Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Programs

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An associate degree in early childhood education prepares you for a rewarding career working with young children and their families. Many school districts across the country are implementing four-year-old kindergarten programs, and the National Center for Education Statistics reports that there are now more than 1 million children enrolled in pre-K programs nationwide.

An associate degree in early childhood education allows you to teach in a preschool setting, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the early childhood education field will have an employment increase of 7% over the next 10 years.

An early childhood education online associate degree can be completed in one or two years and will require students to earn around 60 credits. Students will encounter courses in child growth and development, language development, child safety, and more. Many early childhood education online programs offer concentrations for students to choose between, which may include special education, child advocacy, and childhood nutrition.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Pamlico Community College 74.19 67% Grantsboro, NC

Pamlico Community College is a two-year college with a main campus in Grantsboro, North Carolina. PCC offers online degree programs in a variety of fields, including health occupations, law enforcement, emergency medical programs, and education. PCC’s online associate in early childhood education program covers all phases of child growth and development and prepares graduates to teach and nurture young learners.

Students pursuing this early childhood education online associate degree must complete 66-68 hours of coursework. After earning their degree, distance learners can either transition to related bachelor’s programs or begin work as assistants and teachers at schools that serve infants through kindergarten-aged students. Before graduating, students must also complete a practicum capstone, where they engage in a supervised field experience in an early childhood setting. Online students who do not live in the Grantsboro area work with faculty advisors to arrange practicum experiences at schools that are located near their homes.

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2 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus 69.66 85% Cincinnati, OH

The University of Cincinnati is a public university that belongs to the University System of Ohio. UC’s students can complete two-year, four-year, and graduate-level degrees through the university’s main campus, its many satellite campuses in the Cincinnati area, or its online campus. UC’s associate of applied science in early childhood care and education program is offered entirely online. This program is ideal for students who want to teach at preschools and head start facilities or for students who plan to work with infants and toddlers. Distance learners choose from a pre-K concentration, an infant-toddler focus, or an administrative specialization.

This program’s coursework consists of 45 credit hours of core classes and 15 hours in the student’s chosen concentration. The pre-K and infant-toddler concentrations require the completion of an internship at a faculty-approved organization. Once students graduate, they have the option of finishing their bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education at UC or pursue work as educators.

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3 Liberty University 69.59 66% Lynchburg, VA

Liberty University is a private, evangelical university based in Lynchburg, Virginia that caters its associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs primarily to online students. Liberty’s associate of arts in early childhood education teaches students the skills they need to effectively reach and instruct children under the age of six. Liberty’s evangelical orientation makes it an excellent choice for students who hope to work for Christian schools and churches.

This program consists of 60 hours of coursework, and students are not required to participate in a practicum or internship experience. Distance learners can also transfer up to 45 credits from other colleges and universities. Associate students at Liberty are only required to take 15 hours from the university, making it a very flexible option for transfer students. Graduates who decide to work toward their bachelor’s degrees can easily transition into Liberty’s bachelor’s of science in early childhood education program.

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4 University of Alaska Fairbanks 67.84 53% Fairbanks, AK

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a major research university and the flagship institution of the University of Alaska System. UAF’s eLearning and distance education division delivers 13 fully-online degree programs to associate, bachelor’s, and master’s students in a variety of disciplines. UAF’s online associate of applied science in early childhood education program focuses on child development and pedagogy for young learners from infancy to age eight. Students who earn this early childhood education associate degree are qualified to work in pre-schools, head start centers, and kindergarten classrooms.

To graduate, UAF’s students take 60 hours of coursework in core classes, child development classes, and curriculum classes. They also complete two practicum internships at qualifying childcare facilities located near their homes. Most of UAF’s online courses are taught asynchronously. Additionally, in-state and out-of-state distance learners pay the same tuition.

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5 Stanly Community College 64.93 25% Albemarle, NC

Stanly Community College is a two-year community college located in Albemarle, North Carolina. SCC offers 11 fully-online associate degree programs in the fields of business, education, criminology, health care, and technology. The college’s associate of applied science in early childhood education program teaches students how to create safe and effective learning environments for young children. Every major-specific course in SCC’s early childhood education associate degree online program requires some component of field work at an education facility, which means that graduates earn the real-world experience they need to succeed as teachers and mentors.

