Financial Aid For Online Colleges

Do you aspire to pursue an online degree program or course? Read the article to know in detail about financial aid for online colleges.

Updated by B Pratusha on 1st May 2019

What is Financial Aid?

Financial Aid is financial assistance provided to students for pursuing education. In the olden days, financial aid was provided only to on-campus courses and degrees.

At a time when online colleges were in their evolution stage, financial Aid for online courses was not available for students. Now the government does not differentiate between online courses and on-campus courses, and financial aid can be availed for the online course also.

To avail a financial aid, you should know the types of financial aid available. 

Let us look into the types of financial aid

Scholarships - Scholarships are offered to students based on the eligibility criteria, financial status, and academic merit.

BenefitScholarships need no repayment.

Who offers it? Private organizations, religious institutions, universities, non-profit organizations.

Online Scholarships available for you

1 - Golden Apple Scholars Of Illinois - Are you a phenomenally talented student? Do you have exceptional teaching skills? The University of Illinois provides scholarship and assistance to such students for classroom teaching experience. The amount offered as scholarship is $23,000.

2 - Greenhouse Scholars Scholarship - Exclusively for students of  Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, or North Carolina, this scholarship is a need-based scholarship.

The motive is to encourage and support talented students from low-income class families.

The Highlight - Not just the scholarship, it includes skill development sessions, summer symposium, internships opportunities, etc.

The scholarship amount offered is $5,000 and is renewable for up to 4 years.

3 - Cancer For College General Scholarship

As the name suggests, this scholarship is offered to present or former cancer patients.

Only for students who are US citizens, who plan to pursue a 4-year degree, course or program.

The scholarship amount varies up to  $16,000.

4 - Google Lime Scholarship For Students With Disabilities - Exclusively for disabled students who aspire to pursue computer and technology courses. The scholarship challenges all restrictions that appear for disabled students.

The selection of students is done based on their essay and applications capabilities.

The scholarship amount offered is $10,000.

5 - Adobe Research Women In Technology Scholarship - Are you a female student with exceptional technology and computing skills?

This scholarship is for females around the world, who are pursuing courses related to computer science, computer engineering, and technology.

You will be allotted an Adobe research mentor and enjoy the opportunity to appear for the interview at Adobe for internship opportunities.

The scholarship amount offered is $10,000.

6 - Unigo $10K Scholarship- Possess excellent articulation skills? Participate in the essay competition of Unigo, the best essay gets selected for the scholarship.

The scholarship amount offered is $10,000.

7 - Pride Foundation Scholarship- This scholarship is offered to students who possess leadership skills and belong to the LGBTQ community.

The idea is to empower students who face difficulties in having access to educational facilities due to their background ( economic, racial, gender, geographic).

Students who are residents of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Washington and plan to study there, have to complete a single application and over 50 scholarships are offered.

The Scholarship amount offered is $10,000.

8 - UNICAF MBA scholarship- Under this scheme, the underserved African students can avail for the scholarship.

The eligibility criteria mention a GPA and students are required to take part in philanthropic activities.

The scholarship amount ranges from  $8,000 to $10,000.

9 - Equality Scholarship- The scholarship was introduced exclusively to award the students from California who contributed towards the LGBTQ Community.

Some of these scholarships are only for nursing or medical students.

10 - Prudential Spirit Of Community Awards- It is one of the largest youth recognition program that offers scholarships to students who have participated in volunteering activities for community service on local, state and national level.

The scholarship amount offered is $5,000.

11 - Rainbow Business & Professional Association Scholarship- Have you participated or been a member of a human rights club or anti-ragging cells?

This scholarship is especially to offer financial assistance to you. The scholarship is awarded to students who have contributed for the well being of their peers in their campus and community, by being a part of anti-bullying campaigns, anti-ragging cells, etc.

The Scholarship amount offered is $3,000.

Fellowships- Fellowships are a type of allowance, usually provided based on the merit of the student, usually provided to carry out research. Fellowships are one of the most competitive financial aid. You can avail fellowships based on merit and financial need.

1 - Internal Fellowships- the university provides the student, and it cannot be availed for pursuing an education in any other institution.

