Since the 2005 Higher Education Reconciliation Act passed, federal aid was made obtainable to students who were enrolled in accredited online degree programs. Prior to the act, online degree education was broadly considered a suspect method of earning a degree– that meant students who were enrolled online were denied accessibility to major aid sources like scholarships for college. Today, however, those college degree online programs earned the financial support and recognition that every legitimate post-secondary operation is entitled to.
But, despite this win, misinformation concerning online degree education continuously circulates. Plus, as you may expect, potential students equating college degree online programs without any financial aid entirely rule out online universities.
Qualifying for Financial Aid
Where will the confusion that surrounds college degree online aid derive from? The culprits that most admissions officers and educators initially point to are specific kinds of for-profit online universities that are dubbed “diploma mills.” Those substandard online universities preyed upon misinformed individuals who were eager to earn their degrees cheaply and quickly. These mills were so prevalent, they became synonymous with Internet education in its entirety, a stigma which has proven difficult to shake.
Nearly every diploma mill lacked (and still lacks) accreditation ― a stamp of approval from a reputable and independent educational board. Schools without academic oversight ended up awarding students degrees that, within the eyes of most employers and the academic community, were efficiently worthless. It was motivation enough for our federal government to seriously limit online students’ accessibility to scholarships for college; the fear being that individual could be overcharged for inadequate degrees then left with a pile of debt.
However, as legitimate schools increasingly launched excellent programs online, there was an adequate enough aboveboard activity on the Internet for the federal government to feel as it could lift restrictions on aid. Plus, the most concise method for the government to make sure that just deserving schools obtained aid? Accreditation.
The fundamental concept behind accreditation is that the United States Department of Education will turn to private accrediting organizations it recognized as “reliable authorities upon the quality of training or education offered by the organizations of higher education” to check the academic merits of any given college and its programs. As these institutions awarded schools a title of accreditation, they’re added to the database of the Department of Education. Inclusion upon this database efficiently means the educational institution and its students are eligible to apply for federal aid, to repeat, with Internet programs included.