Achieving a degree becomes harder every year since the cost of studying changes due to rising tuition fees. Even though such solutions as distant learning provide more opportunities to save one’s money, enrolling in online studying programs is not enough for a modern student. There are different ways to offset the rising costs, and the best one is obtaining financial aid.
Why Applying for Financial Aid Is Worth It
Both prospective and current students should check all the available financial aid options and disregard the thought of being not eligible. Billions of dollars are offered as financial aid for students, and one can find the program he or she will qualify for. Let’s have a look at some statistics in this respect:
- The average total financial aid in grants for undergraduate students rose by approximately 60% during the last decade since 2009 and by 23% for graduate students during the same period.
- The biggest Federal Pell Grant award an individual student may get in 2021-2022 is $6,495. The amount is based on several qualifying factors like being a full-time or part-time student, the Expected Family Contribution, the cost of the student’s specific program, the intention to take classes for a full academic year or less.
- The total amount of grant aid for both undergraduate and full-time graduate students reached $135.6 billion in 2018-2019, including federal grant aid ($41.3 billion), aid from educational institutions (approximately $64.7 billion), and state grants (amount varies from state to state).
- 86% of college students in 2020 benefitted from some financial aid. And more than $2 billion in student grants are unclaimed.
- In 2020, the financial assistance provided to students in the USA is $31,7 billion, and in 2021, this amount is almost $30 billion.
Online Colleges That Accept FAFSA
Choosing the right school requires one’s full attention since the FAFSA application has a limited number of school codes to enter. It is always a good idea to choose a school that will be the best fit for you and is a part of federal student aid programs using the U.S. Department of Education tools to make college search easier.
|Educational Institution||Average Annual Tuition Fees||Acceptance Rate||Student Population||Number of Online Programs|
|The University of Alabama||In-state: $10,780 / Out-of-state: $30,250||53%||38,390||24|
|Colorado Technical University||$12,529||Open admission policy||26,184||92|
|Capella University||$14,540||Open admission policy||37,171||Distance education only|
|University of Phoenix, Arizona||$9,552||Open admission policy||95,777||Most students participate online|
|Grantham University||$8,280||Open admission policy||8,059||Distance education only|
|Mississippi State University||In-state: $8,910 / Out-of-state: $23,950||62%||21,974||17|
|Northern Arizona University||In-state: $11,896 / Out-of-state: $26,516||81%||31,066||65|
|Murray State University||In-state: $9,168 / Out-of-state: $ 24,792||87%||9,454||24|
|Columbia University in the City of New York||$61,788||7%||31,077||18|
|Utah State University||In-state: $8,402 / Out-of-state: $23,042||89%||27,932||21|
|Jacksonville State University||In-state: $11,120 / Out-of-state: $20,840||54%||8,479||21|
Types of Financial Aid
This type of aid is usually provided by the federal or state government. Still, there are also grants given by specific institutions. Grants are usually need-based; that is why a student should prove his or her eligibility and confirm that the family cannot cover college tuition fees due to insufficient financial resources. Usually, the amount of different grants varies, and one can count on the partial covering of studying expenditures. For example, the maximum Pell Grant, which was equal to $6.095 in 2018-2019, covered up to 59% of the average tuition fee at public four-year college. Here are some of the possible opportunities:
- Federal Pell Grants: Only undergraduate students are eligible for this grant once they fill out the FAFSA form and prove that their families cannot cope with the financial burden of college tuition fees and need help.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants: They are available for students who do not meet the Expected Family Contribution criteria of Federal Pell Grant but still meet other criteria and have a parent who died during the military service in mentioned countries.
- Fulbright Foreign Student Program: Introduced in more than 160 countries worldwide, this initiative is targeted at international students wishing to study in the USA and having this program in their home country and American students who want to study abroad. They may apply for one of 8.000 merit-based grants.
- State-based grant programs: Apart from federal aid programs, there are many other grants provided in various U.S. states, for example, in California. Every state has specific programs; thus, it is better to check governmental websites for available opportunities.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: The award is a perfect opportunity for undergraduates with exceptional demand for money to get between $100 and $4,000 from the U.S. Department of Education every year. This amount shouldn’t be repaid, except for under particular circumstances.
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants: This solution is targeted at future teachers and requires applicants to agree to complete four years of acquiring a teaching specialty. Without redeeming this obligation, the grant will change into a loan which should be repaid with interest.
Another possibility to get financial help without the need to repay it later is applying for scholarships. Students can check available criteria and requirements and choose the most suitable scholarship, whether merit-based, designed for minorities, or based on financial need. They are usually provided by non-profit organizations, companies, or specific communities. Amounts vary from a few hundred dollars to full coverage of tuition fees and housing expenses.
- The Gates Millennium Scholars Program: This merit-based scholarship program is designed to help African American, Hispanic American, and American Indian, and Alaska Native students in completing their undergraduate education. The average award is almost $13.000.
- William H. Cooper Leadership Scholarship: A $5.000 scholarship is available for those who want to pursue a business-related career and obtain a degree in an accredited Missouri institution.
- Obama Foundation Scholars Program: This scholarship program at Columbia University is worth applying for as it might be a good start for a future leader. It covers full tuition fees for up to four courses in addition to a monthly stipend to cover living expenses and provides a furnished apartment for a student to live in.
- CWIT Scholars: Undergraduate female students enrolled in computer science-related studies at the University of Maryland should check this opportunity to receive a scholarship from $5.000 to $22.000 granted by the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT).
