How to pay for your online education: 4 strategies
Avoid loans and student debt by making the most of available resources, from federal Pell Grants to scholarships to the GI Bill and other veteran benefits
The following is paid content sponsored by Norwich University.
By PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff
It’s no secret that a degree can boost your career – but student debt is always a concern. Luckily, there is plenty of money out there to help pay for a bachelor’s degree without taking out loans. You just need to know where to look.
Here are four strategies to help get the money you need to pay for your online degree.
1. Apply for federal grants.
The federal Pell Grant is one option currently available to help fund your online education.
However, potential grantees must first submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA. This will determine your eligibility for federal grants and many scholarships.
One key resource available only by submitting the FAFSA is the Pell Grant. The federal government provides Pell Grants for students who need money to pay for college and have not already earned a degree.
Unlike loans, these awards do not have to be paid back, and unlike scholarships, grades are not a factor in the application process. Pell Grants are awarded at least once per term through participating schools, and they can be combined with other forms of financial aid.
“A lot of students don’t want loans, but many students don’t realize that they may also qualify for a Pell Grant, which is free money,” said Sarah Harris, a financial aid counselor with Norwich University.
Students often find that there’s no out-of-pocket expense when they’re eligible for Pell Grants and take advantage of additional financial aid opportunities such as a VA benefit like Tuition Assistance, she added.
2. Contact your school’s financial aid office.
The financial aid office at your school, staffed by counselors like Harris, is there to help you.
These counselors can help you navigate the available benefits and point you toward the grants and scholarships you are most likely to qualify for, including those offered by the institution itself.
Don’t be shy about asking whether there are grants or scholarships attached to law enforcement, veteran status, your ethnic background, etc. Your school may even offer discounted tuition and fees to police or veterans.
3. Search for scholarships.
Do your research when it comes to scholarships – a quick search for “police scholarships” yields tons of links, but you’ll have to sort through them to find hidden treasure.
Pay attention to the qualifications for each, as well as the application requirements and deadlines. Some scholarships are restricted to high-school seniors, but many are not. A word of caution: Beware of scholarships with an application fee, as these are likely to be scams.
Here are a few of the websites that enable detailed searches of hundreds of scholarships:
Also, ask around in your community and at your agency. Many local organizations offer small scholarships or tuition assistance. Even a one-time award of a few hundred dollars will help reduce the cost of your education.
4. Take advantage of your military veteran education benefits.
Military benefits include the GI Bill, tuition assistance and top-up funds for active-duty service members, as well as branch-specific scholarships. Depending on your status, you may be eligible for a combination of these benefits.
For officers who are veterans and looking to earn a bachelor’s degree, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill can be used to cover the cost of tuition. They also offer stipends and housing benefits. If you wish to use these benefits, you’ll need to apply to the VA and have a copy of your certificate of eligibility sent to your school’s certifying official.
Post-9/11 GI Bill funds go straight to the school. Montgomery GI Bill funds are sent to the student, meaning that you’d be making out-of-pocket payments up front. GI Bill benefits are transferable, and you may choose to save them for a master’s degree or to pass them on to a child.
All the funding sources noted above – even those for which deadlines have passed – are worth considering in your search. Key things to do as you move forward are:
- Fill out and submit the FAFSA, ASAP.
- Contact your school’s financial aid office, including the VA certifying official if you’re a veteran.
- Hunt for scholarships you may qualify for and make a list of application deadlines and requirements.
- Contact the VA if you’re a veteran and apply for the benefits best suited to your needs.
- Ask questions – there are many resources available, so use them!
For more information on earning your bachelor’s degree online, contact Norwich University.