Financial Aid Options

Financial aid options for college come in many forms. Whether you’re a first-time student or a professional ready to change careers, it’s important to research the resources available to you in order to earn your degree without breaking the bank. Once you do, you’ll be sure to find support that suits your needs.

Financial Aid Information

Financial aid for students usually comes in three formats: scholarships, grants, and loans.

Scholarships

What are they?

Scholarships are gifts of money you don’t have to pay back. They can be granted by any number of benefactors, including the government, corporations, non-profit organizations, and universities. Scholarships are often merit-based, awarded to students who prove exceptional in a certain area. For example, scholarships are often awarded based on high GPAs, fine arts talent, or stellar writing skills. Sometimes scholarships are also given based on other factors such as heritage, gender, or interest in a certain academic program.

Benefactors often consider the scholarships they award as investments. Therefore, if you are a a scholarship recipient , you will likely have stipulations for your award. For example, you might be required to maintain a certain GPA or participate in a service program after you graduate. Failure to do so may mean losing your aid.

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Who can get one?

Scholarship recipients must usually meet a certain profile or excel in a certain area of study. Because so many types of scholarships exist, it’s easy to find one that fits your identity, interests, or profession. It is important to exercise due diligence when you research. Instead of applying for every scholarship you find, make sure to pursue scholarships that speak to your character and your goals.

What else do I need to know?

Scholarships (as well as grants) can impact your taxes, other forms of financial aid, and your acceptance into school.

If you simply use your scholarship to study, research, or to pay your school expenses, the award amount isn’t taxable. However, scholarships (and grants) may be taxable if:

  • You are a non-degree student and your aid was provided to help you with general living expenses
  • The grantor of your aid requires that you perform services in return for their money
  • You are required to study, research, or do other activities for the benefit of the entity that is providing your financial aid
  • The grantor of your aid requires that you perform past, present, or future services for them as a condition of their assistance
  • Whatever services you perform are subject to the direction or supervision of the entity that provided you with aid

Scholarships may also affect your amount of financial aid. Depending on several factors, scholarships can count toward your overall assets, meaning that other aid opportunities may decrease in turn. The positive side of this is that schools prefer candidates who have already received scholarships. Scholarships both demonstrate exceptionalism and decrease the financial aid colleges themselves must offer.

Examples of Scholarships

Here are just a few examples of scholarships available to online students:

Mark Beaumont Scholarship Fund

Offered by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Foundation, the Mark Beaumont Scholarship offers $2,500 to students who are pursuing careers specializing in the business of interactive entertainment. Categories of study may include executive leadership, marketing, public relations, and business.

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Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship is available for students pursuing a Master of Social Work degree who have demonstrated a commitment to working with, or who have a special affinity with, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino populations. Recipients can receive up to $4,000. Applicants must submit an application, a biographical essay, and two letters of support from professional references, among other materials.

Tylenol Future Care Scholarship

This one-time scholarship of up to $10,000 is awarded to promising individuals who are currently studying nursing, health education, medical school, public health, or pharmacy. Applicants must submit transcripts and essay content, among other materials. The scholarship is given to students and practitioners who are seeking a degree to actively treat patients.

Additionally, it’s helpful to check with your college to check your financial aid eligibility.

Learn more about scholarships for online students.

Grants

What are they?

Similar to scholarships, grants are also gifts of money that don’t require repayment. Like scholarships, they can be given in support of specific groups, such as those of a certain profession or culture. However, while scholarships are usually rewarded based on merit, grants are offered based on need. Common sources of grants include private and public organizations, academic institutions, and government aid programs.

Who can get one?

Anyone who demonstrates sufficient financial need can receive a grant. You must additionally meet any requirements set by the grant’s provider.

What else do I need to know?

One of the best ways to understand your grant eligibility is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The lower your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the more aid you are eligible to receive.

When you fill out your FAFSA, you will be able to calculate your EFC. This number takes into account your family’s untaxed income, assets, and benefits. It also considers your number of family members and the amount of people in your family in college at the same time.

The EFC is found using three versions of a formula that is established by law. This formula considers:

  1. Dependent students
  2. Independent students without dependents other than a spouse
  3. Independent students with dependents other than a spouse

It is possible that you may have to repay a federal grant in certain circumstances.

These include:

  • If you receive a grant for a specific program but withdraw from that program early
  • Your enrollment status changes in a way that harms your eligibility for your grant
  • Outside scholarships or grants reduce your need for federal aid

Examples of Grants

Common federal grants include:

Pell Grants

Federal Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduate students who have yet to earn a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree and who show exceptional financial need. All students who show need receive this aid.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are also for students who show significant financial need. To receive this aid, you must attend a participating college or university.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants

TEACH Grants offer up to $4,000 a year of students who will enter the teaching field. Recipients must be willing to teach in a high-need field, serve students from low-income families, and teach for at least four academic years within eight years after completing their course of study.

Learn more about grants for online students.

Loans

What are they?

Who can get one?

Criteria for getting a student loan can vary based on where you borrow.

What else do I need to know?

Loans can be tricky to navigate and expensive if they get out of control.

Need-based loans are often the best option for students. This is because they normally provide a combination of all three factors above. They commonly let you defer, offer low interest rates, and are subsidized.

Examples of Loans

Learn more about loans for online students.

Financing Your Future

Navigating the world of financial aid options for college can be challenging. Luckily, many schools have full-time financial aid specialists to help guide you through the process. The right monetary support means your degree is within reach, allowing you to increase your salary, advance your career, and fulfill your potential.

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