Quick Financial Aid FactsWith college costs on the rise, students are seeking new ways to pay for traditional and online college tuition. According to the National Center for Education Statistics:
- 63 percent of all undergraduates receive some form of financial aid in the form of
- Federal loans, or
- Private loans directly from the relevant schools being attended.
- $134 billion available in financial aid to students and their families, more students are taking the government up on its offer to help pay for education.
Worried about having to pay back a hefty loan? Youll more than make up the cost of the loan, including interest, with your shiny new degree. According to CollegeBoard.com, if you have a Bachelors degree, you can earn nearly twice as much than if you had only a high school diploma. Over your lifetime, the gap in earning potential between a high school diploma and a B.A. (or higher) is more than $1 million. So paying for a student loan between $10,000 and $30,000 doesnt seem that hard after all!
Weighing Your Options
Look into all of your options for paying for your online college. There are online resources available that will explain all payment alternatives as well as how to apply for aid.
The Truth About Paying For CollegeYou may think you know about college costs, but here are some things you may not know.
- College IS Affordable: While there are some schools that can cost in excess of $30,000 a year, the majority are actually reasonably priced. According to CollegeBoard.com, the average annual cost of a four-year public institution in 2006-07 is $5,836.
- Most Students Qualify for Financial Aid: No matter how much money your family has or how much you have saved for college, you likely qualify for at least some financial aid.
- Federal Financial Aid Isnt Based on Grades: Dont assume you have to have top grades to get a student loan. Scholarships are usually based on performance, but financial aid looks at other qualifications.
- Private Schools Offer More Aid: While you may think private schools are out of your league, they may not be. Private schools often offer more financial enticements to draw students to their institution.
FAFSA 101Youve picked out an online degree program that youre excited about. The only problem: how will you pay for it? Most online degree programs qualify for federal student financial aid, so filling out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the place to start.
- Ready? Go Online: Youre lucky to live in the era of technology. Rather than filling out a stack of forms, you can do virtually everything in your financial aid search and application online. FAFSA has an informative website, and you can even complete your application on the web: fafsa.ed.gov
- Set? Get Your Info: You will need a lot of information, so gathering it all together will help you in filling out the application. Youll need:
- Your social security number
- Information on you or your parents education and income taxes
- Student dependency information
- Veteran benefits info (if applicable)
- Info on the school you want to attend
Finding the Right Student LoanThere are several different kinds of student loans, and they can be confusing if you dont know the differences. According to CollegeBoard.com, 54 percent of all financial aid is from loans. Some are need-based, and have lower interest rates, while others are not need-based, and are designed to help pay the family share of costs for education.
- Perkins Loans: These are need-based, are awarded to students with the most need and offer a low interest rate. You dont have to start paying these back until youre done with school.
- Subsidized Stafford Loans: These loans are also need-based with low interest rates. The government pays the interest on the loan while you are in school.
- Unsubsidized Stafford Loans: These are not need-based, and your family can get these loans to help you pay your costs. You are responsible for paying the interest while you are in school.
- Grad PLUS Loans: These are for graduate students and are not based on need. You can borrow up to the cost of your education.
Scholarships: Free Money for SchoolThe best way to pay for school is with money you dont have to pay back. There are thousands of scholarships available to students each year and you likely qualify to apply for dozens in order to help pay for your online education.
Where to Find Them.
Some schools offer their own scholarships. These are great because you have a lot less competition than with nationwide scholarships. You can find info on the schools website, including requirements and explanation of the application process.
Additionally, there are websites that compile all (or most) of the scholarships available online in one place. You can search for scholarships using criteria like what you want to study, your ethnic background or your GPA. You can easily apply for these from the same website.
What Theyre Looking For.
Not all scholarships require you to have a 4.0 GPA. Others are granted to minorities, students studying a particular field or students that have great business ideas. Whatever the qualifications, make sure you meet them. Youll just waste your time (as well as the application review boards) if youre not really qualified to apply.
What They Pay.
Scholarships vary in how much of your tuition and fees they will pay. Some will your entire tuition while others will pay just a portion, or perhaps your book fees. Some have limits for how many semesters they will pay for.
Online Degrees Save You College CostsIf you attend college on a traditional campus, you will have more expenses involved in your education than you may have estimated. You will have to pay for not only tuition, but also housing, food (either on campus or grocery store visits), books, supplies and gas for commuting.
With an online degree, these costs are greatly reduced. Because you are attending class from home, your only costs should be tuition and books (although more online professors are choosing to use other resources than costly, heavy and outdated textbooks).
You have no commute costs, as you do not have to drive to class to learn. Your housing and food costs will remain the same as they always have (unless youre a heavy muncher during finals).
Taking classes online is quickly being recognized as a more affordable and convenient alternative to traditional classes. Here are some ideas of how to spend all the money you will save:
- Treat yourself to a laptop to make studying online more convenient
- Buy books on subject matter that you want to read
- Start saving for your next level of degree. Why stop with a Bachelors degree?
- Attend a seminar in another city on what youre studying
- Take a fun spring break trip (even if its in the winter)
- Stock up on fun office supplies (no cheap pens for you)!