Attending college isn't cheap, but it doesn't mean you can't afford to go!
There are many programs that can help finance your education including scholarships, grants, work-study programs, student loans, and military education programs.
This section of our site will provide an overview of how these types of educational financial aid work and supply the basic information you will need to get started.
Financial aid is available from many sources including the federal government, state governments, colleges and universities, and numerous private organizations. The federal government funds the majority of aid, so it makes sense to apply for federal financial aid first, then pursue the other sources available to you.
Applying for financial aid can be a pretty intimidating process. There are forms to fill out, procedures to follow, and deadlines to meet. It's important to read and follow all directions carefully, meet your deadlines, and ask questions when you don't understand something.
The College Financial Aid Office - An Important Partner
The financial aid office at the school that you are considering is a valuable resource for help. Financial aid administrators will guide you through paperwork and help you understand the process of applying for and receiving financial aid. They are there to offer assistance with filling out forms properly, finding scholarships, and providing information about the variety of programs that might be available to you.
Financial aid staff provide this assistance at no cost to students. They provide these services because they want to help students realize their educational goals while minimizing the financial burden that comes with it.
Don't overlook utilizing their assistance to get the financial aid you need.
Types of Financial Aid
Federal & State Financial Aid
The U.S. government is the single largest provider of financial aid for higher education, supplying approximately 70% of all student-aid dollars. To qualify for federal financial aid for college, families must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Everyone applying for federal or state assistance will need to fill out the FAFSA form.
Pell Grant - Aid for low-income undergraduates. No minimum grade-point average or other academic requirements. Amount of grant depends on the estimated amount you or your family are expected to contribute, the cost of attendance, whether you are a full-time or part-time student and whether you'll be in school for a full academic year.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) - The FSEOG program provides grants to low-income undergraduate students with exceptional financial need to supplement aid received from Pell grants and other sources. Schools distribute the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) to students based on financial need. Part-time and full-time undergraduate students are eligible for this federal program.
Stafford Loan - The federal loan for students is called the Stafford Loan. There are 2 types - Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) and Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP). These loans have low interest rates and do not require credit checks or collateral. Student loans also provide a variety of deferment options and extended repayment terms. To apply for a Stafford Loan, you must submit the FAFSA.
PLUS Loans (Parent Loans) - Parents who have an acceptable credit history can borrow for a PLUS eligible program and school. Get forms from the financial aid office at your school.
State Financial Aid Directory - U.S. Department of Education directory of state higher education agencies where you can learn about state financial aid assistance programs, grants, and scholarships
Don't dismiss the possibility of getting a scholarship to help pay for your online education! You may not fully realize your scholarship potential. Everyone is good at something, and there's usually money around somewhere to support it. Get ready to spend some time researching - there are thousands of scholarships available!
Check with the guidance office at the school you plan on attending. This is usually the best place to start a local scholarship search.
Investigate private scholarships. Your best chance for receiving a private scholarship is from your local community. Private scholarships are awards that are offered by private or corporate entitities.
Check with your or your parents employers. They may already have a program, or, under some instances, may be willing to start one just for you.
Don't pay for information you can get for free. There are sites that promise to supply you with a list of scholarship matches that are only available through paid membership. In most instances, these programs provide the same information you can find on other "free" scholarship sites.
Beware of scholarship scams - Avoid scholarship offers that ask you to send money up front, scholarships for profit, advance-fee loans, require disbursement or redemption fees, and any other offers that seem "too good to be true" - they probably are!
Military Financial Aid
Military financial aid is available for online education. In fact, distance learning is highly utilized and encouraged. Distance education makes it possible for enlisted and veterans to earn a degree or train for a career online - no matter where they are stationed.
GI Bill Education Benefits - The MGIB program provides up to 36 months of education benefits.
Tuition Assistance (TA) - Allows enlisted servicemembers to enroll in courses at accredited colleges, universities, junior colleges, high schools, and vocational-technical schools.
Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) - SOC is a consortium of more than 1550 colleges and universities that provide educational opportunities for servicemembers and their families.
Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program (DEA) - The DEA program provides up to 45 months of education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans.
Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents - Updated annually by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the publication Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents contains information about education and training benefits available to veterans and eligible dependents.
Few students can afford to pay for college without some kind of supplemental financing. Scholarships, grants, work-study and other forms of aid often do not cover the full cost of a college education.
Education loans can be separated into 5 catagories: student loans, parent loans, private loans, alternative loans and consolidation loans. An overview of these loan types are outlined below.
Since the federal government provides the majority of financial aid to students and the costs are often times less than that of alternative loan programs, you should investigate your options for federal funding first.
Federal Government Student Loan Programs (Stafford Loans) - Many students rely on federal government loans to finance their educations. These loans have low interest rates and do not require credit checks or collateral. Student loans also provide a variety of deferment options and extended repayment terms. To apply for a Stafford Loan, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Learn more.
Federal Government Parent Loan Programs - Parents of dependent students can take out loans to supplement their children's aid packages. The federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) lets parents borrow money to cover any costs not already covered by the student's financial aid package, up to the full cost of attendance. Like the Stafford Loan, PLUS loans are either FFELP (provided by private lenders, such as banks) or Direct (funds provided by the government). Learn more.
Private Loans - Some families turn to private loans when the federal loans don't provide enough money or when they need more flexible repayment options. For example, a parent might want to defer repayment until the student graduates. Lenders can provide different types of private loans depending on the student's level of study, financial status, future earning potential and other factors. Private loans tend to cost more than loans offered by the Federal government, but not in all instances, so shop around!
Alternative Loans - Alternative loans include home equity loans, lines of credit, and borrowing from retirement funds. Because of the potential trade-offs involved, you should always consider the other options available to you before proceeding with alternative financing. If you are pursuing an alternative loan because of bad credit, you should consider applying for a PLUS loan anyway. If you are denied a PLUS loan for credit reasons, your child becomes eligible for higher Stafford loan limits.
Consolidation Loans - A consolidation loan combines several student or parent loans into one larger loan from a single lender, which is then used to pay off the balances on the other loans. Consolidation loans are available for most federal loans, including FFELP (Stafford, PLUS and SLS), FISL, Perkins, Health Professional Student Loans, NSL, HEAL, Guaranteed Student Loans and Direct loans. Some lenders offer consolidation loans for private loans as well.