According to a higher education report, there are nearly three million students who have enrolled in online programs on a full-time basis, and six million are taking one online course as part of their degree. This only shows the prevalence of online education in institutions of higher learning, particularly those offering degree programs are quite high.
Similarly, institutions offering financial aid have evolved to meet the increasing demand. This is because most students enrolling for online higher education face unique challenges that deter them from paying for school. Initially, the federal government required online students looking for financial aid to take half of the classes on campus to qualify for support.
It was a result of the 1992 research that raised skepticism about the quality of online education. The government, however, amended the policy in 2006, letting students apply for financial aid without following the 50% rule. Online learning has since become prevalent as the government no longer discriminates between on-campus and online students when providing financial assistance. So what kind of financial assistance is available for a student enrolling for an online degree?
Financial aid is available in two categories: need-based financial aid and non-need based financial aid. Need-based financial assistance is designed for students who face financial difficulty when enrolling for an online degree program. Non-need based aid is for students who have some merit, e.g., in sports, academics, and other extracurricular activities. Financial assistance is available in different forms:
1. Work-Study Program
It is a form of financial assistance funded by the government designed for undergraduate students. It pays the student to work on a part-time basis at the university during the school’s academic year. Unlike other forms of financial aid, work-study programs allow students to use the funds to pay whatever they want, not just academic-related costs. While students have a more flexible schedule during peak periods like finals and midterms, they use additional resources like pay for grades in my online class sites to help them score high grades.
It is a form of gift aid that does not require the student to repay as long as he meets some minimum academic requirements. Grants cater to academically-related expenses, including books, fees, housing, and tuition. Students through the federal government can apply for Supplementary Education Opportunity grants and Academic Competitiveness Grants.
This kind of financial aid is used for funding specific areas of study or research. As such, the student is required to use the gift aid to attain a particular academic goal, e.g., supporting a year’s research. It explains why fellowships are ideal for graduate and upper-level undergraduate students who have not yet chosen a specific career path.
They are awarded based on merit or a student’s need. They also don’t need to be repaid hence an attractive option for students with financial difficulty. Universities and the US Department of Education award the scholarships, but private organizations also grant thousands of scholarships to students with specialized skills.
They are the least popular forms of financial aid as students need to repay them. Federal loans have lower rates and more flexible repayment schedules hence more preferred to private-funded loans.
Things to Keep in Mind when Applying for Financial Aid
- The process is the same for on-campus and online students
- Research, whether you are eligible for specific scholarships as some scholarships, are open to students in accredited programs only
- Indicate whether you are enrolling for the online program on a full-time or part-time basis
- Start the application process early. Most financial institutions accept applications between 1st January and 30th June
- Provide accurate information, e.g., regarding your family’s income
- Note all the application deadlines