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Can You Get Financial Aid to Take Online Programs?

Published: July 6, 2021

If you want to return to school, online programs are a great option. They’re flexible and convenient, and you can better balance your personal and professional lives with your educational dreams. But if you’re worried about paying for those online programs, there’s some good news. As long as you attend an accredited school and meet certain criteria, financial aid is available for online programs—the same as in-person programs.

Criteria for Financial Aid for Online Programs

The process to receive financial aid for online programs is also much like what you’d do for an on-campus program. Create a FSA ID and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To receive financial aid, you will also need to:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen
  • Have a valid social security number
  • Be enrolled as a regular student in an eligible program
  • Maintain satisfactory grades in your program
  • Attend an accredited institution

Why Is Accreditation Important?

In the 1990s, there was a “50 percent rule” that would not allow institutions that provided more than 50 percent of their programs or had more than 50 percent of their students learning through correspondence to receive financial aid. But with the explosion of the internet in 1998, the government did away with the 50 percent rule, only requiring accreditation to receive federal funds.

Accreditation is important because it shows that a school follows industry standards of education—even for their online offerings. Every school that’s accredited has been evaluated by an agency that assesses the curricula, the quality of the faculty, and the business practices of the institution. Over the last decades, accreditation agencies have also evaluated the quality of distance learning that schools provide.

Types of Financial Aid for Online Programs

Once you find an accredited school and fill out your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report which is a summary of what your reported on the FAFSA along with an estimate of your Expected Family Contribution. From there, your school will notify you of your financial aid eligibility. It’s important to review the award letter and determine what benefits you might receive. Different types of aid include:

  • Grants—Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are two of the most common federal grants available to students. Grants are financial aid that you do not have to pay back.
  • Work Study—The Federal Work Study Program allows you to work part-time at your school to earn money that will help pay for your tuition and fees.
  • Student Loans—Federal student loans will need to be repaid, but they may have lower interest rates and better repayment plans than private loans. If you decide to take a student loan, make sure you understand the terms and conditions before you accept it. Defaulting on your student loans can have a long-lasting negative impact on your finances and your credit worthiness.

Scholarships are another great form of financial aid. The Department of Education won’t offer you scholarships, but many nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions will.


If you’re ready to begin your online education, contact Charter College today. We offer a variety of virtual training programs in Business, Health Care, and Information Technology. Call us at 888-200-9942 or fill out the form for more information.