January 4, 2023

8 online colleges that accept the FAFSA

Online college might be cheaper than in-person, but it’s still, well, not cheap. Discover some of the top online colleges that accept the FAFSA.

Student at online college

By the fall of 2020, about 7 million undergrad students, or 44% of all undergrads, were enrolled exclusively in online courses.

Maybe you’re planning on joining that crowd. Online colleges, after all, can be cheaper and more convenient.

But the price is still no laughing matter. 

Fortunately, more online-only schools are getting accredited and are therefore able to accept FAFSA aid.

Below, we’ll look at 8 online colleges that accept FAFSA financial aid. Then, we’ll show you how to tell whether an online school takes the FAFSA if you want to go somewhere that’s not on this list.

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8 online colleges that take FAFSA aid

The FAFSA is most students’ primary way of paying for college—about 66% of students fill out the FAFSA every year.

Although more online schools are starting to accept the FAFSA, many still don’t. We’ll help you find those that do. 

Here are some online colleges that currently accept the FAFSA:

1. Purdue University Global

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In 2018, Purdue University acquired Kaplan University and rebranded it as Purdue University Global. Purdue University Global primarily serves working adults seeking education that can teach them new skills and advance their careers.

Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global’s ExcelTrack format lets students complete certain degree programs at their own pace. ExcelTrack programs are designed to build off knowledge students gain in their workplaces.

Purdue University Global financial aid information

  • Purdue University costs $280/credit hour for resident undergrads, there’s 10% off tuition for resident grad students

  • $371/credit hour for undergrads out of state, $420–$700 for grad students out of state

  • Purdue University Global administers federal, state, and university financial aid. It also offers numerous scholarships to qualifying applicants.

  • 67% of students receiving financial aid get grants, and 62% get loans

Notable Purdue University Global programs

  • Finance

  • Healthcare Administration

  • Information Technology

  • MBA

2. Penn State World Campus

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Pennsylvania State University launched Penn State World Campus in 1998 to continue its long history of distance education. Today, over 20,000 online students attend World Campus classes every year.

PennState World Campus

Penn State World Campus offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate certificate and degree programs to students from all over. Its business and psychology bachelor’s programs landed at US News’ #2 best online bachelor’s programs in 2022.

Penn State World Campus financial aid information

  • Penn State World Campus costs $620–$654/credit hour for undergrads, and at least $1,007/credit hour for grad students

  • Offers extensive tuition assistance to military members, veterans, and their spouses/dependents

  • Over 40 scholarships are available to students who complete the FAFSA and a separate scholarship application

  • Federal aid is not available for many certificate programs

Notable Penn State World Campus programs

  • Economics

  • Health Policy and Administration

  • Political Science

  • Psychology

  • Master of Engineering Management

3. University of Florida Online

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

The University of Florida Online is the University of Florida’s distance learning arm. It offers 24 of the same majors the main campus offers. UF Online has master’s, doctoral, and specialist degrees, as well as certificate programs.

University of Florida Online

In 2022, US News named UF Online the best school in the country for online bachelor’s programs.

University of Florida Online financial aid information

  • University of Florida Online costs $129.18/credit hour for resident undergrads, $552.62/credit hour for nonresident undergrads

  • UF Online administers federal, state, and school-based aid through its Office for Student Financial Affairs

  • Free Seat Program: Veterans, active-duty military, Florida National Guard active drilling members, and nontraditional students can apply for tuition and fee waivers for 1 online class

  • Grandparent Waiver: Qualifying out-of-state students with Florida resident grandparents can apply for tuition and fee waivers for out-of-state costs up to 110% of total degree hours

Notable University of Florida Online programs

  • Education

  • Engineering

  • MBA

  • Nursing

4. University of Phoenix

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

The University of Phoenix is an Arizona-based online college offering over 100 programs that, in the school’s words, are “aligned to 300+ occupations.”

University of Phoenix

The University of Phoenix offers both structured and self-paced course formats. This school may also offer college credits for past work and life experience you have, such as skills or licenses you’ve gained through your job.

University of Phoenix financial aid information

  • University of Phoenix costs $398/credit hour for undergrads, $698/credit hour for master’s, $810/credit hour for doctorate

  • Tuition rates are fixed throughout your college career—they don’t change

  • May offer college credits for past certificates, licenses, training, and even work and life experience—tested with a prior learning assessment

  • Offers $1,000–$3,000 scholarships at all degree levels

  • The school’s Savings Explorer tool helps bachelor’s students save $11,000 and nearly 1 year of schooling on average

  • The school has an employer search tool that helps you see if your employer offers tuition assistance

Notable University of Phoenix programs

  • Biochemistry

  • Engineering

  • MBA

  • Nursing

5. Southern New Hampshire University

Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education

Southern New Hampshire University is a private school just north of Manchester, New Hampshire. It has a physical campus but also offers over 200 online degree programs and serves more than 135,000 online students.

Southern New Hampshire University

SNHU is one of the most affordable schools on our list, coming in just behind APU.

Southern New Hampshire University financial aid information

  • SNHU costs $320/credit hour for undergrads, $627/credit hour for grad students, and no application fee for either

  • Significant discounts for active-duty military

  • The Student Financial Services team works with students to create a plan for funding their education

  • Gives you an employer search tool to help you see if your employer offers tuition assistance

Notable Southern New Hampshire University programs

  • Business

  • Education

  • Psychology

  • MBA in Accounting

6. Lewis University

Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission

Lewis University is a Romeoville, IL-based Catholic University founded in 1932. Today, it offers 18 of its majors completely online. Many more are offered in a hybrid format—partially online and partially in person.

