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9 Ways To Earn Free Or Borrowed Money To Attend College Online

May 30, 2007 Alyice Edrich, Distance-Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

As the cost for education continues to rise, more and more students are opting for online colleges. Not because attending online colleges are cheaper than traditional colleges, but because online colleges allow students to work full-time jobs which in turn allows them to come up with the money necessary to attend college and advance their careers.

But what if you don’t make enough to pay for your everyday expenses, let alone the high cost of college? Where does the money come from then?

Finding money for distance education university is no easy task; in fact, a three-day search online sent us nowhere fast. How are students supposed to find the help they need when so few colleges and resources refuse to go deep and talk about the subject? Is paying for college really a taboo topic?

We don’t think it should be and that’s why we’re going to break it down for you right here, right now!

WAY 1: FAFSA

college tuition

The first place every college-bound student should go for financial assistance is the FAFSA website. FAFSA, also known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is designed to help college-bound students find federal funds: grants, scholarships, and student loans. And includes an online financial guide geared towards helping parents and college-bound students get their finances in order so they can receive the biggest financial assistance available. Within the last year the FAFSA has greatly improved, students can now recieve information about their eligibility within week's time as opposed to waiting months to find out. Find out more
information when you fill out the application.

Once the FAFSA application has been filled out, it’s time to do some traditional legwork.

  • Make an appointment with your high school counselor. See if he/she has any leads on scholarships and grants you can apply for that aren’t listed in the FAFSA database. Save student loans as the last resort.
  • Contact the college of your choice and ask to speak to the financial aid counselor. Set up an appointment to meet by phone, or in person, to discuss scholarships and grants that aren’t listed in the FAFSA database.
  • Ask your high school coach to put in a good word by writing a letter of recommendation to the coach at the college of your choice.
  • Ask your teachers to write letters of recommendations for your college entrance applications as well as your scholarship and grant applications.
  • Ask your employers to write letters of recommendations that show off your hard work and dedication.
  • Ask your peers to write letters of recommendations based on your character—some college applications and funding sources like to know what your peers have to say about you.
  • Get copies of your transcripts and have them ready to be mailed along with your applications.

Once you receive your letters of recommendation, keep the originals and make several copies. The originals will come in handy when you apply for scholarships, grants, student loans, and work programs.

WAY 2: SCHOLARSHIPS

When students think in terms of “money for college”, the first word that comes to mind is: scholarship. Scholarships are free money, and unlike student loans they don’t have to be paid back. The downside to using scholarships to fund your education is:

  • The competition is fierce.
  • Scholarships are often based on merit.
    • Some scholarships are awarded to students based on academic performance or athletic abilities. Other scholarships are awarded based on community services, a perceived value to the community, or a student’s promise to work xx years in a specific company.
  • Scholarships are difficult to locate.
    • Seeking the help of a college advisor is a great way to learn about scholarships being offered to the student body, to students with a certain ethnic background, students who work in a specific industry, students who live in or are from a  specific geographic area, or students who plan to further their studies upon graduating from the undergraduate program.

And when the college advisor comes up empty, there are the free search tools to help students find scam-free, no-fee scholarships. Such as:

When researching scholarships, it’s important to take the time to read the qualifying factors. There’s no use filling out an application if you won’t qualify for the scholarship. Some of the things you might want to ask are:

  • Is the scholarship a reward for entering a competition? (i.e. essay, dance recital, music recital, poetry reading, etc.)
  • Is the scholarship awarded to citizens of a specific town, city, or state?
  • Does the scholarship require xx amount of time volunteering in a specific organization?
  • Does the scholarship require a certain grade point average?
  • Does the scholarship require a certain ethnicity?
  • Does the scholarship require a certain extra-curricular activity (i.e. football, drama club, chess club, etc.)
  • Does the scholarship require a letter of recommendation from a pastor, prestigious member of the community, teacher, or employer?

