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Grants and Scholarships for Online Students

Jun 21, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

Paying for college isn’t easy—whether you’re a traditional student or studying online. Sure, you can saddle yourself with a huge load of student debt—but why do that when you can get scholarships?

Basically, the federal government and many other funding sources don’t discriminate against you as an online student. You are eligible for most grants and scholarships that traditional students are also eligible for, as long as the distance education school you attend meets certain accreditation criteria (at least in the case of the federal government). Here’s an overview of places you can look for scholarships as an online student.

Federal aid
Your first step in looking for grants and scholarships is to fill out the FAFSA. The PELL grant is the only type of federal aid that is a true grant—it does not need to be repaid, and you don’t have to do anything in return, as you do with the federal work-study program.  However, PELL grants are given on a very limited basis—you have to meet the government’s standards for financial need, and even when you do, the
maximum amount covered by the PELL grant may not cover all of
your tuition. Still, federal aid is an important part of paying tuition
bills for millions of students, and it’s important to fill out the
FAFSA and see how much PELL grant money you qualify for.

Students Studying

While your credit score doesn’t have an effect on your federal student loans, it will affect your private loans—and your credit history, or that of your parents, could affect your eligibility for both.

  

 

 

In addition, bear in mind that your school must meet the government’s requirements for accreditation if you want to qualify for federal aid. The school must be either regionally or nationally accredited by a recognized accrediting body. Check out this article for more information on college accreditation.

State aid

Your state may offer scholarships or grants that are either based on financial need, scholarly achievement, or other qualifications. Each state’s offerings are different, but most don’t have scholarships designed especially for online students. Still, as an online student, you are probably eligible for state grants and scholarships as long as you reside in that state. Online students apply to the state where they live, not the state where the school they plan to attend is located.

School aid

If you’re looking for scholarships specifically for online students, one of your best bets is the school itself. Many schools offer scholarships unrelated to any federal program for a wide range of types of students—from minorities to those who excelled in high school, those gifted in the arts and sports, people with specific community involvement interests, and more. For instance, the University of Phoenix has a wide range of scholarships listed on its website, as does DeVry, Antioch, and the University of New England. The best way to find out if you qualify is to search for grants and scholarships on your college’s website and ask your financial aid officer how to apply.

For example, if you are  planning to obtain the MS SPEC ED degree, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant offers up to $4,000 a year for students studying education; find out more about online teaching degree and available scholarships from the school you are planning to attend .

Private and nonprofit sources

These often take a little digging to find—but they’re not that difficult with the help of websites like FinAid.org* or FastWeb**. Check out these sites for searchable databases of private and nonprofit funding sources all over the US. Like with federal grants, you will be eligible for most of these as an online student—at least, your online status shouldn’t disqualify you.

College is expensive for everyone, online and traditional students alike. But scholarships and grants, if you can find them and qualify them, make it much easier. Do your best to exhaust all your options in this area before taking out any student loans, and you can lessen the debt burden you’ll have once you graduate.

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