Online Schools That Accept FAFSA (and How to Get Financial Aid) – Forbes Advisor

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Distance learning offers busy students flexibility when they are unable to physically attend classes on a college campus. While this alternative approach to higher education offers a convenient route to earning a degree, it can be just as costly as in-person learning.

If you haven’t saved thousands of dollars every year to get your degree, there are online colleges that accept FAFSA-based funding. Find out how you can get help paying for your college program online using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Which Online Schools Accept FAFSA?

Higher education institutions must apply to participate in the Department of Education’s Title IV program. As a Title IV eligible school, schools are able to accept and administer federal financial aid, but must meet strict eligibility criteria.

For example, the institution must:

  • Meet the basic criteria for eligible institution and program types
  • Maintain certain program requirements
  • Be licensed to operate post-secondary programs by a state
  • Maintain state compliance processes
  • Save student locations
  • Be accredited by a leading accrediting agency
  • Meet admission standards for enrolled students

In addition to the above requirements, depending on the school’s type of facility, the school must have adequate staff and adhere to record keeping and confidentiality standards. Title IV institutions must also undergo regular compliance audits and Federal Student Aid (FSA) program reviews. Once a school is approved under the Title IV program, it must agree to administer federal aid responsibly.

Here is a list of popular and accredited online schools that accept federal financial aid:

How to Find FAFSA Approved Online Schools

Many online schools list their accreditation status on their website, but accreditation is only valid for a specific period. To check your school’s current accreditation status, check its record in the Ministry of Education’s Database of Accredited Post-Secondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP).

Simply enter the name of the institution in the search box and the database will display the school’s institution and program accreditation information. You’ll see which agency accredits the school, when its accreditation began, and the school’s next accreditation review date.

Although accreditation is an important requirement, it is not the only criteria needed to participate in the Title IV program and receive FAFSA funds.

If you want to use your FAFSA scholarship to pay for your college education online, also confirm that it is on the DE Title IV list of participating schools. You can look up your school name or unique federal school code on the downloadable spreadsheet.

How to Apply for Federal Financial Aid in Schools Online

The process of applying for federal assistance to pay your tuition online begins with the FAFSA.

1. Prepare your documents

The documents you will need depend on your particular situation. Generally, you will need at least the following information for yourself (and your parents, if you are a dependant):

  • Social security or alien registration number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Recent tax documents and tax returns
  • Other relevant financial documents

2. Create a Federal Student Aid ID

You and your parents must each create your own Federal Student Aid (FSA) identification accounts online. This is where you will complete your FAFSA and manage your Federal Student Aid Account. This is also where you will sign your principal promissory note if you receive federal student loans and follow loan counseling.

3. Submit your FAFSA

The FAFSA is available online and as a PDF download. Follow any online instructions or prompts regarding your dependency status, demographic information, financial details, and schools to which you want your FAFSA information sent.

You can submit it as early as October 1 before your next academic year. Before you submit your FAFSA, make sure you — and if necessary, your parents — have signed it.

The FAFSA deadline to receive funds for the school year is June 30, however, some states and schools have their own FAFSA deadlines. Be sure to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible before these deadlines, as some types of aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

4. Review your Student Aid Report

After completing the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is an overview of the information you submitted on your FAFSA. Confirm the details are correct and make corrections to your FAFSA if you spot an error.

5. Choose your federal student aid

If you are eligible for federal financial aid, your online school administrator or financial aid office will provide you with next steps. You will need to agree to the assistance you want to move forward with and may need to complete additional paperwork.

For example, if you have been offered federal student loans, you will need to sign your principal promissory note and complete loan entry guidance before funds are released for your tuition and fees.

Other financial aid options available

If your online school does not offer FAFSA funding or you are not eligible for federal aid, you still have options. Here are some student aid alternatives that can help you pay for your college education online:

  • Scholarships: Scholarships do not have to be repaid after leaving school. They are based on merit or need and can be found at your school or state. They are also often provided by private and public organizations at local and national levels.
  • Subsidies: Like scholarships, grants generally do not need to be repaid after graduating from an online program. Grants are awarded through federal and state programs, as well as through your college or a private organization. These funds are often allocated based on financial need.
  • Private student loans: Private loans require good credit and consistent income, or a co-signer who meets these requirements. The principal balance must be repaid over time, plus interest charges. These loans are offered by private institutions like banks, online lenders and sometimes through your online school.

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Karen O. Fielding