taking classes from an online college is an increasingly popular way of getting a degree. But there's some confusion about whether online students qualify for financial aid. Here's the scoop on getting financial aid, grants and scholarships for online college...

Can I Get Financial Aid For Online College?

Financial aid is vitally important for almost every college student. Even online college courses, cost-efficient as they are, can be quite expensive what with tuition, textbooks, lab supplies, etc. There are many sources of financial aid to help pay for traditional, campus-based college. But what about online college courses?

You may have heard that government grants, loans, and other forms of financial aid are difficult or impossible to get for online college courses. That was true for a number of years in the mid-2000s. But today, financial aid is just as easy to get for online college courses as it is for traditional classroom-based education. Persistent rumors that financial aid isn't available for online courses are based in outdated history.

There was a "gold rush" for government student financial aid when online college courses first began to catch hold of the public's attention. Many "diploma mills" sprung up, offering unaccredited degrees for no more work than it took to pay the tuition. These bogus "colleges" would coach students through the financial aid process, take the resulting taxpayer dollars, and grant a degree that was basically worthless to employers, other colleges, and the students. Congress put the brakes on that.
online college financial aid

Laws were passed to require at least 50 per cent of a college's students to attend school in person in order for the college to receive accreditation. At least 12 hours of "course work" had to be delivered weekly; you could not learn at your own pace, entirely. Individual courses were subject to strict scrutiny of their delivery methods; paper-based correspondence courses were presumed to be legitimate, while something as easy as email was deemed ineligible for government student financial aid. Every loophole that Congress closed contained another through which scam artists slipped, and students were left horribly confused and in fear of either losing their financial aid or getting a worthless degree. Fortunately, the situation was straightened out in 2006.

Financial Aid For Online College - YES!

Today, online college courses offered through accredited institutions are treated the same as other types of courses for financial aid purposes. You fill out the same forms; meet the same qualifications; and get the same amounts of financial aid as a traditional student.

Whether you will be attending a campus-based or online school, if you want to receive financial aid, your starting point is the FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Financial Aid) form. After answering a series of questions about your finances, a nameless, faceless bureaucrat in a windowless office will determine your eligibility for government loans and grants.

There are many forms of financial aid available from public and private sources. If you are eligible, you can apply for Stafford loans, PLUS loans, grants and federal scholarships. Government Pell Grants can provide over $5,000 per year to undergraduate students currently. Unlike loans, a grant does not have to be repaid if you finish school; if you withdraw early, then you may have to repay part of your grants. Student loans are guaranteed by government agencies so that banks are more willing to lend to students based on their future earnings prospects. Scholarships are available from public and private entities; eligibility may be based strictly on merit, or someone may have left a pile of money bequeathed to redheaded, left-handed Italian students.

It's also a good idea to check with the college you're attending to see if they offer any scholarships. The financial aid office of the college you wish to attend can provide expert advice on the full range of financial aid options available for traditional and online college courses, and guidance in applying for all the aid for which you qualify.

Do you have something to say about getting financial aid for online college? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Financial Aid for Online College"

Posted by:

12 Apr 2010

As a former financial aid technician for a community college, I take offense to your 'nameless, faceless bureaucrat in a windowless office' crack. Eligibility is NOT determined by a person, it's determined by 3 things; your income, # of units you're taking, and the cost of attendance. Your stereotype makes people afraid to contact campus staff because they are afraid they will be mistreated.
I hear MANY complaints about how hard it is to get financial aid & that the paperwork is confusing. If a person doesn't understand how to complete the form, they should contact their school to find out about workshops on not only how to complete the paperwork, but to gain a better understanding of what they qualify for. Financial aid is very complicated and trying to understand eligibility from just a few paragraphs is like trying to build a computer from an ad on a website.
The last thing people need to know about financial aid is that it takes a LONG TIME to process; the sooner you start, the better. The FAFSA early deadline is March 2nd; many institutions require students to have registered by this time in order to qualify for the maximum amount of grants & scholarships. If you have children in high school, you should ask if the school will be having workshops on the FAFSA. With the exception of your thoughtless & tasteless remark, good article.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2010

Do you suppose these government loan guarantees and government grants have anything to do with the increases in tuition we've seen over the years?

Posted by:

Finish School Online
04 Jun 2010

Excellent topics, I am searching online high school to earn degree online. After long searching I got this online that, Crossway High School is an online distance learning school.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2010

There are lots of institutions or colleges that offer online courses. Some are excellent in terms of academic factors. This government grant that provides scholarships to student may sometimes does not offered by an online college. So before enrolling to college, ask first if they offer scholarship grants. for a grant application.

Posted by:

05 Mar 2011

thanks for the article but do you have some knowledge on international students loans and grants. kenneth from uganda east africa.

Posted by:

19 Mar 2011

Student FInancial aid debt is NOT forgiven in a bankruptcy process.

Rarely is it a good idea to go into debt for an expensive "For Profit" degree. Other respected options are usually if not always an option. Online courses/degrees from a state/public college or university are an option. Learn smart!

Accreditation is not equivalent to respect from employers!

"Buyer beware" you have been warned.

Posted by:

11 Jun 2012

You've got to be joking. Go get more debt in this economy- only for bachelors, masters or doctorates in engineering, comp sci, physics, math, medicine, biotech. Oh that's right, none of those hard skills can be acquired online.

All other degrees are not worth it financially as one can never, ever discharge the debt with bankruptcy. Not worth the risk.

Better to get a trade with a union ticket at a community college like pipe fitting, AC/Heating, plumbing or electrician or auto mechanic.

Good luck out there get hard skills for $ and read and write poetry or study psychology on your own time. Most of the info in those fields can be had for free online or at the library. Just ask Ray Bradbury.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Why do you think that a compsci, math or physics degree cannot be earned online? All of these and many others (including advanced degrees) can be done online.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Financial Aid for Online College (Posted: 12 Apr 2010)
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