College costs are rising, whether for distance learning or traditional campus study. The best way to cut the cost of your online degree is to search for online college grant and scholarship awards, also known as "free college money".
An online college grant is a one-time award of money, based on merit or financial need. Unlike online student loans, grants represent free money that never needs to be paid back.
Grants are the best type of financial aid for both residential and online students.
Grants are essentially free money to study online.
You can get free grants from the federal government, state government, your college, and a variety of private sources, such as trade and professional associations.
The online education experts at GetEducated.com outline some of the most popular federal college grant options—available to online education students as well as campus students. Use this list to explore the best free money grant programs available from the government and private sources to boost your online school financial aid portfolio.
The big kahunas of university grants are Pell Grants, created by former Rhode Island senator Claiborne Pell.
When you fill out your federal financial aid form— the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)— you are automatically entered into consideration for a Pell Grant, as well as other federal grants.
Pell Grants can pay from $976 to $5,350, depending on need (average amount given: $2,494). This award amount might be going up slightly next year. The U.S. House has passed a measure to raise Pell Grants automatically each year in step with the consumer price index, plus 1 percent. If the Senate agrees and the bill becomes law, the 2010-2011 Pell Grant limit will be $5,500.
Pell Grants work for either online or traditional campus students. They are awarded to undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students pursuing their first undergraduate (bachelor or associate) degrees.
If you qualify for a Pell Grant, you may be eligible an opportunity grant as well. The government will consider you for it when your FAFSA is evaluated.
The Supplemental Education Opportunity grant goes to students with "exceptional" financial need. It is for undergraduates only and ranges from $200 to $4,000 annually.
This grant is given to students with both financial need and academic achievement, and can pay up to $750 the first year and $1,300 the second year.
Students must be eligible for Pell Grants and must meet academic guidelines: if they are applying for their freshman year of college, they must show they undertook a "rigorous program of study" in high school. If students are applying for their sophomore year of college, they must have a 3.0 GPA from their freshman year.
This grant is designed to encourage college students to pursue science and math degrees. It pays up to $4,000.
Students must be eligible for a Pell Grant and must be in their third, fourth or fifth year of college. They must be majoring in physical, life, or computer sciences; engineering; technology; mathematics; or a critical-need foreign language, and must have at least a 3.0 GPA.
This university grant provides up to $4,000 annually for students who plan to teach "high need" subjects in elementary or secondary schools that serve low-income students.
"High need" fields include bilingual education and English language acquisition; foreign language; math; reading; science; special education.
Students don't need to demonstrate financial need for this grant, which is open to undergraduates and graduate students who meet academic achievement requirements.
In return for the grant, students must agree to teach at low-income schools for at least four academic years.
Besides federal grants, don't forget to seek out state and private grants.
State College Grants
State educational grants tend to be based more on merit than need. Requirements vary state by state, so check with your state's official website to find out whether you might be eligible and how to apply.
One program that states offer is called LEAP (Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership), funded by the federal government. In 2008, awards given out through LEAP ranged from $100 to $5,000. You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (800-433-3243) to find out how to apply for this program in your state.
Your high school guidance office or online college financial aid officer may also be able to provide information about this or any other state grant program.
Private University Grants
Many organizations sponsor online education grant programs.
For example, the National Physical Science Consortium offers Graduate Fellowship Grants for Minorities and Women as a way to draw more minorities and women into engineering. The Jacob Javits Fellowship Program provides grants up to $30,000 to graduate and post-graduate art students and scholars.
Find grants by searching the websites for any group to which you may belong. Also search the web for professional organizations for the profession you plan to pursue. Look also for associations or other groups that represent your ethnicity, religious affiliation, hobbies or other interests.
Online School Grants
Your online college or university may have tuition grants available to you. Check with your online university financial aid officer.
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