In January 2018, the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics revealed that nearly three-fourths of all college students (72%) received financial aid in some form in 2015-2016. This reflected a four percent increase from four years prior.
Basically, this means that unless you're in the lucky 25% or so that does not require any financial assistance to attend college, you'll likely be seeking a federal loan or grant, scholarship or state aid to help you pay what can amount to exorbitant costs of a college education.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required to determine one's eligibility for financial aid. You can complete the form either online or via mail. The schools whose codes you entered on the form will be sent the results and in turn each of the schools will send you information about the financial aid assistance awarded to you.
There are approximately 20 million FAFSA submissions each year. Schools use the information gathered on this form to determine eligibility not only for federal aid programs but state loans, grants, and scholarships. FAFSA also determines eligibility for work-study programs.
A November 2018 article published by Inside Higher Ed showed that 15.4% of college students attended an online college in 2016-2017, and 17.6% take a mix of online and on-campus classes. Both of these numbers were up compared to the previous year. So, you just might be one of the many rising college students who will be taking online courses.
If you're going the online education route and need financial assistance, you'll need to first determine if your particular school accepts FAFSA.
Accreditation for FAFSA Acceptance
If you're attending an accredited online school, chances are good that the institution accepts FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education requires accreditation for schools that participate in federal aid programs.
This means that accredited traditional brick-and-mortar schools that also offer online programs are likely to accept FAFSA. If, for instance, you're looking to take an online Master of Business Administration program and are enrolling in, say, the University of North Carolina or Purdue University, chances are extremely high that FAFSA will be accepted.
When you fill out the FAFSA, you will need to enter a school code on the form; the best way to find out whether your online school accepts FAFSA is to find out if they have such a code. If they don't, then they do not accept FAFSA.
Online Schools Accepting FASFA
What about for-profit, online-only schools? Do all or most of these accept FAFSA?
Several of these online colleges, some of which are online as well as campus-based, are accredited and do accept FAFSA; according to the 2019-2020 Federal School Code List, these include:
- Aspen University
- Capella University
- Colorado Technical University
- Grantham University
- Strayer University
- University of Phoenix
A few online colleges that do not have school codes for FASFA acceptance include:
- Ashworth College
- Penn Foster
- American Military University
You can easily check whether the online school you wish to enroll in accepts FAFSA by checking the financial aid section of their website, or by simply calling the school's Financial Aid Office.