2 - External Fellowships- These are funded by the Federal Government and other organizations interested in sponsoring fellowships.

Who offers it? Private organizations, not for profit organizations and universities.

Benefit -  Fellowships need no repayment.

GrantsGrants are financial aid given by the federal government. You are required to apply for FAFSA ( Free Application For Federal Student Application), in order to avail grant.

Who offers it? State Government and Federal Government. Grants are provided to students based on their financial need.

Loans - Loans are financial assistance given to students according to the fee structure of the course in the institution. The exceptional feature of loans is that you are required to repay the amount you borrow as a loan.

Who offers it? The federal government, State Government, private and public sector banks.

Federal Loans - Federal loans have a fixed rate of interest, the standards of the loan and loan repayment rules and regulations are set by law.

Federal loans have plans which let you pay interest after you start earning (after the completion of your degree or course), widely known as income-driven repayment plans.

Not just this, we have lucrative types of federal loans that you can choose according to your requirement.

1- Direct Subsidized Loans- Are you an Undergraduate student who has enrolled for a half time degree or certificate program? This is the type of loan you require.

The Highlight - Interest-Free Grace Period

Repayment -6 months after the completion of the graduation period.

2 - Direct Unsubsidized Loans- Are you an undergraduate, graduate or a professional studies student? Your search for a type of loan ends here.

The loan amount varies based on your grade level, whether you are dependent or independent. If you are independent then you can get a higher loan amount.

You can apply for this loan in the US Department Of Education.

Repayment-6 months after the completion of the graduation period.

3 - Direct PLUS Loans- Are you a graduate or pursuing professional studies? Do your parents have a high credit rating? If the answer to both questions is a Yes then this is the perfect federal loan for you.

No interest-free grace period.

Repayment (students) -  6 months after the completion of the graduation period.

Repayment (parents) - after disbursal of the loan amount or parents also have the choice of selecting the repayment ( 6 months after the completion of graduation).

Private Loans- Private loans are offered by private banks, financial institutions, credit unions, etc.

Private loans are sanctioned based on the credit history of the person applying for a loan.

As most of the undergraduate students do not have a credit history, there is a need for a co-signer who will be responsible for paying debts in case the student does not make payment.

Demerits - Higher interest rates; Extra Fees for loan processing.

Work Study Aid- Willing to work part-time to pay for your educational expenses?

The federal government offers work-study aid option, where you can work part-time. It is need-based financial aid.

Undergraduate and graduate students who wish to pay for their educational expenses, and are financially backward can apply in federal work-study programs.

You can also work on campus under the work-study aid program.

Who offers it? The Federal Government.

Repayment - No repayment.

Employer Sponsored Tuition- If you are an undergraduate or graduate working for an organization willing to sponsor your education while you work, this is widely known as employer-sponsored tuition.

In some cases, the employer mentions what kind, of course, the employer wishes to fund for. Students are eligible only if they maintain a certain GPA.

The amount of reimbursement for the tuition fee depends on the employer, some employers pay for the total cost of the tuition fee and some wish to pay for partial costs.

Repayment - No Repayment required.

Who Offers It?  The Employer

Additional Opportunities for Financial Aid

Crowdfunding- Let us go by the literal sense, crowdfunding means to acquire funds from a large group of people.

There are websites that provide funds for businesses and charitable purposes, now there are websites who provide funds for educational purposes.

Websites like ScholarMatch, give access to individuals to donate for the purpose of educational scholarships for underserved youths.

Websites like PigIt shares campaign videos where the student discusses their academic aspirations, the individuals who watch these videos can donate funds in return of which they will receive products or other incentives.

Websites like AlumniFunder comprise of a feature where the donors can interact with the students in need of a scholarship. This gives a sense of trust to the donors that their funding is being used for meaningful purposes.

Apart from the above-discussed options, you can also avail tax deductions under Federal Tax Breaks, Veteran Benefits, and Alumni Programs.

How to determine if you are eligible for financial aid as an online student?

The primary step to know your eligibility is to fill the FAFSA form. FAFSA stands for  Free Application For Financial Student Aid.

The FAFSA form is an all in all form, comprising Scholarships, Loans, Grants, Work Aid Programs, etc.

