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What Kind of Financial Aid Is Available for College Students?

One of the biggest obstacles that many students face when continuing their education is coming up with the necessary funds to pay for college. You shouldn’t have to let cost keep you from taking advantage of the educational opportunities that can change your life.

Financial aid, for online college or a traditional brick-and-mortar campus, may be available to you in the form of loans, grants, or scholarships from sources such as the federal government and state agencies. Here is some more information about each of these opportunities.

Loans

One of the most common ways to receive financial aid for online colleges and traditional schools is to apply for a loan from the federal government. Federal student loans are available in the form of:

• Federal Perkins Loans – low-interest loans for students who demonstrate significant financial need, with the government handling the interest payments until nine months after the student graduates.

• Federal Subsidized Stafford Loans – low-interest loans where the government pays the interest while the student is in school and for the first six months after graduation.

• Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans – low-interest loans where the interest begins to accrue immediately. Students are not required to begin to repay the loan until six months after graduation.

• Federal Plus Loans – loans made available to parents and guardians for the purpose of paying for their child’s education.

General federal loan qualifications include being a U.S. citizen who has a high school diploma or GED. Male applicants must also register for the Selective Services (military draft). The loan amount you receive is based on a variety of factors, such as the cost of the program you choose to enroll in, financial need, and how much your family is able to contribute toward your education if you’re a dependent.

You should also be aware that in 2006, a law known as the “50% Rule”— stating that financial aid was only available for educational programs when more than half of the courses were provided in traditional classrooms — was overturned. As a result, it is now much easier to obtain financial aid for online college programs.

Grants

Grants are funds made available for the purpose of paying for a college education. Unlike loans, grants don’t have to be repaid. You may be familiar with Federal Pell Grants, which may be awarded to undergraduate students who have yet to earn a degree. For the 2014-15 award year, the maximum annual Pell Grant amount is $5,730. Factors that determine Pell Grant eligibility include financial need, cost of attendance, and your status of full- or part-time student.

Most states also have some type of grant program in place, which you can browse to determine eligibility requirements.

Financial Aid for Specific Groups

Specialized financial aid for online colleges or traditional schools may also be available for members of certain groups. For instance, if you’re a military veteran, you may be eligible for benefits under the G.I. Bill. Students with documented disabilities may qualify for Rehabilitative Services Funding. Financial aid may also be available through the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and the Trade Adjustment Act. Native American students may qualify for tribal funding through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Scholarships

Earning a scholarship can defray some of the costs associated with your college education. Scholarships can be awarded for academic or athletic achievement, service to your community, or even by winning a contest. Applying for as many scholarships as possible can improve your odds of landing one. You can learn more about scholarship availability by visiting websites such as Scholarships.com or CollegeBoard.org.

Determining Your Eligibility for Federal Student Aid

A good way to get started on your quest for financial aid for online college or traditional programs is to utilize the FAFSA4caster tool. By providing some basic information about your financial situation, you’ll have a much better understanding of what options for federal financial aid may be available to you. You can also fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Getting Answers to Your Questions Regarding Student Aid

The prospect of searching for financial aid and applying for loans, grants, and scholarships can be overwhelming. That’s why we treat our students individually, providing answers to their questions and walking them through every step of the process.

Vista College students are given access to a personal Financial Aid advisor. Your advisor will be happy to help you explore your options and determine the programs that can benefit you the most. Contact us today for more information about financial aid awards or the online and on-campus programs offered by Vista College.

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