One of the biggest setbacks that keeps people from enrolling in an online college is the fear that they will not be able to afford it. The good news for those who need help paying for college is that financial aid is available to students who choose to attend school online just as it is available to students who attend school at a brick-and-mortar campus. Even better is that knowledgeable advisors are available at most online colleges to walk students through the process of applying for financial aid and to answer any questions that may crop up.
Many online students qualify for at least some federal financial aid, and with a little research, effort and determination, online students can also win private scholarship money. Working professionals sometimes have the added advantage of tuition reimbursement programs through their work, in which their employer pays for all or part of the cost of classes leading to a degree applicable to that particular line of work. Employers see the education of their workers as a good investment because earning a degree can improve a worker’s professional capabilities. State financial aid is also available. Finally, online schools themselves commonly offer financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships for students who qualify.
By far, the most prevalent way students pay for college is through federal financial aid. All students who wish to be considered for federal financial aid will need to fill out a FAFSA, which is short for Federal Application for Student Financial Aid. By filling out your FAFSA online, you help the government determine what your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) should be toward your education. Once this is determined, you will be notified of how much federal student aid you qualify for, as well as whether you qualify for grants or loans. Students in dire financial need may qualify for a Pell grant, while those that are a little better off may only qualify for low-interest student loans.
Finding scholarships can be a bit tricky, but not if you know where to look. Two of the best free sources for finding scholarships are FastWeb and the College Board (the organization behind the SAT test), both of which allow you to search through hundreds of scholarships to find ones for which you qualify. You can also find out what grants and scholarships are available in your particular state by visiting your state’s department of higher education.