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Schools in the USA

Online College Scholarships and Financial Aid

Need money for school? Let's face it, while online college education in America is cheaper than most other post-secondary options, it still isn't cheap. But it's definitely worth the expense! And there are a variety of options to help you pay for your education. There are two main funding options: awards and aid.

Awards:
Awards for students applying to online colleges and universities can come from different sources. On one hand, you have awards offered through the schools themselves, which can be institutional or private. And on the other you have awards offered by state and federal governments as well as outside organizations.

  • Institutional: Online colleges or the online divisions of traditional colleges and universities, may offer scholarships on the basis of artistic, academic or other special achievement. These usually range from between $250-$5,000 and may be renewable over the course of study. In some cases, all first-year applicants are automatically considered for certain scholarships, while others require an application. Some awards are offered only to students demonstrating financial need, while others are awarded without regard to a family's finances.


  • Private: Private scholarships are administered by the school, but the funds are provided by donors outside the educational institution. These awards may range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand and can come from small local service organizations, large corporations, or professional organizations. These awards may favor applicants of a certain cultural background or gender, or those going into particular fields of study.


  • State and Federal: For information on specific state and federal scholarships and awards, check out the student assistance office of your state as well as the US Dept of Education website. Some of these awards may be limited to applicants to particular programs.


  • Outside: You also have the option of applying for scholarships directly from organizations, institutes or associations completely independently of a school. For example, the Imagine America Foundation (formerly the Career College Foundation) offers scholarships to help students applying to career college, including a specific Online Award Program. And professional associations (for instance the International Technology Education Association ) also may provide financial awards. Find out from the various organizations in your community if they have scholarships and what their criteria are, and once you know what field you want to study in, look up any professional organizations to see what's offered.


  • Aid
    Student financial aid can be divided into two categories: federal student aid and college aid.

    Institutions have to be accredited by a US Department of Education recognized accrediting agency to qualify for certain financial aid programs. Look on the institution's website for the FAFSA school code. Federal Aid programs include grants, work-study, Stafford loans and PLUS loans.

  • Grants: Unlike loans, grants may be based on financial need and don't need to be repaid. The US Department of Education runs a number of different grant programs which can give you up to just under $5,000 per year. Not everyone is eligible for every grant, however: each type of grant may have different eligibility requirements and conditions, so be sure to check them all to see which ones you might qualify for. You may even be eligible for more than one!


  • Federal Work-Study (FWS): FWS is another federal aid option that does not involve repayment These positions differ from other campus jobs only by their funding source. By filing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you also apply for FWS, which is based on your financial eligibility.


  • Stafford Loans: These are loans for students, with the money coming either from the federal government or a bank, credit union, or other lender that participates in the program. Students entering into first year can apply to borrow between $5,500 and $9,500. These loans do need to be repaid, but the repayment schedules may differ. To apply for these loans you need to fill out a FAFSA, which you can do online.


  • PLUS Loans: These are loans for parents who are supporting dependant undergraduate students. These funds are sent to the school and applied to your account, and will also eventually need to be repaid.


  • If the school is an accredited vocational or career college, then they may also be approved for other types of governmental financial assistance, such as Veterans Educational Benefits, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation funds, and Bureau of Indian Affairs monies.

    College aid
    College aid involves several types of funding. On one hand, online colleges may administer federal campus-based aid programs. This need-based aid is made up of three federal programs that are administered directly by the colleges. Not all schools participate in all three, so check with the colleges you are considering. These college-based programs provide a limited amount of funds for each school to administer each year, so be sure to apply for this kind of college aid early. Each school sets its own deadlines for campus-based aid which differ from the FAFSA deadlines.

    On the other hand, institutional or college grants may be offered to help make up the difference between college costs and what a family can be expected to contribute. These are generally around $500-$1,000. Most online colleges have Financial Advisors and/or a division or department of financial aid where you can often find a cost/ financial aid calculator, lists of financial aid available and the necessary downloadable forms. There may also be special financial aid page for military students. Some grants come with certain obligations, so you'll want to find out about the types of grants awarded by each college you are considering: don't be shy about contacting the school's financial aid office for information.

    If you are applying to an online college to pursue career and job-related skills, keep in mind that many employers offer tuition reimbursement plans. This may require you to maintain a certain GPA to receive compensation. In some cases employees may have to sign an agreement saying they intend to remain working for an employer for a certain amount of time once they finish their degree or training.
     



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