Finally, don’t fall for scams. No company can guarantee you will receive the scholarship based on its services. When in doubt, check out the United States Financial Aid website regarding scholarships scams. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/scholarship/index.html

WAY 3: COLLEGE LOANS

Regardless of the loan name, loans must be paid back to the lending institution. Students may obtain loans through traditional banks, specialized lending institutions, private lenders, and the federal government. Every loan has its own repayment schedule, fees, and interest rates so it’s important that you, the student and borrower, take the time to read the fine print and make sure you know what you’re getting into before you sign your name on the dotted line.

  • Federal Student Aid Program
Direct loans through the Federal Student Aid Program offers students a chance to attend college when scholarships and/or grants are unavailable. These direct loans are funded by the U.S. Department of Education and offered to qualifying student who fill out a FAFSA application. The interest rate ranges from 6.8% to 8.25% and comes with a 4% loan fee.
There are two types of direct loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized student loans are based on financial need. Interest is deferred until the student graduates from college, as long as he’s in school half time. Unsubsidized student loans are given to all students, regardless of financial need and require students  to pay interest as soon as the loan is assumed.
  • Federal Perkins Loans
Federal Perkins loans are low-interest loans provided by the colleges themselves and backed by the U.S. government.  Funding is at the discretion of each individual college. As long as students stay in college half time, the loans do not have to be repaid until 9 months after graduation. The interest rate is usually 5% and there are no additional fees for obtaining the loan.
  • Citibank Student Loans
Citibank student loans are offered to qualifying students with good credit reports. Citibank offers competitive interest rates that are reduced to as much as .75%. There are no student loan payments while the student is in school full time.
  • College Loan Corporation
College Loan Corporation is the preferred student loan lender of 900 colleges nationwide. College Loan Corporation offers two types of student loans: the CLC Premier loan and Federal Consolidation loans.
The CLC Premier loans have prime interest rates, no origination fees, no prepayment penalty, and a reduced interest rate (by .25%) when the student applies for auto-payments. There are no student loan payments until 6 months after the student leaves college or graduates.
The Federal Consolidation loans combines all the student’s loans into one large bill with monthly payments. The fixed interest rates depends on the student’s credit score and can often be higher than a traditional student loan.
  • Sallie Mae Student Loans    
Sallie Mae student loans are sent directly to the school’s financial aid office. As long as the student remains in school, the funds will continue to come and be used to pay for tuition. Once the student graduates, the student loans become due and monthly payments begin.  Interest rates, application fees, and loan fees vary according to the type of loan approved.
  • SLM Financial
SLM Financial student loans is part of the Sallie Mae network. SLM Financial provides student loans for distance learning and   technical colleges. Loan applications are submitted online and approved in less  than 30 seconds, once students fill out the online application. Loan fees are as   high as 6.5%, loans may take up to 15 years to repay, and students pay defer   loans for up to 12 months with a $10 per month charge.
  • Bank Loans   
Bank loans vary from bank to bank. A private loan may be a second mortgage on the student’s home, a lien on the student’s vehicle or boat, a no-collateral   loan, or an advance on the student’s credit cards. Each loan is based on the student’s credit score, outstanding debt, and the ability to repay the loan. Some student loans do not have to be paid until 60 days after the student graduates    from college while other loans must be paid within 30 days of obtaining the loan.
  • Private Loans
Private loans are loans given to the student by a family member, friend, or  colleague. While most private loans do not come with signed contracts, they    should. When accepting money from someone you know and trust, save the   relationship by asking for a signed note stating how much money was borrowed, when the money must be paid back, if there is an interest rate or late fee, and what the monthly payment will be.

WAY 4: GRANTS

Unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid. Grants are essentially free money; as long as the money is applied towards the student’s college education the student doesn’t have to pay it back. Grants are based on factors determined by the issuing grant provider.

Some grants are awarded based on financial need. Other grants are awarded based on ethnicity. And still, other grants are based on things such as being the child of military personnel, being the first child born in America, being the survivor of child abuse, and so forth. While there are literally thousands of small grants available to students every year, locating grants can be difficult and time consuming.

