As of 2019, more than 37% of students were taking distance-learning courses thanks to the Internet. Enrollment went up significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it isn’t expected to decrease anytime soon. Many of these students don’t know that they have access to financial assistance like scholarships and grants for online college, even if they are part-time students.
Federal student aid programs alone provide as much financial aid for online college programs as they do for in-person, full-time students. This is in addition to many online-specific grants and scholarships designed to help low-income students cover the cost of tuition of online learning programs.
Does FAFSA Cover Online College?
Yes, FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) covers accredited online colleges that accept federal aid. It is a common misconception that financial aid for online college is more limited than for on-campus learners. Students taking online courses are eligible for different types of aid from federal student aid programs, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements.
How to Find Financial Aid for Online College
- Research your school. Many online colleges and universities accept federal financial aid, while others offer institutional scholarships. Check with the school you are interested in for financial aid options, either on the school’s website or by taking your questions to the school’s student services department.
- Search online databases. There are many great online resource guides about scholarships and grants for students who meet certain criteria. You can find scholarships for a particular career field, demographic, or course of study on websites such as Scholarships.com and US News Scholarship Finder.
- Check community groups. Community groups such as 4-H, the National FFA Organization, and the Boys & Girls Club of America provide excellent scholarships for members and their families. You can check with your local community organization to see if they have available scholarships.
- Look into foundations. Many private companies like Coca-Cola, Mastercard, Microsoft, and Ford Motor Company have foundations dedicated to helping students access higher education. Even if you are a distance learner, you can apply directly through the foundation’s website or go through your college’s financial services department.
- Ask about local sponsors. Many local businesses offer small sponsorships to undergraduate students who enroll in programs in certain fields of study. For example, private law firms offer scholarships to aspiring law students and paralegals.
- Consult your local librarian. Librarians have a lot of information when it comes to federal loans, scholarships, and grants. They can help nontraditional students find resource guides for financial aid and could have the answers to common questions these students have.
Financial Aid: The Best Scholarships and Grants for Online College
|Scholarship/ Grant Name||Provider||Amount|
|Distance Learning Scholarships||Bemidji State University||$1,000|
|Christian College Scholarship||The Christian Connector||$2,500|
|Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant||Federal Student Aid||$100 to $4,000|
|Foreclosure.com Scholarship||Foreclosure.com||$1,000 or $4,000|
|Distance Learning Scholarship||GetEducated.com||$1,000|
|Innovation Leadership Fund||Arizona State University||Variable|
|K-State Global Campus Scholarship||Kansas State University||$250 to $2,000|
|Penn State World Campus Scholarships||Pennsylvania State University||Variable|
|Society for Human Resource Management Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship||Society for Human Resource Management||$2,500|
|Online Undergraduate Degree Scholarships||Study.com||$500|
The Best Financial Aid Resources for Online College
Grants and scholarships for online college are financial aids that do not need to be paid back, unlike federal student loans or a private loan. We reviewed scholarships and grants that give significant annual aid without strict criteria. Some are merit-based while others are need-based. Below is our list of the best financial aid resources for online college.
Distance Learning Scholarships | Bemidji State University
Bemidji State University (BSU) has multiple distance learning scholarships for undergraduate students enrolled in BSU online programs. Though the university is located in Minnesota, online students can access college degree programs from anywhere in the world. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $2,500.
Christian College Scholarship | The Christian Connector
Online college students attending a Christian affiliated college should apply for the Christian College Scholarship offered by the Christian Connector. To apply for this $2,500 tuition assistance, simply fill out an information request form to learn more about Christian colleges.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant | Federal Student Aid
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is an extension of federal aid programs for students with a high need for financial aid assistance. Accredited schools have the option to participate in this program and award need-based grants to students ranging from $100 to $4,000 a year. You must be an undergraduate student without a previous bachelor’s degree.
