Most online students tends to choose between completely studying online or a neighboring online institution so that you can meet with instructors or counsellors on campus. Visiting the school might help you form stronger bonds with the students and join on-campus student clubs or attend activities.
Some students choose a local online degree program because they are familiar with the institution’s culture and traditions, or because they have family or friends who are affiliated with it. Employers in the area may be more familiar with the school.
Some online degrees contain in-person residency or orientation requirements, which require students to visit campus a few times per semester or during the program. A local program makes sense in this scenario.
Online Colleges Near Me
While online education offers students the opportunity to study from anywhere in the world, many students still choose a program with a campus close to home. Cost is a big factor in staying local. Online programs at public universities and colleges often charge different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students.
For example, the University of Florida charges in-state residents $112 per credit hour for its online programs, while residents of other states pay $500 per credit hour. That’s a significant savings for Florida residents.
Additionally, this in-state tuition is much lower than what Florida residents might pay to attend an online public school based in another state like Ohio or Texas. Sticking with a public school in your state can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your degree.
How to Get Financial Aid for Online College
1. Submit the FAFSA.
To receive financial aid, the first and most important step is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This is available online on Oct. 1 each year. To receive the most financial aid possible, prospective students should check school and state grant deadlines and apply early.
The FAFSA requires applicants to fill in basic information, such as their contact information and Social Security number, as well as provide their latest federal income tax returns and bank statements.
Undergraduate students who are younger than 24 years old – and not married, veterans or active military members – will need to file as a dependent and provide their parents’ financial information. Nearly all students who apply for financial aid qualify for some form of it.
2. Fill out other financial aid forms and apply for scholarships.
Many colleges offer their own source of financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships and loans. You may need to fill out additional forms to receive this aid. This information – including deadlines – is generally available on a school’s website.
Applicants can also search online for scholarships available at specific schools or from organizations tied to their discipline. Online learners may be eligible for the same scholarships available to on-campus students, and there may even be additional scholarships for online or adult learners.
3. Review and correct the FAFSA Student Aid Report.
A few days after submitting the FAFSA online, applicants will receive a Student Aid Report from the Federal Student Aid office. This report restates answers that applicants provided as well as other relevant information, and it’s an opportunity for applicants to correct any errors on the FAFSA, including adding or removing colleges.
4. Compare awards.
Each school will calculate applicants’ financial need, which determines their financial aid eligibility. Students will receive an award letter stating what financial aid they are being offered. They can compare their award packages based on the aid they are eligible to receive, the school’s tuition and other costs.
5. Reapply for financial aid each year.
To continue receiving financial aid each year, applicants need to fill out the FAFSA annually for as long as they plan to be a student. A degree can be a major investment, and financial aid can help ease the burden of costly tuition. Much like financial aid for on-campus students, aid for online students is available in the form of grants, scholarships, loans and even federal work-study jobs.
Some online degree programs may not offer work-study opportunities, as many online students are already working full time. The online degree financial aid process is often identical to that of students earning a degree in person. Online students also need to meet similar – if not the same – requirements to be eligible for financial aid at a given school.
Additionally, whether a student is full- or part-time can affect that person’s ability to qualify for financial aid. To receive certain amounts or types of aid, many online programs require students to meet specific credit-hour requirements.
Applying for financial aid is a complex process. In a 2021 survey of online students by Wiley Education Services, 17% of online students indicated that determining how to pay for school was the most difficult part of the enrollment process, while 15% said completing financial aid forms was the hardest.
Luckily, accredited online colleges often have financial aid advisers to answer questions and help applicants through the process.