Financial Aid for Your Associates Degree

One of the advantages of enrolling in an online degree program to obtain an associates degree, as opposed to a bachelor’s degree, is that the shorter time to completion of the degree means you’ll spend less on classes and tuition. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t eligible for financial aid, or that you shouldn’t do all you can to apply for scholarships and grants to help defray the cost of your education. Applying for financial aid for your associates degree is just like applying for aid for a traditional four-year degree, too.

First things first: Check with your online institution to see what kind, if any, of scholarships or grants they offer to students on the associates degree track. For instance, University of Phoenix participates in multiple federal financial aid programs, including Stafford Students Loans and the Pell Grant. However, not all online institutions participate in every federal aid program, so before committing to one school, do your research on several and figure out what aid programs they offer to students.

Additionally, if you’re employed, check with your human resources department to see if your employer participates in a tuition reimbursement program. Some companies provide aid to employees who pursue degrees related to their job, so if you’re looking to get an associates degree to bolster your training for your current job, your company might help you get there.

But the big thing to do is apply, apply, apply. Fill out the FAFSA — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — to begin the process of determining how much federal aid you might be eligible to receive. The U.S. Department of Education begins accepting FAFSA forms from hopeful students on January 1 of every year, and though you’re allowed to re-submit a "renewal" FAFSA at the beginning of every year, the form needs to be updated with the previous year’s tax information in order to expedite the process. It’s also vital to note that the federal submission deadline and those for individual states don’t always line up. In other words, depending on where your online degree program is based, you might be required to process and submit your federal aid application earlier than anticipated. Be sure to check with your school’s financial advisors to determine deadlines for aid applications. Your advisors will also be able tell you about any non-federal grants available through the school, which vary among institutions but are still helpful tools to help you obtain an associates degree.

It can seem like a tricky process, but with the right preparation and follow-up, applying for — and receiving — financial aid for your associates degree is simpler than you might think. It’s always worth seeing if you’re eligible for financial assistance.