When considering the cost of an online degree, you may be asking yourself, "Can I get financial aid for online courses?" The answer might be yes. But then again, it might be no. It is up to you to do a little footwork to ensure that you can apply financial aid to your college tuition and expenses.
Thumbs Up for Accreditation
The first source of financial aid that most students go to is the federal government. The federal government offers several types of aid including grants, work study, and loans. In order to be eligible for federal financial aid, one of the most important requirements is that you attend an accredited institution. To become accredited, an institution must apply to an accrediting agency to be evaluated as to the quality of its educational offerings.
Education is a business and like other businesses there are some institutions that might offer an inferior product. The federal government wants to ensure that the money it is giving you is used for a quality product and therefore requires the institution that the funds go to offer that quality. Although there are many accrediting agencies, they are distinguished as three types. Regional accreditors are set up in certain geographic locations. They evaluate institutions based on location and not necessarily by subject matter. National accreditors evaluate institutions throughout the country. They offer accreditation to vocational or trade schools as well as colleges. Additionally, there are specialized accreditors that evaluate the quality of institutions based on subject matter. Such agencies are the American Dental Association, the American Bar Association and others.
A Side Note
There are other reasons that you will want to ensure that your college is accredited. As implied above, you want to ensure that the knowledge you are obtaining is quality. Additionally, if you plan on transferring among schools, such as going from a 2-year college to a 4-year university, the status of accreditation is important. The 4-year institution might require all of your credits be received from an accredited school. If your 2-year college was not accredited, the credits you worked hard to earn might not transfer and you will have to retake the courses at an accredited college. Additionally, you might have trouble when looking for a job. Employers often require your degree to have been earned at an accredited institution.
In general, it is good to stay away from non-accredited schools. Not only will your financial aid be limited, there are many schools out there that merely sell a diploma rather than offer an education. As a serious student, you want a quality education. Buying a piece of paper that says you are educated will inevitably gain you nothing but a piece of paper.
So you still need to ask "can I get financial aid for online courses" because the other factor to consider is your eligibility. While there is a large amount of money available for financial aid, the funds are not without limit. And therefore the government, private institutions, and organizations offering scholarships consider the following when determining who gets aid:
· Your financial need
· Your acceptance to the school
· Your completion of a high school diploma
· Your citizenship
· Whether you have a social security number or not
· Whether you have registered with the Selective Service or not (men only)
· Your enrollment status and sometimes your degree choice
· You academic achievement and progress
· Your credit rating, including if you have defaulted on other student loans
So when it comes to counting on financial aid for online courses, do you homework. Make sure all of your personal eligibility requirements are in order…keep your grades up, pay off defaulted loans, etc. And make sure the institution you choose is accredited. Making sure this is all done will help you answer the question, "can I get financial aid for online courses" with a "yes".
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