Foreclosure.com Scholarship Program | Foreclosure.com
Since 2009, Foreclosure.com has awarded scholarships to 40 college students nationwide to help with education expenses. To be selected for this scholarship, you have to write a winning essay on the current topic, which is usually an issue related to real estate and foreclosure. One eligible student will win the $4,000 top prize, while second and third place winners will get $1,000 each.
Distance Learning Scholarship| GetEducated.com
GetEducated.com awards $1,000 to students in distance education programs twice a year. This scholarship is awarded based on merit and financial need. Any student who is enrolled in an accredited online program can win this scholarship essay contest. Students in undergraduate programs and graduate students are eligible.
Innovation Leadership Fund | Arizona State University
This scholarship is for students enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate program in Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Online students who show leadership and innovation are eligible for this award.
K-State Global Campus Scholarship | Kansas State University
Kansas State University (KSU) offers a variety of scholarships to KSU distance learning students through their K-State Global Campus Scholarship program. There are awards for undergraduate and graduate programs. These award amounts range from $500 to $2,000, depending on the scholarship. Most of the scholarships are both merit-based and need-based aid.
Penn State World Campus Scholarships | Pennsylvania State University
Penn State has many financial aid programs for students getting an online education through the Penn State World Campus. To qualify, you must have attained a 2.0 GPA minimum, demonstrated financial need, and completed 24 credit hours. There are specific scholarships for part-time students, full-time students, and military service students.
Society for Human Resource Management Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship | Society for Human Resource Management Foundation
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) awards 21 scholarships worth $2,500 each to students enrolled in undergraduate programs related to human resources management. Students must be current members of SHRM and maintain a 3.0 GPA at an accredited online school.
Online Undergraduate Degree Scholarships | Study.com
Study.com awards a $500 merit-based scholarship to undergraduate students pursuing an online degree program to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree. This award favors students who have demonstrated incredible academic success and participate in extracurricular activities.
Online Colleges That Accept Financial Aid
American Public University
American Public University is an accredited university that accepts financial aid for online students. The West Virginia-based school offers a wide variety of online degree programs, including business administration, criminal justice, management, health studies, and sports and health sciences.
Arizona State University
At Arizona State University you can get an online education in engineering, sociology, urban planning, or biochemistry. There are both graduate and undergraduate degree options for online learners.
Penn State World Campus
Penn State World Campus is among the leading institutions for distance learning. Some of its popular programs include subjects such as business, education, computer information technology, and engineering. The school is also accredited to offer various health sciences as well as legal education.
Rush University is an accredited school that specializes in the health sector with popular programs such as health systems management, behavioral sciences, occupational therapy, nursing, and speech-language pathology.
University of Florida Online
University of Florida Online is another great accredited distance learning university. The school offers excellent programs in business administration, education, engineering, and legal studies.
Should You Apply for Online College Financial Aid?
You should apply for financial aid for online college. You should go through the financial aid process and apply for online college financial aid starting with FAFSA as soon as you decide to enroll in a degree program. If you are not eligible for federal financial aid, look into private grants and scholarships before taking a student loan.
Financial Aid for Online College FAQ
The federal aid program provides scholarships, federal grants, tuition waivers, and veteran and military student benefits for online students and for on-campus students. In addition, students can find scholarships and grants from private non-government entities like foundations, businesses, and churches.
Yes, you are allowed to complete your FAFSA form before applying or getting accepted to any college. Apply early to ensure you are eligible for financial aid before you commit to an online degree program. However, the college financial aid office will not offer you an official financial aid package until you are accepted and enrolled.
FAFSA works with colleges to determine how much financial aid each student qualifies for. This help will come in the form of scholarships, subsidized loans, and Federal Pell Grants. For the year 2021-2022, the maximum amount you can get for the Federal Pell Grant is $6,495 and $4,000 for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.
Yes, your parents’ incomes are part of the formula used to determine financial aid for a dependent student. However, unless your parents’ incomes exceed $350,000 per year, you likely still meet the eligibility requirements for FAFSA.
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