If your schedule demands flexibility, convenience and round-the-clock availability, an online college degree program might be able to accommodate you in ways that a brick-and-mortar school canâ€™t.
With customizable scheduling and at-your-desktop virtual classrooms, online degree programs have been able to offer college educations to students who might otherwise be unable to attend a college or university â€” whether youâ€™re a stay-at-home parent who canâ€™t make the commute or a full-time professional who canâ€™t attend classes on a typical college schedule.
Considering an online education but concerned about how youâ€™ll pay for it? In general, you have the same financial aid options at accredited online degree programs as at brick-and-mortar schools â€” from federal grants, student loans, and parent loans to private student loans. Top Online Colleges of 2008
Last month, the Online Education Database released its second annual Online College Rankings of the top 41 undergraduate online degree programs in the country. The OEDb rated online programs in eight categories, including acceptance rate, student-faculty ratio, and availability of financial aid. Upper Iowa University ranked number one on the OEDbâ€™s list, followed by LeTourneau University at number two and Liberty University at number three. Best Online Colleges for Availability of Financial Aid
In addition to its overall rankings, the OEDb provided rankings in each of the eight individual categories that make up the overall rankings. In the financial aid category, the OEDb ranked schools based on the percentage of the schoolsâ€™ students who receive financial aid.
Of the top ten schools in the financial aid availability category, nine schools offer financial aid to at least 95 percent of their students, with three schools offering financial aid to a full 100 percent:
1. ?? Salem International University 100%
2. Upper Iowa University 100%
3. Westwood College 100%
4. Fisher College 99%
5. LeTourneau University 99%
6. Liberty University 99%
7. Post University 97%
8. Tiffin University 96%
9. Florida National College 95%
10. Nova Southeastern University 94%Financial Aid Options and Student Loans for Online Students
You can generally take advantage of the same federal financial aid options and student loans at most accredited online schools and programs as you would at a college with a physical campus. Like brick-and-mortar students, youâ€™ll need to fill out a FAFSA each year and meet the standard eligibility requirements in order to qualify to receive federal financial aid. Federal Pell Grants are awarded on the basis of financial need and never have to be repaid.
?Federal Stafford Student Loans include both need-based subsidized student loans and nonâ€“need-based unsubsidized student loans. Both types of Stafford student loans carry a fixed interest rate of 6. 8 percent. Federal PLUS Loans are nonâ€“need-based college loans awarded to the parents of dependent undergraduate students, with a fixed interest rate of 8. 5 percent.
?Institutional financial aid includes any scholarships, grants, or student loans your school may award out of its own endowment. These institutional awards may be merit-based, need-based or both. Private student loans are credit-based student loans issued by private student loan lenders. Private student loans may be able to provide the additional financial assistance you need when the education-related costs of your online degree program exceed your available federal and institutional financial aid.
Private student loans typically have no application deadlines, so you can apply at any point throughout the year, even if you missed the deadline to apply for federal financial aid. Federal college loans typically offer more attractive terms than private student loans, so you should always look into your federal financing options first. Student Loan Consolidation for Online Students
Once you graduate, you may still have student loan consolidation options available to you that could help you lower your monthly student loan payments or give you more time to repay.
Federal Consolidation Loans are available to consolidate your eligible federal parent or student loans.
If you have private student loans in addition to (or instead of) federal student loans, you may be able to consolidate your private student loans separately with a private student loan consolidation program.