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How to pay for college: Financial aid and scholarships for online students

Learn how and when to apply for financial aid and scholarships as an Oregon State Ecampus student

A student types on the keyboard of a slim silver laptop.

By Julie Cooper
April 17, 2019

When it comes to paying for college, you need to see the big picture. But if the waters of financial aid and scholarships seem murky to you, you’re not alone.

While many of the typical student costs are eliminated for Oregon State University’s online students—such as nonresident credit rates, incidental and health service fees, campus living and meal plan expenses—one of the biggest concerns for college students is cost, and according to Ecampus enrollment services specialist Celina Long, many current and future online students worry about hidden fees.

“Planning ahead for the financial impact of earning a degree is very important because, as many students know, unexpected costs outside of school may arise at any time,” Celina says.

Even the most prepared students can benefit from a conversation with Ecampus enrollment services about the costs associated with admission, tuition and course materials, and those unique to distance students, such as proctored exams.

“Prospective students are often pleased that we try to be very transparent about the cost of a degree by providing tools to help people plan ahead, like our tuition and fees calculator that can help estimate cost,” Celina says. “Some students are surprised they can apply for federal aid and scholarships even though they live outside of Oregon.”

Whether you’re preparing to apply or well into your degree, read the tips below to shed light on how to save money while funding your education.

1. Before all else, choose the best degree program for you 

One thing to consider when enrolling in a degree program is how your education can impact your future earnings. When your hard work in school is done, how will it pay off?

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, higher degree completion yields higher earnings. Those with a master’s degree or higher earn 19% more than those who hold a bachelor’s. A bachelor’s degree recipient can earn 64% more than someone who holds a high school diploma.

Preparing for your degree program early is one of the best ways to avoid unexpected costs. Although it’s common for students to change their area of study, investing time in understanding your desired degree and career path can help ensure that you only pay for the courses you need.

If you’re weighing your options, the Ecampus undergraduate degree comparison tool can help estimate the overall cost and career outcomes for graduates of each major. Or if you’ve already chosen a degree program, use the Ecampus tuition and fees calculator.

2. Put financial aid application “season” on the calendar 

Although many Oregon State Ecampus degree programs allow students to begin during any term, you should plan to submit financial aid applications during the fall and winter months to maximize potential aid.

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year to become eligible for scholarships, grants, loans and work study awards. The application opens in October, and OSU’s FAFSA priority deadline is Feb. 28. Because Oregon awards financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are depleted, Oregon State students should submit the application as close to Oct. 1 as possible.

Don’t let tuition go to waste

Understand important financial aid dates as well as important course registration, drop and withdraw dates on OSU’s academic calendar to avoid late fees and partial tuition charges.

Between November and February, admitted OSU students can also complete an OSU ScholarDollars application to be considered for more than 1,600 scholarship opportunities.

Once you are admitted to OSU, check with your academic advisor to find out if there are other scholarships available through your college.

3. Master the ABCs of financial aid 

 When your aid offer comes in, it’s easy to get lost in the financial jargon. Be sure that you understand what each option means and what your responsibilities will be for maintaining eligibility or repayment.

Fine-tune your vocabulary with the Office of Financial Aid’s list of terminology.

The financial aid office also offers helpful online videos, including a step-by-step tutorial for accepting your financial aid award online and a series that answers frequently asked financial aid questions.

4. Stay on top of your eligibility 

Your financial aid will change depending on your enrollment status and degree progress. To maintain your financial aid award, review its terms and conditions as you register for courses each term.

A key challenge for online students is navigating their enrollment level, as many Ecampus students enroll in online courses part time to continue working or caring for their families.

Undergraduate degree-seeking students may be eligible for financial aid through OSU if enrolled for 6 or more credits per term. Graduate degree and certificate students need 5 or more credits per term to qualify.

To avoid aid disbursement delays, students enrolled less than full time (12 credits) must notify the Office of Financial Aid in advance with an enrollment revision request. 

5. Don’t face financial emergencies alone 

Whether personal, academic or financial, a setback does not have to be the end of the line for your education.

If you’re a current student and a sudden financial challenge threatens your academic progress, consider applying for the need-based Ecampus Financial Hardship Grant or a short-term emergency loan from the OSU Cashier’s Office.

Current Ecampus students should reach out to an Ecampus student success coach or Oregon State’s financial aid advisors at the first sign of financial trouble to brainstorm solutions.


Ready to get started? 

Contact one of our enrollment services specialists at 800-667-1465 or ecampus@oregonstate.edu to jump-start your path to education.

2 Comments

  • thanh tran says:

    need scholarship how to apply and financial assistance in military science major

  • Tyler Hansen says:

    Hi Thanh. Oregon State University does not currently offer a military science online or on-site. If you would like to gather more information on how to apply and financial aid and scholarships, please contact the OSU Ecampus enrollment services team at ecampus@oregonstate.edu.

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