Financing Your Online Higher Education

The current economic situation is taking its toll on all facets of life, including education. For many, without the opportunity to take advantage of scholarships or federal aid, their educational aspirations will not be realized. This is true even in the realm of online education. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of opportunities to finance your education online. Read on for a few key points to help guide your financial aid search.

First of all, fill out a FAFSA form. FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and is normally the first step in the financial aid process. The most efficient and quickest way to fill out the form would be online. The form is available at FAFSA website. Directions on how to complete the application and the necessary forms you'll need to guide you are given at the  website. From the FAFSA it will be determined the amount of money you (or your parents) are expected to contribute and whether or not you are eligible for federal financial aid in the form of grants or loans.

If you receive a federal grant, most likely in the form of a Pell Grant, it is money that you do not have to pay back.

A federal loan, on the other hand, normally has to be paid back eventually. The good news is that even if you receive a federal loan in the form of a Perkins loan, for example, the interest rate is relatively low, and you don't have to worry about paying it back until you leave school. There is even a grace period for certain loans, which means that you're given some time after graduation to start making payments.

FAFSA is not only used to determine if you are eligible for federal funding, but it also helps schools decide if you're eligible for any need-based grants or scholarships they may have access to.

This is especially important for those who don't receive financial aid from the government. While the government has its own qualifications for loans and grants, your school may have others. Meaning, even if you don't receive federal loans or grants, you may still qualify for money that the university of your choice has in the form of a need based scholarship.

Besides the FAFSA it is also a good idea to look for other sources of funding, such as scholarships. There is an array of scholarships available. Millions of dollars worth of scholarships go unapplied for every year. Do you belong to a certain ethnic group? Are you below 5' feet tall? How about a child of a veteran? Or are you an artist? How about a stay at home mom? A "non-traditional" college student? Or pursuing a specialized career? There are scholarships available for everyone, if you look hard enough. There are many websites that offer free registration that will send you a list of scholarships that you can apply for based on the questions you answer when registering at that site, a few that come to mind are and

What some schools will tell you also is that they may have their own funding source, meaning scholarships that you're not even aware of, that they distribute to students after reviewing their financial situation or transcripts to determine if they meet a specific criterion. So don't be shy, ask your school if they have any university specific scholarships whether need or merit based that you could then apply for. Worst case scenario: if you don't receive a scholarship or loan, you can discuss payment plan options with your university, where instead of paying all your tuition up front, you can divide the payments over an agreed upon time frame.

Just remember, don't let a lack of sufficient funds stop you from pursuing your education. Try to take advantage of all the funding sources listed above, and you're sure to be able to finance your educational dreams.