Financial Aid

Financial aid is available to students studying at a distance if they are seeking a degree or certificate. As with on-campus students, it can be used to cover the cost of college attendance, including tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, computers, and other personal expenses related to education.

In awarding aid, colleges and universities consider two distinct criteria—scholastic achievement and financial need. Some aid programs stipulate a combination of these criteria while others concentrate on one or the other. You are encouraged to explore all options.

Qualifying for Aid

To qualify for federal, state, and/or institutional aid, you must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen admitted to a degree or certificate program at a qualified college or university. For most awards, you must be enrolled at least half time (some aid is limited to full-time students), and your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be received by the U.S. Department of Education by March 10 each year that you want to be considered for aid.

NOTE: Nondegree students, also called guest or visiting students, are generally not eligible for financial assistance.

Application Process

The first step in the financial aid process—whether you are seeking federal, state, or institutional aid—is to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education must receive this annual application by March 10 in order for you to be considered for aid each academic year. Applications received by March 1 receive priority consideration. Although you may file the FAFSA after March 1, fund availability is considerably reduced for “late applicants.” After the application has been processed, the U.S. Department of Education will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR). The information provided on the SAR will allow the college financial aid office to award loans, grants, scholarships, and employment opportunities. The types and amount of financial aid available will vary by institution.

Types of Aid

Grants and Scholarships (do not need to be repaid)
Grants are tuition assistance awards based on financial need. They are available from the federal and state government as well as individual colleges and universities. Scholarships are monetary awards available from a university or through external sources. This type of aid is determined by academic achievement and/or financial need and is applied directly to your college costs.

Student Employment (does not need to be repaid)
Student employment is money that students work for as part of their financial aid. Called College Work-Study, this type of aid is generally determined by financial need and consists of part-time employment on- or off-campus.

Loans (must be paid back with interest)
Loans are money that you borrow from a financial institution or a university for your education that you have to pay back with interest. Two types of loans are available—subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are determined by financial need; unsubsidized loans are not. Students are eligible to apply for a number of loan programs to help finance their education.