The traditional college experience might not be right for everyone. With many universities offering online coursework opportunities, you might find an ideal educational option for your situation.
But if you are planning to use financial aid or student loans to cover the costs, you’ll need to choose a school that accepts that form of payment. Unfortunately, not all online courses can be paid for with student loans or financial aid.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can find online schools that accept financial aid.
How To Find FAFSA-Approved Online Courses
If you want to use federal financial aid to cover your online school costs, it must meet the eligibility criteria determined by the FAFSA. In order to accept federal funding, one of the many requirements is that the school must be accredited by an independent U.S. Department of Education agency.
Essentially, this means that the online school will need to meet minimum academic standards. The reason behind this limit is the fact that some online colleges are considered unsavory ‘diploma mills.’
A diploma mill grants degrees with little or no effort on the part of the student. Without accruing the appropriate skills, these predatory degree programs may leave students unprepared for the workforce. Not all schools that lack accreditation offer these predatory programs, but it does mean you won’t have access to federal financial aid.
Schools that are eligible for federal financial aid and federal student loan programs are “Title IV schools.” With around 6,000 to choose from, this requirement shouldn’t limit your search too much.
As you consider schools, check to see if it’s on the list of Title IV schools. Additionally, you can check out the accreditation of the school, or lack thereof, by searching the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP).
Important Note: Financial aid refers to scholarships, grants, and student loans. These are all combined together to form a financial aid package.
Online Schools That Qualify For FAFSA
Due to the pandemic, many traditional college campuses have started to offer more online learning opportunities.
Here’s a look at some of the popular online schools that qualify for FAFSA funding:
American Public University: Programs include Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Health Studies, Sports and Health Sciences, Cyber security, Environment Science, and Psychology.
Arizona State University: This Phoenix-based school offers several popular programs, including Engineering, Biochemistry, Sociology, Accounting, and more.
Capella University: Capella University offers coursework in Nursing, Psychology, Public Administration, Education, and more.
Devry University: Devry University offers certifications and degrees in Technology, Business, Accounting, Healthcare, Liberal Arts, and more.
Penn State World Campus: This online extension of Penn State provides online degree programs including Business, MBA, Engineering, Computer Information Technology, and Education.
Purdue University Global: Another well-known college offering an online learning opportunity for Business, Human Services, Health Sciences, Nursing, and more.
Rush University: Rush University focuses on offering degree programs related to the medical field.
University of Florida Online: This Gainesville-based university offers a range of programs, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, MBA, Nursing, Advertising, Computer Science, and more.
University of Phoenix: This popular, online school has over 100 degree programs to help you pursue a career in over 300 occupations.
Although this is not a comprehensive list of online schools that accept Financial aid, it’s a good place to start. Start your search based on the degree program you are seeking. From there, narrow your options to FAFSA-approved schools if you plan to use financial aid.
Online Schools That Don’t Qualify For FAFSA
Not all online schools qualify for FAFSA funding. In some cases, this lack of accreditation could be cause for concern. But in some fields of study, the lack of accreditation isn’t necessarily a red flag.
You’ll need to do individual research on the schools you are considering to ensure you’ve found a good fit for your educational needs and career goals.
Here’s a look at some schools that won’t qualify for federal financial aid or federal student loans:
- Columbus University
- Hill University
- Atlantic International University
- Ashworth College
- Online courses through Teachable, Coursera, or Udemy
Take some time to consider all of your options before jumping into any degree program. Make sure you’re obtaining the skills you need that are relevant for employers. The right accreditation or licensing opportunities can go a long way on your resume.
Finally, find out if the degree program fits your budget. If you’re relying on federal aid or student loans, a FAFSA-approved choice is the way to go.
How To Apply For Financial Aid
If you are enrolling in a degree program, filling out the FAFSA is a critical step. Although not required by all schools, skipping the FAFSA could mean turning down a considerable amount of financial aid.
When you fill out the FAFSA, you may maximize your chances of receiving federal grants. Any grants can help you lower college costs and ultimately minimize your student loan debt burden.
Take a look at our comprehensive guide to accurately fill out your FAFSA.
You can get financial aid and student loans for some online courses. But not all online courses are eligible for this opportunity. Do your research about the degree programs you are considering to ensure you find the right college for your needs.
Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer covering banking, insurance, credit cards, mortgages and student loans. She has written for numerous finance publications, including MagnifyMoney, Business Insider and ChooseFI. Her blog, Adventurous Adulting, helps young adults get a handle on their finances.
Editor: Claire Tak Reviewed by: Robert Farrington