Student loans are different from other types of loans as they are intended to be spent on post-secondary education, including tuition fees, textbooks, and other supplies. The interest rate is either lower or paid by the government. But unlike grants and scholarships, student loans need to be repaid. This type of financial aid requires careful planning to avoid the growth of unbearable debt.
- Income-Based Repayment Plan: This option should be considered by those who obtained a federal student loan and want to repay it on an income-driven basis. This plan is not available for students who took private loans.
- PAYE and REPAYE Programs: Both plans are created on the “pay as you earn” basis and differ in the income percentage to be repaid for a student loan and other specific qualification standards. Their aim is identical, which is helping students cope with financial struggles.
- Student Loans’ Types and Associated Fees: Students and their parents who decided to borrow money for college must understand how this option works, what fees are included, such as origination fees and interest rates, and also how loan forgiveness works.
- Federal Student Loans: All eligibility criteria, and information relevant for those who have already got the loan, are gathered on the website of the U.S. Department of Education.
Tuition Provided by Employers
Approximately half of companies, especially well-known brands, offer assistance with both undergraduate and graduate studies. This may be an opportunity for employees and their children. Amounts vary significantly; thus, each employer should be checked separately.
- Andy Grove Scholarship for Intel Employees' and Retirees’ Children: Approximately 400 one-time scholarships up to $4.000 can be awarded to help Intel employees’ children obtain higher education.
- Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship: Each year, 150 graduating high school students are chosen to receive $20,000 as educational support.
- Blacks at Microsoft Scholarship: High school seniors of African American descent who showed outstanding achievements in their studies and aim at pursuing a degree in computer science, engineering, business administration, or finance have the chance to obtain one out of 27 scholarships from $1,000 up to $20,000.
- McDonald’s® HACER® National Scholarship: Five applicants will be chosen as winners among high school seniors who apply for this $100.000 scholarship awarded for four years. The candidates must be U.S. citizens of Hispanic heritage planning to finish full courses of study.
Federal Work-Study Programs
This type of federal student aid includes programs ensuring part-time employment for part-time and full-time students to help them cope with educational expenses. The availability of the employment options needs to be checked directly at a particular school's financial aid office. Usually, they are related to community service or the student’s field of study.
- Explaining Federal Work-Study: You can check basic questions about the specific eligibility and working requirements on the official Federal Student Aid website.
- University of California Santa Cruz Career Center: This list can serve as an example of available job listings that will differ in various universities.
FAFSA Financial Aid Eligibility
- U.S. citizens can freely check if they meet other criteria. Non-U.S. citizens must prove their eligibility for financial aid, and they can do so if they belong to the following groups:
- U.S. permanent residents;
- Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau;
- Cuban-Haitian entrants;
- U.S. nationals;
- Refugees and people who were granted asylum;
- Holders of a T nonimmigrant status (people who are victims of human trafficking);
- Those who were paroled into the United States and intended to become citizens.
- Social Security Number is a must for everyone with just a few exceptions.
- Applicants have to possess a high school diploma or the equivalent document (such as the GED).
- They must be enrolled full-time or half-time in the degree program eligible for financial aid.
- Applicants must not owe money in terms of a federal student grant’s refund and being in default on a federal student loan.
- Male applicants must register with the Selective Service System between the ages of 18 and 25 and prove that they are not on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Applicants should maintain satisfactory progress in studies.
Losing FAFSA Eligibility & Gaining It Back
It is possible to lose eligibility for federal financial aid. Check what can make a student ineligible to avoid these issues:
- The FAFSA form needs to be filled every year to prove that the student meets the basic eligibility criteria listed above.
- Applicants should meet the criteria for satisfactory academic progress: both good grades and an appropriate number of credit hours are needed to keep FAFSA eligibility. Those who earn bad grades and do not have enough classes to be enrolled at least half-time lose their right to have federal financial aid.
- Default on a student loan is unacceptable.
- One of the biggest problems is being convicted of drug offenses or not providing proof of attending relevant rehabilitation programs in case of a past drug conviction.
- Being incarcerated in a detention facility is another obstacle making students ineligible for federal financial aid.
For regaining FAFSA eligibility, students should take the following steps:
- It is vital to complete the FAFSA form every year. Use the Renewal FAFSA form to make the process easier.
- It’s necessary to get out of default on the student loan by paying it back or applying rehabilitation or consolidation options.
- In case of insufficient credit hours or low grades, a student will need to discuss the problem with the school’s officials.
- The lost status of eligible non-U.S. citizens must be restored for the students to receive federal financial aid.
- FAFSA eligibility suspended due to drug conviction can be regained if the student completes a drug rehabilitation program and passes two drug tests.
- Incarcerated applicants need to be released before they can apply for financial aid.
Frequently Asked Financial Aid Questions
- Do I need to have a high school diploma?
Yes, either this or the General Educational Development (GED) certificate is obligatory. If your high school diploma appears to be not valid, you need to contact the financial aid office at your school.
- Do I need a Social Security Number to apply?
Yes, you do need this unless you are a citizen of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, or the Federated States of Micronesia.
- Are good grades important for remaining eligible?
Students eligible for federal financial aid must maintain good grades throughout the entire studying period since the form must be renewed annually.
- Can I use federal student aid for anything else?
No, since you must certify that you will use the provided financial aid for educational purposes only in addition to proving that you are not in default on the student loan.
- Does any college accept federal student aid?
No, you must check the list of approved colleges and be enrolled only in the accepted program.
- What should students know about filling out the FAFSA® online?
You don’t have to wait until October 1 to get an FSA ID; start the process earlier. Note that you’ll need to have access to your email to finish the process of obtaining an FSA ID. It is an electronic signature and should be shared with nobody.