Jul 062012
 

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There are quite a number of online schools that accept FAFSA as a financial aid option for prospective and current students. Individuals with busy schedules such as at-home mothers raising kids, full-time employees unsatisfied with their current jobs, etc are considering going back to school to pursue higher education and improve their performance through specialized skills. However, as many of us are aware, financing educational expenses through private student loans is too costly, so it makes sense to choose online colleges that accept financial aid student loans.

Before Jumping Into Searching for Online Colleges

If you just look for “online schools” in Google, you will be overwhelmed by how many online colleges are there, not to mention trying to decipher which results are for legitimate online colleges and which are nothing but advertisements. There are two factors you need to be aware of before searching for online schools that accept FAFSA.

1) Do you really know what you want?

It’s well known by now that student loan debt has reached over $1 trillion, which is higher than the amount of national credit card debt. There are a number of reasons for the creation of this potential crisis, but the main cause is simple: students who graduated from colleges and universities haven’t been able to find a career to support themselves, which means that although more people are taking out loans, fewer people are able to pay them back.

You should not go back to college just to waste time or to feel safe by earning another degree. In order to graduate in a position to compete with the thousands of other graduates, you need to give considerable thought to what you really want to do for a career. Once you understand the end goal, you can focus on the specific skills you need to acquire to achieve your dream. If you don’t have a clear vision of what you need to get from school, don’t dive in.

clear-goalYou will waste time in classes that will not be a benefit, as well as increasing the amount of debt you will owe once you do graduate. And, in today’s economy, the chances are pretty high that you will end up being unemployed. All students need to be aware of the fact that you have to borrow responsibility. This is not your money – it is money you have to pay back with interest. And don’t forget… bankruptcy is not an option for student loans.

2) Find out if the online college is regionally accredited

Second, make sure the college you choose is regionally accredited. In United States, there are two types of colleges and universities recognized by the US department of Education: national accreditation and regional accreditation.

To put it simply, national accredited colleges usually offer specific types of vocations and technical certificate programs. Regional accredited schools are the ones you need to choose if you are looking into higher-level degrees such as bachelors and masters. Traditional schools such as local community colleges, state universities, or well-known private universities belong to this regionally accredited school category.

In order for a college to offer federal financial aid, the school must be “regionally accredited”. This principle applies to either brick-and-mortar or online colleges. Thus, when you are searching for online schools, make sure you choose ones with regionally accreditation. You can find this information by calling the school directly or by visiting the educational department accreditation search page.

Once you have confirmed the previous two factors, you are ready to search for colleges on a deeper level. As briefly mentioned above there are numerous online schools that offer various programs. This article is focused on online colleges that accept FAFSA in addition to offering various degrees and majors. Also, the online colleges listed below are selected by enrollment size, which indicates their popularity.

List of Online Schools that Accept FAFSA
( by Student Enrollment Size )

Local Community Colleges and State Universities (Some – Not all)

Before listing them, I would like to briefly mention a benefit of online programs from local community colleges and state universities. If your local community college or state university offers online degrees or programs, not only are they likely the cheapest online colleges and universities you are looking for, but they also provide the convenience of an easily accessible physical location when needed. Federal financial aid for community college and state universities can be seen as granted.

online-schools-in-ohio-sinclair-community-collegeFor instance, after performing a quick search for online colleges in Ohio, I found Sinclair community college, which offers accredited online programs. Sinclair provides students with associate degrees in various majors such as business administration and health information management. The school also offers certificate programs for pharmacy technician, medical assistant coding, and billing specialists.

An extra benefit of attending a local college online is that most of the accredited courses taken can be transferred to state universities (actual transfer status for classes is determined by each university). Using the same search results from online colleges in Ohio, I found Ohio University, which is regionally accredited. Not only does the school have an actual campus, but it also has online bachelors and graduate programs. Majors offered for bachelors degrees include nursing, technical and applied studies, and criminal Justice. Majors for graduate level degrees at Ohio University include athletic administration, MBA, and engineering management to name a few. Keep in mind that online programs and majors are becoming a more popular choice to even traditional schools, so check each school periodically if necessary.

University of Phoenix

It’s no doubt that everyone has at least heard of the University of Phoenix through TV commercials or other media. The school was founded in 1976 and received its accreditation in 1978. Not only are they considered to be one of the largest online schools by enrollment, but they also have numerous physical locations from southern California to Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, and even in Pennsylvania.

