Financial Aid for the Distance Learner

Financial Aid for the Distance Learner

Locating funding for graduate school can be a difficult task – for both campus students and distance learners. Fortunately however, a variety of financial aid resources are available for online education students and the process, in terms of financial aid applications, works basically the same as on-campus students. Many of the same student loan programs, including the Federal Stafford Loan Program, are available for both on-campus and online education programs.

As a first step, students should check with the school to which you are applying in the event that they offer direct financial aid programs. Even if this is not the case, student loans are available in most cases. In fact, graduate students can borrow as much as $18,500 via the Federal Stafford Loan program. Free sources of funding are also available for students willing to spend some time doing research. Here are some financial aid recommendations to get you started on the right track:

1. Contact the graduate admissions office at the school to which you are applying. They may have tuition assistance, work study programs or scholarships available.

2. The Federal Government is the provider of most financial aid in the United States (70% annually, worth approximately $61 billion in 2000-2001). This is assistance in the form of loans, grants and work study programs. Age is not a restriction when it comes to Federal financial aid. To get started, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This can be completed online and is also available for free at all accredited school’s financial aid offices. Your school’s financial aid office should be able to assist you with this form if you have any questions.

3. Private schools may offer their own grants or scholarships. Some US states also offer grants. Check with your local department of labor to educate yourself about such opportunities. If you are short on time, there are also a number of scholarship search services available that can help you locate funding sources for your degree.

4. Check with your local city, county or state government office about available tuition assistance programs. These may take the form of job “retraining” programs, especially if you have recently been laid-off.

5. Research the Federal Income Tax Credits for Education. The Hope Scholarship, for example, is a tax credit worth up to $1,500.

The U.S. Department of Education Home Page is a good place to further research funding sources for your online masters degree. For a listing of financial aid resources by state, please visit http://www.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/ERODmap.html.

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