Lewis University

Lewis assigns each online student a Student Services Coordinator. This coordinator guides the student through their chosen program by helping them plan and schedule courses, get study help if needed, and much more.

Lewis University financial aid information

  • Tuition costs vary depending on your enrollment status, whether you’re an undergrad or grad student, and your specific course format/program

  • 98% of Lewis students receive financial aid

  • The average freshman receives a combined award of $18,000 if they qualify, according to Lewis’s financial aid web page

  • Lewis has partnered with several educational, healthcare, and religious organizations to offer tuition discounts to employees of those organizations

Notable Lewis University programs

  • Criminal Justice

  • Computer Science

  • Data Science

  • Health Information Management

  • Organizational Leadership

7. American Public University

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

American Public University is an online, private, for-profit university that is part of the American Public University system alongside American Military University. It’s headquartered in Charles Town, West Virginia.

American Public University

The American Military University was founded in 1991 by Major James P. Etter (USMC, retired) to meet military members’ educational needs. AMU eventually expanded to become the American Public University System (APUS), and APU was created.

Today, APUS enrolls over 87,000 students, including many military members. This school is one of the most inexpensive on our list.

American Public University financial aid information 

  • APU costs $285/credit hour for undergrads, and $370/credit hour for master’s or graduate certificate programs

  • APU provides free textbooks and ebooks to all undergrad, doctoral, and military tuition grant-eligible master’s students

  • APU provides fee waivers and additional aid to students who are military members

  • Certain APU programs don’t accept federal student aid

Notable American Public University programs

APU has over 200 degree and certification programs across 5 schools. Notable programs include:

  • Business Administration

  • Psychology

  • Management

  • Master of Public Administration

8. Capella University

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Capella University is a Minneapolis-based, private, for-profit, online university. Founded as The Graduate School of America in 1993, Capella University offers over 160 online undergraduate and graduate programs.

Capella University

Numerous course formats are available, from traditional, fixed schedules to completely self-paced programs. Students in Accelerated Master’s Pathway bachelor’s programs can earn credits toward their bachelor’s and master’s degrees simultaneously to save money and time.

Capella University financial aid information

  • Capella University costsv$357–$415/credit hour for undergrad, $440–$815/credit hour for masters, $545–$810/credit hour for doctoral

  • No- and low-cost general education credits are available through Capella affiliate Sophia Learning

  • Capella offers institutional scholarships for each degree level and course format

  • Capella’s Accelerated Masters Pathway can help students save time and money while they’re pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees

Notable Capella University programs

  • Accounting

  • Business Administration

  • Healthcare Administration

  • Nursing

  • Psychology

How do I check if an online college accepts the FAFSA?

Only accredited schools can accept the FAFSA. This doesn’t necessarily mean that unaccredited schools are illegitimate—it’s just that they can’t take FAFSA aid.

The Department of Education doesn’t provide accreditation. Instead, they, along with the Council For Higher Education, recognize the following 6 regional accreditation agencies:

  • Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE)

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

To check if a school is accredited or accepts the FAFSA, you can do a few things.

First, visit the school’s financial aid website and see if it accepts the FAFSA. You also look for its accreditations elsewhere on its website.

Another way to check is to run a search on Federal Student Aid’s Federal School Code Search. You can search by the school’s name and location if you don’t know its code.

If the school has an entry with a code, that school takes FAFSA applications.

FAFSA Accreditation

Non-FAFSA ways to pay for online college

Did you get FAFSA aid but not enough? Or does your school not qualify for FAFSA aid?

You’re not out of luck. Let’s look at a few non-FAFSA ways to pay for school:

Private scholarships and grants

Scholarships are handed out on merit, meaning they depend on your grades, extracurriculars, and the strength of your application.

Some are quite easy, asking only for a quick application but offering small amounts. Others are far more involved or niche but can pay for some or all of your college.

These days, there are plenty of scholarships for online students out there. But many regular scholarships work fine for online schools, too.

Meanwhile, grants are awarded based on need. If you have a significant gap between your ability to pay and the cost of attendance, go after grants first. Then, apply for scholarships as often as possible.

Private student loans

When you’ve exhausted all other aid options and don’t have your own money to pay for online college, you can look at private student loans.

These can fill the gaps, but they come with the following drawbacks:

  • They have higher interest rates

  • Interest starts accruing right away

  • There’s no grace period—lenders demand repayment right away

  • They require a good credit score or a cosigner, such as a parent

  • They don’t offer official deferment or forbearance—although the lender may work something out if you’re struggling to pay them back

  • They have no forgiveness options except in rare circumstances

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Get FAFSA aid for online college

The 8 schools on this list are by no means the only schools that accept the FAFSA. Chances are that if a school is accredited by one of the accreditation bodies we talked about, you can get federal aid. Just make sure to check the school’s website or with the agencies.

And regardless of the FAFSA money you receive, you can always look for scholarships, grants, loans, or even a job to cover more of your college costs.

For more information about paying for college, check out our list of financial aid FAQs and answers.

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