Financial Aid for Online Colleges

Financial aid can help make college more affordable for online students. Here, we outline what you need to know about financial aid.

November 9, 2021

reviewed by Mary Louis
Financial Aid for Online Colleges

AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to find your fit?

Student Loans for Online College

Many students turn to online learning for its affordability. However, online learners may still need help paying for their education. Financial aid for online colleges can help students fund their degree. Some options include scholarships, grants, and loans.

Online learners can start the financial aid process by exploring online colleges that accept FAFSA results. The federal government, states, colleges, and many other private institutions use the FAFSA to determine a student's financial aid eligibility.

This page outlines the different types of financial aid for online colleges.

Financial Benefits of Online College

Many online colleges offer an affordable path to a degree. Learners benefit from flexible scheduling and no commute. Online students may also pay the cheapest tuition. Read below for three financial benefits of online college.

Many online colleges that accept FAFSA results offer asynchronous instruction. Students do not need to attend courses at a set time. This flexibility allows them to complete coursework around their schedule. Online learners can also continue their career. By earning a paycheck, they can reduce their need for student loans. Commuting costs add up. As of October 2021, the typical commuter spends $1,050-$1,800 annually on transportation-related expenses. This includes fuel and maintenance. With no need to attend campus classes, online students can put more money toward living or education expenses. As of August 2021, earning an online degree is nearly $11,000 cheaper than earning a degree on campus. However, many schools charge online students the same tuition as on-campus students. Online learners still save money by not incurring campus fees, such as parking or housing.

AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Top Featured Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Are Online Colleges Accredited?

The accreditation process ensures that colleges provide on-campus and online learners with an excellent education. The U.S. Department of Education charters regional accreditation agencies to evaluate schools. Reputable schools earn accreditation. Learners attending an unaccredited school may not qualify for financial aid for online colleges, including federal grants and loans.

Some online colleges are also nationally accredited. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) compares schools' online and on-campus programs. The DEAC evaluates educational quality. The commission also examines schools' business practices and ethical standards. DEAC-accredited schools complete regular renewals.

Some programs feature programmatic accreditation. Private programmatic accreditation agencies hire industry experts to determine how well a program prepares students for a career. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation lists the top programmatic accreditation agencies.

Types of Financial Aid

Learners exploring financial aid for online colleges can research many options. These include federal and state aid, scholarships, loans, and employer assistance. Eligibility requirements vary. Applicants should review renewal requirements and deadlines. Students can also work with their school's financial aid advisors to find the best aid programs.

Completing the FAFSA

Qualifying for financial aid for online colleges begins with completing the FAFSA. The process determines students' financial aid eligibility. Learners must submit financial information by the federal application deadline each year. However, many states and colleges maintain priority deadlines. Students should submit the FAFSA form before these deadlines to be considered for aid programs they may offer. Learners can explore many online resources to help with the process.

Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.

How to Make Online College Affordable

Finding financial aid for online colleges involves many steps. The federal government provides the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. As of October 2021, these credits lower learners' federal tax bills by up to $2,000 annually. Students must enroll in an approved program. They must also make less than the programs' income cutoffs.

Learners should regularly look for scholarships. Many scholarships appeal to returning students. Some accept only junior or senior applicants. Students can explore online scholarship databases for the latest opportunities. Schools' financial aid offices can also provide scholarship information.

High school students can make college more affordable by taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Strong AP scores help learners skip introductory courses and graduate sooner. Students who take AP exams also prepare for college's academic rigor.

Some colleges accept AP scores in place of first-year courses. Exams and policies differ by school. Students should review rules and regulations closely.

Learners can save money in many ways during college. They can buy used textbooks and research free online learning resources. Some services also rent textbooks. Small actions can help students save thousands of dollars while earning their degree.

Reviewed by:

Mary Louis is a Brooklyn native who currently resides in Nashville, where she works at a state community college. She has worked in financial aid and recruitment as a registrar and bursar at city, state, for-profit, and Ivy League institutions, as well as at HBCUs.

Mary Louis is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

Keep up with the latest

Never miss a detail on the news, trends, and policies that could directly impact your educational path.

AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Do this for you

Explore your possibilities- find schools with programs you’re interested in and clear a path for your future.