How to Pay for an Online Degree

For many people, finding a way to pay for college has always been one of the greatest obstacles to obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Often times prospective students, or their parents, look at the cost for tuition and realize it is far beyond their ability to afford. That’s because 53% of American families need to borrow money in order to pay for college.

You’ve probably heard a lot about the expanding number of online degree programs available. Maybe you’ve seen articles or ads talking about degrees that would really work for you and your career goals and would like to pursue your degree but you know you have no way to pay for it. However, you don’t have to give up your goal of earning a degree.

Step one on the path of any student who will need help paying for college is to fill out the FAFSA (or Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Many people think they won’t qualify for aid and that there’s no point in filling out the form, but that’s generally not the case. The FAFSA is sort of the baseline for all your financial aid awards, including those from the school you apply to—you absolutely need to submit the form.

The next step is to apply to schools. Yes, you should apply even if you’re not sure how you’re going to pay for it all. The simple truth is that you don’t know what sort of financial aid you’re going to qualify for through a school until you apply, get accepted, and get your financial aid award letter from the financial aid office. Once you have your award letter in hand and know exactly what your school expects you to pay out of pocket, then you’ll know what your actual cost for school may be. And, for many students, that amount is significantly lower than what they expected.

After you’ve received your financial aid award letter, your real work of figuring out how to pay for school begins. One crucial thing to understand is that the initial financial award you receive is not set in stone. If you still cannot afford tuition based on your award letter, contact the financial aid office and tell them so.

It’s important to understand that schools want you as a student. And you’re certainly not the only student who will have trouble paying for tuition. They have an incentive to work with you and help you find the loans, scholarships, or grants you need to help close the gap between what you can pay (even if you can pay zero) and the cost of tuition.

When you contact the financial aid office for help, they will go to work for you. Try to help you find other grants you may qualify for, and guide you to apply for different loans. You don’t need to think of your chosen college or its financial aid office as your adversaries. In most cases they’re very much in your corner and willing to do whatever it takes to help you get enrolled in the online degree program of your choice.