Students take 68 hours of coursework to complete this program, learning about childhood growth, development, literacy, nutrition, creativity, and much more. Graduates have the option of going on to complete their bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education at several four-year colleges in North Carolina. They also qualify for birth-kindergarten licensure in the state.

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6 Shasta Bible College and Graduate School 62.70 119% Redding, CA

Shasta Bible College is a private, Baptist college headquartered in Redding, California. The school awards associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. Founded to provide evening classes to nontraditional students, SBC’s mission is to deliver biblically-centered, flexible education options. SBC’s online associate of arts in early childhood education program exposes students to biblical teaching styles, preparing them to educate children who are five years old and younger.

To complete SBC’s online early childhood education associate degree program, students must take 67 units of classes, which includes 22 units of theology classes. Distance learners are also required to complete three units of supervised field work at a preschool, head start center, or childcare facility. Additionally, all students benefit from affordable tuition; out-of-state students pay the same tuition rate as residents of California.

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7 Indiana Wesleyan University 62.30 70% Marion, IN

Indiana Wesleyan University is a Christian university based in the city of Marion. The school also has satellite campuses in Kentucky and Ohio and a large number of online students from a variety of backgrounds and locations. The university’s online associate of science in early childhood education program utilizes a cohort teaching model, which allows students to grow as educators in a group and network with their peers.

To earn this associate degree, students complete 60 credit hours, 33 of which are major-specific credits. Graduates are also eligible to enter bachelor’s programs at IWU and transfer up to 24 credit hours of general education courses. Additionally, they are prepared to work as educators and paraprofessionals with children under the age of eight in a variety of settings. Students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 to graduate.

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8 South Texas College 60.95 24% McAllen, TX

South Texas College is a community college with a main campus in McAllen, Texas. The school also has several satellite campuses in the state’s Rio Grande Valley. To better serve the region and nontraditional students, STC offers 30 fully-online degree programs, including its associate of arts in teaching - elementary program. This program prepares students to work as paraprofessionals at elementary schools or to transfer into bachelor’s education programs at partner schools in Texas. Graduates are also qualified to work as substitute teachers at public elementary schools.

STC’s early childhood education online associate degree is a 61-hour program. Students take 42 hours of core classes and 19 hours of elementary education classes. Courses are taught asynchronously. Additionally, this program is particularly military-friendly; all active duty military members receive tuition assistance and online advising services specifically tailored to their needs.

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9 Granite State College 59.93 91% Concord, NH

Granite State College is a public school in Concord, New Hampshire that belongs to the state’s university system. Over 77% of Granite State’s students take online courses, and many of the school’s degree programs are offered completely online. Granite State’s online associate of science in early childhood education prepares students to educate, guide, assess, and empower pre-kindergarten learners. Graduates can either work at early childhood schools and centers or easily transition into bachelor’s programs in education.

Students complete a total of 60 credit hours and must maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 to graduate. Granite State is also a transfer-friendly institution; up to 44 credits can be transferred into the program. Additionally, students may be able to earn credit for previous military and professional experiences.

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10 Haywood Community College 59.66 20% Clyde, NC

Haywood Community College is a two-year college based in Clyde, North Carolina. HCC offers 18 fully-online associate degree programs. Its online associate of applied science in early childhood education program qualifies graduates to serve populations of students under the age of eight in a variety of educational settings. HCC’s students can also take additional courses to earn an associate degree in early childhood administration if they are interested in working as a preschool, daycare, or head start center leader.

HCC’s online associate degree in early childhood education is a 71-hour program that covers the essentials of child development and learning. Students are required to complete a capstone practicum experience during their final semester at an approved educational facility. Classes are offered year-round, which allows working students to complete their degrees in two years. Graduates of this program can easily transfer to four-year colleges if they decide to continue their studies in early childhood education.