  • Federal Pell Grants
Federal Pell Grants (http://www.ed.gov/prog_info/SFA/FYE/FYE01/pell.html) are   awarded to undergraduates (those without a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree) who are in financial need. These grants are funded by the U.S. government and do not need to be paid back. They are based on financial need, cost of school, and whether the student will be attending full or part time.
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants
Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEO) grants are awarded to undergraduates who have the lowest expected family contribution scores. In other words, students must be in dire need of financial help to receive a FSEO grant. These grants are awarded by the colleges themselves, therefore funding will be based on need and the college’s available funding.
  • State Grants
State grants are awarded to college students who will attend college in his/her home state, live within a specific geographic area, or who will attend a specific program and work xx years in that field of study in the state offering the grant.

 

WAY 5: WORK PROGRAMS

Work programs often help pay for a student’s education by providing some form of internship.

  • Federal Work Study
The Federal Work Study program helps students find part-time jobs related to their fields of study. This allows students to earn money for their college education while gaining first-hand experience.
  • Governor’s Workforce Development Grant
The GWD grant helps students who are “employed by a company in Delaware that contributes to the Blue Collar Training Fund Program”.
  • Friends of Vista
Friends of Vista want to end hunger and homelessness. Therefore, the program offers to pay $4,725 of a student’s college education in exchange for 1,700 hours of volunteer service.

WAY 6: CORPORATE REIMBURSEMENT PLANS

No matter what you call it, corporate reimbursement plans, tuition reimbursement programs, or job training programs, they all mean the same thing: free college tuition. The catch; however, is that your employer must have a reimbursement program in place, and the education you choose must coincide with your job or a job at the company.

According to Workforce Management, corporate America spent 10 billion dollars in tuition reimbursements in 2003 alone. Of those dollars, each worker received $5,250 per year in college tuition reimbursements—that’s enough to help a student enroll in 3 to 4 online courses a year.

To find out if your employer offers help in funding your college tuition, contact your Human Resources department. Your employer may require you to pay for your tuition out of your personal funds, then refund you when you’ve completed the course with a grade of C or higher. Or you may be asked to pay with your company credit card.

WAY 7: MILITARY

The United States military offers various forms of financial help for active military personnel, active reserves, and honorably discharged veterans. Each program has its own set of rules and regulations.

Tuition Assistance Programs

TA programs “provides financial assistance for voluntary off-duty education programs in support of a soldier's professional and personal self-development goals.”

GI Bill

The GI Bill allows military personnel with two to three years active service the opportunity to return to college, via distance learning programs or accredited  colleges, within ten years after resigning from active duty. The GI Bill will pay up to $30,000 towards the soldier’s education.

Retraining Grant

The Retraining Grant helps veterans who’ve recently left the military or who’ve been involuntarily laid off return to college full-time. The grant is based on financial need and covers full tuition, books, supplies, and part of the veteran’s living expenses as long as the degree can be completed within two years of obtaining the grant.

WAY 8: VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION PROGRAMS

Vocational rehabilitation programs assist injured and displaced employees find work by providing new careers. Depending on the needs of the employees, or soon-to-be students, vocational rehabilitation programs locate distance learning, technical, or four-year colleges that meet certain program requirements and help the employees enroll in college. Some vocational rehabilitation programs only cover the cost of tuition while others will also cover living expenses and medical care. Many vocational rehabilitation programs are sponsored by the state in which the employee resides so when searching for financial help from vocational rehabilitation programs, type in the words “vocational rehabilitation services”+”your state” in the search engines.

WAY 9: LOAN FORGIVENESS PROGRAMS

Loan forgiveness programs don’t help you fund your college education, but under certain restrictions, they may help you get rid of your college tuition debt.

  • Teach For America 
Teach For America wants to help improve the education students receive in urban and rural areas. Therefore, the program offers 2,000 recent college graduates the chance to improve the quality of education in poor areas while getting them out of tuition debt.
  • National Health Service Corps
National Health Service Corps wants to improve the health conditions of under-staffed, under-served area in America. Therefore, the program offers to pay off $25,000 in college debt for United States medical students willing to serve two years in an under-staffed, under-served area.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to locating money for your college education is to never quit—when one door closes, another will open. All you have to do is fill out those applications and send them in! Remember, a good education is the key to making more money, working in a job you actually enjoy, and providing a comfortable life for your family.

 

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