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Financing Your Online Education: Financial Aid Tips for Online Students

UL Online -- Mon, 09/17/2018 - 8:57am

Going back to school online offers many benefits, but is there financial aid available for online learning? Yes! Although several years ago it would have been harder to qualify for financial assistance for your online classes, the same opportunities exist today for online and classroom learning.

Navigating financial aid can take some time, so we’ve put together some notes to help you get started in finding financial assistance to pursue your online degree with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Estimate Your Costs

By choosing an online program, accounting for expenses like room and board is as easy as looking at your current budget. You won't have to worry about commuting, and you can continue working at your current job. The only costs you'll have to factor are tuition, fees, and materials. Keep in mind: You’ll pay in-state tuition, regardless of your location.

Once you have an idea of how much your degree will cost, it’s time to apply for financial aid.

The FAFSA and Federal Student Aid

Our financial aid office recommends students get their FAFSA applications in by March 15.

In order to receive any type of federal student aid, and for many other resources, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available online starting Oct. 1 for the following year.

All federal aid, including grants and loans, begin with you completing your FAFSA. Many online students worry that they won’t qualify for need-based grants and loans. However, you still should fill out the FAFSA since there are also specialized loans that are available, regardless of your income.

"I always recommend every student fill out the FAFSA," said Dr. DeWayne Bowie, UL Lafayette vice president for enrollment management. "You don’t want to leave that money on the table." 

He added that "life happens," and you'll face fewer hurdles if you find yourself needing additional aid by filling out the FAFSA ahead of time. 

Federal student aid eligibility requirements include:

  • U.S. citizenship, eligible non-citizen, or U.S. national
  • GED or high school diploma
  • Maintaining a specified minimum enrollment and satisfactory academic progress
  • Social security number
  • Registration for Selective Service for men between 18-25
  • Absence of a guilty plea for the sale of illegal drugs within the time of federal aid receipt
  • Certification that you have not defaulted on federal student loans, promise that moneys loaned will be used for education, and no money owed on any federal student grantsUL Lafayette's code for FAFSA is 002031

College and State Aid

Many states offer financial aid packages to students, as well. And it’s worth exploring what your state has to offer. Contact UL Lafayette's Financial Aid Office for your options. Remember that states have varying policies on online colleges, and it may be easier to get funding in some states than in others.

You’ll also find that states have varying policies regarding the aid they provide for students attending online colleges located out of state. Check with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators where you’ll find a portal that lets you check financial aid options by state. Contact our financial aid office to find out more about state and local financial aid options. Remember, you’ll need to have that FAFSA filled out to qualify for state and college-sponsored financial aid, too.

Private Financial Aid for College

If you don’t qualify for federal or state financial aid or you don’t qualify for enough to fully fund your classes, you still have options to help you finance your online education.

You can supplement with private loans, if needed. Keep in mind, private loans don’t have all the same protections that you’ll get when you borrow through the federal government. Private loans may not offer financial hardship protections, deferment, or forbearance options, and you won’t have a ceiling on interest rates, which means it may cost you more to repay these loans. If you need private assistance to supplement your federal or state financial aid, make sure you shop around to find a loan that works well for your needs.

Borrow wisely

Federal student aid sets borrowing limits for undergraduate and graduate degrees. If you aren’t careful, you could max out before you graduate, leaving you debt but no degree.Know your borrowing limits so you don't max out your loans before you complete your degree.Do your plans include grad school? Make sure the amount you borrow or receive allows you to return to pursue that advanced degree.

Semester to semester, make sure you understand your financial aid award and distribution so that you can pay for courses and materials on time. Not doing so could mean losing your seat and delaying your completion.

Scholarships for Your Online Education

Scholarships can also help you fund your online education and help take care of expenses that aid packages, grants, and loans don’t cover. Although UL Lafayette does offer some scholarship opportunities for transfer students, it’s important to note that there aren’t as many scholarships available for adult, non-traditional students. However, specialized scholarships are available for veterans, active duty military members, and their families, and teachers and nurses may have access to reimbursement or incentive opportunities. 

Other resources for finding scholarships include:

Contact the UL Lafayette Scholarship Office to learn about the scholarship opportunities that may be available to you.

To learn more about the financial aid options available for online and hybrid programs offered by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, contact us today for more information.

Pro Tips:    
Don’t forget the FAFSA deadline Don't forget your University code Borrow Wisely 
Our financial aid office recommends that students get their applications in by March 15. The University of Louisiana Lafayette school code is 002031. Learn more about borrowing limits so you don't max out before you complete your degree.