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Financial Aid for Online Students

June 01, 2017 by Karen Grossman |


A Guide to Financial Aid for Online Students

You’ve decided online learning is a great fit for you—flexibility, convenience, and lower costs. If you’re concerned about how to pay for those classes, consider financial aid. As an online student, you may be eligible based on certain criteria. See which loans and online programs qualify.

Determine your aid eligibility

To qualify for federal student aid:

  • You must be enrolled at least half time, 6 credit hours for an undergraduate student and 4.5 for a graduate.
  • Courses or online degree programs should be accredited. UNCG is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, and doctoral degrees.
  • You must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Note that not all online programs, such as some certificate programs, qualify for federal student aid. You can check with your school’s financial aid office for details. 

Types of loans

Students may choose between federal and private (or alternative) loans. Federal loans are administered through a federal government program and offer fixed low-interest rates, income-based repayment, and the option to postpone repayment.

Federal loan options for online students include:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans 
    These loans are interest-free during enrollment, as long as a student is enrolled in classes half time. They are awarded based on need and are not available to graduate or professional students.

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
    These loans are awarded regardless of need; interest begins accruing from the date of disbursement. Students may make interest payments while in school to avoid capitalization of interest, which is the interest accrued during enrollment and then added to your balance once payments begin.

  • Direct PLUS Loans
    Parents may apply for these loans for their dependent undergraduate children. PLUS loans have low interest rates and options for long-term repayment.

  • Direct Graduate PLUS Loans
    A Graduate PLUS Loan is for graduate or professional degree students who have exhausted their academic year eligibility or cumulative eligibility. Financial need is not required. Graduate PLUS loans have low interest rates and options for long-term repayment.

  • Federal Perkins Loans
    These loans are for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree students with financial need. Different from federal loans, your school is your lender, and eligibility depends on fund availability at your school.

Private loans are nonfederal loans made directly through a private lender, such as a bank or credit union, with variable interest rates. These usually require a credit check. Private loans are generally more costly but are an option for students who don’t qualify for federal loans. According to Debra Slade, Assistant Director for Outreach at UNCG Financial Aid, students don’t qualify when they (1) aren’t enrolled half time, (2) don’t meet satisfactory academic policy requirements, or (3) have met their eligibility limits. 

Applying for a loan

All first-time loan applicants will need certain loan documents completed:

  • a FAFSA completed by the deadline
  • loan entrance counseling
  • a Master Promissory Note (your agreement to repay the loan, fees, and interest)

You can fill them out online. Students applying for a loan for online programs are exempt from immunization and health insurance requirements.

Look for other sources of aid

Grants and scholarships are other sources that cover tuition.

  • Check your department for any available scholarships in your area of study.
  • State scholarships are available for online student residents within the state.
  • Pell Grants are federal grants for undergraduate students with financial need who have not earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. These funds often do not need to be repaid.

Ready to learn more? Check UNCG’s Financial Aid office for details.


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