How Online Degrees Affect your Financial Aid Eligibility

Whether you are looking for an undergraduate degree, graduate degree, or just want to take a few online courses to improve your chances for promotion, online colleges and universities provide the flexibility you need.

Despite these advantages, the cost of tuition, both online and at traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, is on the rise. Knowing this, online learners generally depend on financial aid to finance their education. If you are considering pursuing a degree online and need financial aid, there are a few things you should consider to ensure that you will qualify.

Minimum eligibility requirements

1. U.S. citizen, or eligible non-citizens
2. Possess a valid Social Security number
3. Selective Service registration, if you are male
4. High school diploma or GED
5. Cannot have certain drug convictions


The college or university must be an approved, degree-granting institution. There are plenty of institutions on the internet who come up with fancy sounding names, but they are not accredited by one of the six regional accreditors. Without this accreditation, you will not be eligible for financial aid, and in most cases, your college credits will not transfer to regionally accredited universities. If you are uncertain of your college’s accreditation, ask.

Program of study

You must be pursuing a degree or certificate to be eligible for financial aid. Even if you are unsure of your desired major when you enroll, you will need to select a major, or at the very least, enroll in an eligible certificate program. You can always change your mind later.

Term length

Ensure that your online courses have a definite start and end date. In most cases, this is not an issue. The exception will be courses deemed “correspondence” where a student has the option of taking up to eighteen months or more to complete the course. Most online colleges operate on a semester schedule. If your college does not, you will need to contact your college’s financial aid office to ensure that you will be eligible to receive federal aid.


To be eligible for Federal financial aid, you must be enrolled at least half-time. In most cases, this means taking a minimum of six credit hours per semester. Colleges vary in what they deem half-time, so check with your online college’s financial aid office to be certain.

Applying for financial aid

Once you have verified that your university and program of study meet these criteria, you may begin the financial aid process. For more information and a free step-by-step financial aid guide, visit

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