Financial Aid for Online Education
Unless you have a rich uncle, paying for your education is going to require careful thought and a lot of planning. Very few students can afford to write a check for the full amount of tuition.
Sixty-five percent of all undergraduates receive some type of financial aid, according to a 2007-2008 report by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Federal loans, private loans, grants, scholarships, military tuition assistance and employer tuition assistance are all possible forms of financial aid to pay for your online degree.
A growing number of people entering, or returning, to school are adult or non-traditional students. The challenges are different 18 years after high school graduation. By then there is a lot more to consider than cramming for midterms, nursing a hangover, or dealing with a sloppy roommate. And flinging burgers or delivering pizzas isn't likely to bridge the gap between the amount of money you have and what you owe. Older students tend to have fulltime jobs, families, household expenses and consumer debt. The question of how to pay for your education is timeless. There are really only three answers. You can have someone else pay, pay for it yourself, or borrow the money.
- Getting Someone Else To Pay For Your Online Degree
- Paying For Your Online Degree Yourself
- Borrowing The Money To Pay For Your Online Degree
Employer Tuition Assistance For Your Online Degree
By far, the best option is to get someone else to pay for your education. Tuition assistance, or tuition reimbursement, programs vary widely. Generally, the larger the company, the better the plan. General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Dell, Citigroup, and Motorola have very generous tuition assistance plans.
In an ideal world, the best tuition assistance would:
- Provide assistance for undergraduate level work, graduate level work, or continuing education
- Arrange for 100% payment up-front for each course
- Cover related expenses like textbooks and materials
Tuition assistance programs are based upon an employer's objectives for recruiting, retention, and productivity. The benefits can vary from company to company, and even within various divisions of the same company. Make an appointment to speak with the human resources specialist about your employer's caveats, rules and restrictions. For some reason, the benefits are often not widely, or enthusiastically, promoted. Unless you have a very proactive supervisor who truly takes an interest in your professional development, you may not be encouraged to take advantage of this benefit. Indeed, many employees toil away in call centers, branch offices, or sales offices for years without even knowing that a tuition assistance policy exists. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, less than 15% of eligible employees actually use their tuition assistance benefits.
Tuition assistance may have been covered in a very general sense in the employee handbook you were given your first week on the job. Whether you read it then, or filed it away in your drawer, it is worth taking the time to review it before your meeting with HR. Still, policies and benefits may have changed. In order to make the best decisions about your education, you need precise, current information.
Your employer may require you to:
- Choose from a select group of colleges or universities
- Enroll in a course of study that is job-related
- Pay the tuition yourself and await reimbursement after the successful completion of the course*
- Pay any tuition that exceeds an annual cap of $5,250 or less
- Earn a "C" or better
- Pay back the tuition if you leave the company
* Some employers do not reimburse 100% of the tuition. Usually, they do reimburse at least up to 80%.
If you are fortunate enough to work for a Fortune 500 company with its own online course offerings, fitness center, and onsite daycare, there is a plan in place already, and all you have to do is follow it. But 38% of all employees work in firms with 100 employees or less. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.) If your company is so small it doesn't even have an HR department, it's a good bet there is no tuition assistance plan either.
Depending on the state in which your company is located, your employer may be eligible to receive tax credits and tax deductions for providing training or tuition assistance programs to employees. If you are an employer, the eLearners.com Debt-Free College Guide lists programs that can help your company provide tuition assistance and training to employees.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
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