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11 Surry Community College 57.57 46% Dobson, NC

Surry Community College is located in Dobson, North Carolina. The college primarily serves students in the Surry and Yadkin counties, but it also educates a growing number of online students from other regions. Surry offers eight programs in the fields of education, business, and technology that can be completed entirely online. The college’s early childhood education associate degree is a viable option for students who wish to work with children from infancy to age eight. Distance learners in this program engage in a combination of child development classes, curriculum planning coursework, and practicum experiences with children.

Surry’s early childhood education students complete 73 credit hours of courses. Additionally, all online students are required to take a transition course during their first semester of school to help them adjust to college life. Transfer students are eligible to receive credit for core classes completed at other schools.

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12 Richmond Community College 57.43 37% Hamlet, NC

Richmond Community College is a two-year school in Hamlet, North Carolina that belongs to the state’s community college system. Many of the college’s degree programs are available fully online, including its associate in early childhood education program. Distance learners pursuing Richmond’s early childhood education associate degree online learn to foster the cognitive/language, physical/motor, social/emotional, and creative development of young children. Graduates are prepared to work with kids at child development and child care programs, preschools, and recreational centers. 14 of the credits in this 65-credit program are elective classes, which include sensory & physical disabilities and introduction to exceptional children. Students also complete a four-credit capstone practicum requirement, which is taken during their final semester. Distance learners collaborate with their faculty advisors to pick a practicum location in an area near their home.

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13 Shoreline Community College 57.43 49% Shoreline, WA

Shoreline Community College is a two-year, public college located just north of Seattle, Washington. SCC currently hosts over 25 online degree and certificate programs. The college’s associate in applied arts and sciences in early child educator program prepares students to work at preschools, child care centers, after-school programs, and head start organizations. Distance learners focus on developing the skills needed to foster young children’s growth in an academic environment.

Students pursuing early childhood education online associate degree take 90 credits of coursework, making it one of the most comprehensive in the country in terms of its curriculum. Additionally, learners are required to complete two five-credit internships at schools or other approved facilities. Many early childhood education students at SCC receive merit- and need-based scholarships to help finance their degrees.

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14 Northeast Community College 56.42 59% Norfolk, NE

Northeast Community College is a public, two-year college with a main campus in Norfolk, Nebraska. NECC has one of the best online education programs in Nebraska, providing several virtual degree programs in the fields of business, education, and criminal justice. NECC boasts two online early childhood education programs: an associate of applied science track and an associate of arts track. These options are similar, but AAS students take more math and science core courses, while AA students take additional classes in the liberal arts.

All students pursuing an online associate degree in early childhood education complete 60 credit hours of work. This includes a pre-practicum course that prepares them to work at childcare facilities and a practicum course where students spend time each week with an educator in the field at an approved school or childcare center.

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15 Northampton County Area Community College 55.74 41% Bethlehem, PA

Northampton Community College is a public, two-year college with multiple campuses in the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania area. The school also hosts a virtual campus, including an associate of applied science in early childhood education program, which can be completed entirely online. Graduates of this program are prepared to work with children under the age of nine in a variety of positions, including as preschool teachers, group supervisors, and family child care provider. Students are also well-positioned to go on and complete a four-year degree in education at many universities in Pennsylvania.

This degree program is made up of 61 credit hours, which students typically take over the course of two years. Students also enroll in an early childhood internship at the end of this program in order to demonstrate the breadth of their knowledge and skills.

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16 Clarion University of Pennsylvania 54.39 48% Clarion, PA

Clarion University is a public institution based in northwest Pennsylvania. The school is a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and awards associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees through its on-campus and online programs. Clarion’s online associate of science in early childhood education program is a part-time program with classes that are taught asynchronously. Graduates are qualified to work as teachers, teacher’s assistants, and paraprofessionals. They can also transfer their credits and complete their bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education at Clarion.

This program consists of 60 hours of classes, half of which are in-major hours that cover subjects like curriculum development, language acquisition, literacy, and family-community relations. This program does not require a practicum experience. Online coursework is accessible through the Desire2Learn learning management system.