Some academic institutions also look out for FAFSA information to determine the financial aid on campus.

Precautionary Measures to be taken before filling out FAFSA - 

Avoid paying charges - Though FAFSA is widely known to be free, there are services available to fill the FAFSA forms, these services cost you $500.

If you need any assistance then you should inquire with your institution’s financial aid office.

Be aware of the deadline for submission - As the number of funds in federal loans is lesser compared to private loans and the number of applicants is in large numbers, it is advisable to start applying before the due date nears.

Go online - The best way to fill the FAFSA form is to do it online, even if you are halfway through the process and are unable to continue due to some reasons, you can save the work and start later from where you stopped.

Within 10 days the institution will receive your application and process is based on your eligibility criteria.

Fill in all details - No matter what question has been asked in the form, whether relevant or not, attempt the question or write “ N/A” in the space given for the answer.

Skipping questions will be considered as ‘incomplete application’ and will put your application at risk of not being considered a all.

Accurate Estimations are advisable - You will be asked to enter details regarding the income tax deductions, you have to be ready with the calculations and enter the correct amount.

In case the authority’s calculations do not match yours, the application will be at risk.

A thorough reading of the filled in application - Go through the filled in application thoroughly before submission.

Every small mistake counts and can put the application at risk of getting rejected.

No matter who is filling the form; details like ‘social security number pin’ and ‘annual income’ are related to the student and not the parent.

Apply annually - Irrespective of whether your application got accepted or rejected in the previous year, you should apply every year, to not lose the opportunity.

Guess what, the renewal is easy as the information you entered in the previous year will be stored in the specific fields.


In an era where education is known as a right but treated more like a business, there are various opportunities available for students who cannot afford education. Financial Aid of various forms comes as a rescue for these students.

Among the various types of financial aid that are available, the student and the family should evaluate the merits and demerits of availing these loans. Based on the eligibility criteria, procedure and the loan amount offered, the interest rate (in case of loans), the repayment methods, the repayment duration, should be measured and evaluated.

After the clear evaluation, an analysis should be done about each option and the best alternative should be selected as per the financial need of the family. Choosing the right type of financial aid will reduce the overall effect of the burden of debt on the student as well as the family.


  Can online students apply for financial aid?

Yes, financial aid is available to online students also. Earlier it was only available for the on-campus courses but Government now does not differentiate between online and on-campus courses, therefore, financial aid can be availed by both online students as well as on-campus students.

  Is the eligibility criteria same for online and on-campus courses?

Yes, in most of the cases online students who fulfill the eligibility criteria like on-campus students, qualify for the same types of financial aid.

  Is there availability of scholarships specially designed for online students?

Yes, there are organizations, institutes, and agencies providing scholarships specifically for online students.

  When can I apply for FAFSA 2019-20?

The FAFSA applications were available from 1st of October 2018. S, apparently for the academic year 2020-21, the applications might be available from October.

  What Qualifies me for financial aid?

You must be  US citizen, for a non-citizen, it is mandatory to have social security.

You must have a high school diploma or GED certificate (General Education Development).

You must have enrolled for eligible degree or course.

  What GPA do we need for FAFSA?

A student needs to have satisfactory academic progress (SAP), which requires maintaining a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ( at least a C average).

  What happens if I fail a class?

This is for sure going to affect your GPA, a graduate student has to maintain a 3.0 GPA and an undergraduate student has to maintain a 2.0 GPA to receive financial aid under FAFSA.

  Is it worth an effort, to fill the FAFSA form?

Yes, it is worth the effort. A lot of middle-class families hesitate to apply for FAFSA because they think that only families earning less than $50,000 a year receive preference under FAFSA. This is not true, some private colleges also offer financial aid to families earning more than $200,000 a year, because the college costs $70000 a year.

  What do you do if you do not qualify for FAFSA?

First, you need to know why you were ineligible, then decide on your educational plans ahead, apply for scholarships and grants, try opting for private loans, opt for word aid program during college, and seek help through crowdfunding.

  Does FAFSA pay for certificate programmes?

Federal Aid is available for some but not all certificate programs. The grants, loans, and scholarships are usually provided to the students who are pursuing or planning to pursue degree courses.