Getting an education is a sound investment in your career, but it's the "investment" part that can prove difficult for some. Financing your online degree is an important part of the process, and there are a few key things to remember.
For starters, you should check with your college or university to see what scholarships and grants they offer to students. As an example, the University of Phoenix is a participant in a number of federal financial aid programs like Pell Grants and Stafford Student Loans. Not every online institution offers every federal program, though, so it's a good idea to shop around before committing to a school.
Another good way to find help, if you're already employed, is to check with your employer to see if they offer tuition reimbursement. Some companies make this available to their workers if the degree they're pursuing relates to their job, so if you're working toward a bachelor's or associate's degree (or higher) that will affect your present work, there's a chance your company can help. Be sure to check with your supervisor or human resources department.
One of the best things you can do, though, is to fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA is a form used to determine your eligibility for federal aid, and almost everyone can qualify for some kind of assistance. The Department of Education accepts the forms beginning January 1 every year. You can re-submit the form every year as a renewal, though it needs to be annually updated to reflect your latest tax information and earnings. You should also take note of submission deadlines for other scholarships, especially if you're applying for federal as well as local aid. Due dates can vary, so you might need to get your FAFSA turned in a little earlier than expected to make sure your paperwork can be handled. Talk with your school's financial counselors to get a breakdown of submission guidelines for financial aid, as well as any special scholarships offered through the school.
Most students rely on some level of assistance to complete their education, and it's completely normal to have questions about how much you can borrow or be awarded, how much you'll have to repay, and more. But with careful preparation, and diligence in applying for aid, you'll be closer than you think to getting real help in financing your online degree, and that puts you one stop closer to a college education and a rewarding career.