The University of Phoenix offers different types of degree programs including associate, bachelors, masters and doctorate. The school also offers a variety of majors from business and management, criminal justice, nursing and health care, psychology and technological areas. The University of Phoenix is one of the many online schools that accept FAFSA. Types of Federal Financial Aid offered include various grants (Federal Pell grants, TEACH, FSEOG, and Military grants), Direct PLUS loans, Federal Stafford loans, and Perkins Loans. Visit the University of Phoenix Federal Financial Aid Plan page.

Kaplan University

online-college-kaplanuniversityKaplan University is currently the second largest online university by number of student enrollment (53000 online and campus based students in 2011 according to its site). The college was initially established in 1937 as the American Institute of Commerce. Types of online degrees offered by Kaplan University include associate, bachelors and masters. Types of majors are similar to other online schools: business, nursing, technology, criminal justice, law, etc. Kaplan University is also accredited, thus they accept federal aid. The school website has step-by-step instructions on how to apply for federal financial aid on their website.

Arizona State University

online-school-arizona-state-universityArizona State University offers various degree programs both online and on-campus. It proudly boasts a full university experience without needing to attend a physical location and the university was featured as one of the highest rated online colleges by Forbes magazine. Arizona State University has both undergraduate and graduate programs. Majors for bachelors (undergraduate) degrees include those from the University of Phoenix, but also offer a larger variety of options, such as film and media studies, English, and areas in food industry.

For Masters (graduate) degrees, the range includes American Media and Culture, Engineering, Materials Science, Clinical Research Management and Criminal Justice (check out the entire list of majors Arizona State University offers). Arizona State University is one of the online colleges that accept financial aid as well as scholarship opportunities. The website states that 78% of students in its college receive some type of financial assistance. Types of federal loans provided include Stafford, Perkins and Direct PLUS loans. Go to the ASU Financial Aid page for more information.

Ashford University

ashford-unhiversity-online-schools-that-accept-fafsaAshford University states on its website that its core mission is to provide innovative and affordable high quality learning experiences to students online. The school was founded in 1918 in Iowa as a junior college for women. Since then, it has grown to offer various types of degrees and programs across the United States. The types of degrees offered include associate, bachelors and masters. There are four areas of study: business, education, health and science, and liberal arts. Each field has a number of majors available for each type of degree (available degrees in Ashford University). The college website states that they are one of the online colleges that accept FAFSA and the available financial aid may include federal and state loans and grants. Go to Ashford University’s how to pay for college page for more information.

Liberty University

liberty-university-onlineLiberty University is a Christian-based online school that has a main campus in Virginia, but also offers online degrees. Another interesting characteristic of Liberty University is that it is one of the few non profit online colleges. Considering most online colleges are for-profit institutions, it’s very rare to find a university that belongs to the group of not for profit online colleges. Online degree programs the school offers include high school diplomas, associate, bachelors, masters, and doctorate. Available majors for each degree are similar to other online colleges and universities such as business, criminal justice, nursing, education and psychology. The school claims that they offer the lowest tuition among top online universities. Liberty University is also an online school that accept FAFSA. Federal financial aid offered includes Stafford and direct PLUS loans, as well as scholarships and grant opportunities. Go to the Liberty University Financial Aid Page  for more information.

Walden University

online-walden-universityWalden University is one of the most popular online schools and has over 100,000 daily visitors to the site according to the Google website analysis. It is a regionally accredited university that offers bachelors, masters and even doctorate programs. Some majors for bachelors degrees include accounting, IT, criminal justice, and forensic psychology. Walden University also accepts federal financial aid including Federal Direct loans, Direct PLUS loans for graduate and parent borrowers, state and federal Pell grants, and a few others. Go to Walden University’s Federal Financial Aid page for details.

All of the colleges listed above are online schools that accept FAFSA and are organized by their enrollment size. There are other affordable accredited online colleges such as Miami Dade College, Baker college, etc that I haven’t been able to mention due to the length of the article, but Student Loans Info Center will go into details of online colleges that accept financial aid by states, as well as majors in the next several months.

Remember – Don’t just go back to school to avoid the struggles of finding a job. Once you graduate you will likely have a difficult time finding high-paying work and will end up with a high amount of student loans. Go to school only when you have a clear vision of the areas or skills you need to acquire and make sure that the prospective online schools accept FAFSA application as a federal financial aid form.