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Can you get financial aid for online classes?


    Financial aid can be the same for students who attend classes in-person versus those who opt to take courses online. As long as the school is accredited and considered an eligible institution by the U.S. Department of Education, and the particular education program is eligible for federal funds, students taking classes online may be eligible for the same types of federal financial aid as students who attend in-person classes.

    Still, we know when it comes to financial aid that you want to be entirely sure you’re following the rules. And what about financial aid for online-only colleges? Is it different than a traditional in-person school?  Let’s look closer at some of these commonly asked questions.

    Do online college courses qualify for federal financial aid?

    If your school is accredited, the particular education program you’re enrolled in is eligible for financial aid, and your school uses the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), your federal aid should generally cover any courses available to you – including those only available online. This could consist of federal grants and federal student loans.

    Can Pell Grants be used for online courses?

    Pell Grants can be used for online courses at any accredited college — including those exclusively offering classes online — as long as you’re meeting all the other requirements for accepting a Pell Grant and the education program is eligible for federal funds.

    Generally, Pell Grants are awarded to students who complete the FAFSA® and meet specific income requirements, among other criteria. If granted, the funds may be used for any expenses, but using them on expenses unrelated to your education costs will subject the Pell Grant funds to taxation.

    If you’re concerned about your Pell Grant not covering your online classes, you may want to speak to an advisor, but again, the main thing to check is that the college you’re attending is accredited and your chosen course of study is eligible.

    Can scholarships be used for online courses?

    College scholarships are made available by colleges and universities, companies, and individuals, for the most part. To apply for scholarships, students usually need to fill out separate applications beyond just the FAFSA®.

    Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what you can use your scholarship money for, so be sure to read the fine print if you want to use the money to help pay for online courses or a fully online college.

    Can private loans be used for online classes?

    If you take out private loans for college, you can use the funds to pay for any classes — including online courses. Private student loans typically don’t require you to report what you’re spending the money on. However, it’s important to remember that the funds were given to you to pay for college, and the terms of your private loans may require that the funds be used on college-related expenses and fees.

    Can you get financial aid for an online-only college?

    If you’re a student attending an accredited online college, you might be eligible for federal aid. The first step when seeking federal financial aid to pay for an online-only college is filing the FAFSA®

    Any accredited college recognized by the U.S. Department of Education is approved for FAFSA® — the dominant way U.S. students access financial aid. If you plan to attend an online college, it’s incredibly important to ensure the school is accredited and the particular course of study is eligible. From there, your eligibility is highly dependent on you and your family's financial situation.

    How do you know if your school is accredited? The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation publish lists of accredited schools.

    Both provide search options on their websites to help students determine if a school is accredited. If you’re unsure if your school has the proper accreditation, search one of these databases or contact someone at one of the organizations that can help you.

    Another thing you can do is ask the online college you’re considering attending if it’s accredited and if the program you wish to enroll in is eligible for federal financial aid. Do this one simple check, and you’ll be able to determine if federal financial aid could be available at that school.

    Final thoughts

    Just like with any classes, if you’re taking classes online, you’ll want to make sure the school offering the classes is accredited, and the program is eligible for federal funds. That’s the key to ensuring you can get financial aid for online classes.