Faced with hectic schedules and little free time, more and more people are choosing online degree programs as a way to advance their education. An online education enables students to complete a degree from the comfort of their own home, with access to reading materials, lecture notes and assignment guidelines available at anytime, day or night. Especially ideal for full-time workers and stay-at-home parents, online degree programs provide a flexibility in schedule that is just not possible at traditional brick-and-mortar colleges.
And it is not just the convenience factor that is attracting people to online education programs. A 2009 study by the Department of Education found that on average, students perform better in online classes than in traditional classes. But whether you are considering an online degree program or a more traditional college education, figuring out a way to pay for it can be an issue.
Financial aid is available for online education programs. The first step in getting financial assistance is to make sure that the online school to which you are applying is accredited. An accredited school has been recognized by agencies of the U.S. Department of Education and is considered to be reputable. Accreditation is not necessary to be a good school; however, many institutions and organizations will not give financial assistance to students if their school does not have the proper accreditation.
When looking for financial aid, students have several options to consider:
- Scholarships – The great thing about scholarship money is that you do not have to pay it back, and there are thousands of institutions and organizations that award scholarships to students based on academic, athletic, artistic or philanthropic achievements. Students can learn about potential scholarship options from their school career center or from online scholarship databases.
- Government Grants or Loans – The government offers two types of financial aid to students: grants and loans. Grants are given to students with greater financial need and do not have to be paid back, but students who qualify must typically maintain a minimum GPA. A loan is essentially money that you “borrow” from the government that must be paid back, with or without interest. Students can apply for government grants or loans through their school or at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
- Private Loans – Students who do not qualify for loans from the government can apply for private loans from their bank. These loans typically have higher interest rates, and students with bad or insufficient credit history may need someone with good credit to cosign in order to secure the loan.
- Employer Reimbursement – Many students pursuing online degrees are already in the workforce, so having your employer pay for your education is a great option. Students generally do not have to pay back a tuition reimbursement, although they may have to agree to continue working for their company for a specified period of time. Students should speak with Human Resources to find out about tuition reimbursement options.
Students can determine the best financial aid options for them depending on their specific situations. The good news is that online degree programs typically take less time to complete than traditional college degrees, which will save students more money in the long run. In addition, because students are taking their classes online, the housing and living costs of traditional brick-and-mortar colleges are a nonissue. Students do not have to worry about the travel expenses of getting to and from classes, and they probably will not have to purchase textbooks either because all of the materials that they need to complete their degree are available on the Internet.
An online degree offers an exciting opportunity for students to advance their education. Online classes are a convenient and flexible way for people to get the skills and training they need right from the comfort of their own home. And there is no reason why the cost of an online degree should stop you from getting the education you want. There are a number of financial aid options available, and some of them you do not even have to worry about paying back. If you have taken the time to decide that an online education is right for you, then chances are that there is a degree program and financial plan out there to meet all of your needs.