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Financial Aid for Online Graduate School Students

 If you’ve determined that you’re interested in going back to school for an online graduate degree, you may be overwhelmed at the thought of paying for it. While financial aid is sometimes not as easy to obtain for a graduate degree, there could be money is out there to help you, if you qualify, reach your goal if you invest some time and energy into finding it.

A 2008 US News article described the difficulty in obtaining financial aid for post baccalaureate students. “Fewer than 4 percent of graduate students get a federal or state grant. Fewer than 20 percent get any kind of scholarship from their school. Fully 60 percent of grad students get no free money of any kind and have to borrow or otherwise raise the entire cost of their advanced degree themselves.” Based on these statistics, you cannot always rely on federal or financial aid from the individual school to cover the cost of your degree. You will have to be diligent in locating alternative sources for grants and scholarships.

A bit of good news is that all of the same opportunities for financial aid are now available to both qualified online and on-campus learners. This may include grants, loans, scholarships and work-study programs. You can apply for federal financial aid with a free application known as FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This process determines your need for funding based on income and expenses. In less than a week’s time, after your application has been evaluated, you will receive a Student Aid Report that shows your eligibility for loans and grants from the federal government.

You can also apply for aid, grants and scholarships directly through your online school. You will want to look at the amount of aid you would receive and the overall cost of the program before making a decision as to where to attend if you are interested in keeping the cost to a minimum. No two programs will charge you the same amount and you may get more financial aid from one institution than another.

Make sure to speak to your employer about offsetting the cost of your advanced degree, as your workplace is one of the best routes for grad school financial assistance. Many employers have existing programs in place for tuition reimbursement. Those that don’t may be willing to contribute to the cost of your education as they will receive a tax break for employee tuition and perhaps a better prepared worker.

If you have depleted all other funding sources, you can take out a government or private loan to help you pay for online grad school. Be sure to shop around. Some government loans have advantages as they may be postponed for repayment or offered at a lower interest rate. Financial aid advisors at your institution of choice can provide additional information about federal and private loans but cannot steer you toward a specific lending institution.


by University of Pennsylvania graduate and freelance writer Kerry Auge and edited by Laura Morrison, the Content Manager of To find out more of the wide array of opportunities offered by online graduate school programs, see what’s available.

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