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17 Georgia Piedmont Technical College 53.58 20% Clarkston, GA

Georgia Piedmont Technical College, based in the city of Clarkston, educates students in the Atlanta area in addition to online students across the country. GPTC’s online associate in early childhood care and education program allows students to specialize in one of five concentrations: paraprofessional, program administration, infant/toddler development, school age youth care, or early childhood exceptionalities. GPTC is one of the few colleges in the nation that features such a wide range of specializations in its early childhood education.

Students earn GPTC’s associate degree in early childhood education by taking 72 hours of coursework. Coursework varies slightly based on the specialization, but students take many of the same courses in subjects like child development, classroom management, literacy, and creative arts for children. This program also requires a practicum internship experience related to a student’s concentration.

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18 Great Basin College 52.91 25% Elko, NV

Great Basin College is a community college with a main campus in Elko, Nevada and a WebCampus for online students. Great Basin’s online students take classes that are taught synchronously through interactive videos, which makes the school’s virtual offerings better-suited for distance learners who prefer extra structure. The college’s online associate of applied science in early childhood education program focuses on child development, family and community studies, cultural competency, curriculum creation, and assessment. Graduates of this program are thoroughly prepared to enter the workforce as assistants, teachers, and directors in child care centers and preschools.

Students take 60.5 credit hours of courses over a period of four semesters. They also complete a six-credit field experience at a local school or facility. Great Basin’s online students work closely with an academic advisor to plan out their degrees and stay on track.

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19 Fisher College 52.64 76% Boston, MA

Fisher College is a private school headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts that caters to associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree students, both in the classroom and online. Fisher Online has a variety of degree offerings, including an associate of arts in early childhood education, which is available in an accelerated format consisting of eight-week sessions taught throughout the year. This associate degree in early childhood education has two concentrations (i.e., traditional and director tracks), affording students the option to prepare to become educators or administrators in the field.

Fisher’s online students take 63 or 64 credit hours, depending on their chosen concentration. They also complete an internship at an early childhood education setting, which is usually done during their final semester. Once a student earns their associate degree, they also qualify for admission into Fisher’s bachelor’s of science in human services program.

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20 Community Care College 52.50 65% Tulsa, OK

Community Care College is a private, two-year school in Tulsa, Oklahoma that offers a select number of online degrees. The college’s associate of science in early childhood education program features fully-online curriculum and small class sizes, allowing distance learners to receive individualized attention from their professors. The curriculum covers a variety of topics, including child growth and development; language and literacy; and creative art, movement, and expression.

Community Care’s online early childhood education associate degree program is offered in an accelerated format where students can complete all of their required coursework in as few as 10 months. Graduates of this program are prepared to work at preschools, daycares, and learning facilities with children under six years of age. Notable employers of recent graduates include Kindercare and the Community Action Project.

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21 Southwestern Assemblies of God University 52.16 70% Waxahachie, TX

Southwestern Assemblies of God University is a private, Christian university based in Waxahachie, Texas, located about 30 miles south of Dallas. The university’s Christian affiliation and online degree options make it an attractive choice for distance students who are religious. SAGU’s online associate in early childhood education program features classes that are taught asynchronously and extensive support services for virtual students, including counseling and career services. Students in SAGU’s early childhood education program learn about the foundations of education for young learners, including courses in children’s literature, child psychology, and theories and principles of learning. Graduates of this 60-hour program are prepared to work at public and private organizations that work with children. Distance learners are also required to complete 12 hours of classes related to biblical study.

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22 Bay Mills Community College 51.96 23% Brimley, MI

Bay Mills Community College is a tribal community college located on the Bay Mills Indian Reservation in Brimley, Michigan. BMCC’s online associate of arts in early childhood education program focuses on preparing students to work at Native American head start facilities and to meet the unique needs of children in tribal communities. This online early childhood education associate degree program is a great fit for students across the country who wish to work within Native American communities. BMCC is also developing a fully-online bachelor’s degree program in early childhood education.

BMCC’s early childhood education students complete 64 hours of classes, including foundational education classes and coursework related to cultural awareness and native history. Students typically complete this program in two years and are eligible to take the child development associate exam to further boost their credentials.

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23 Dawson Community College 51.69 61% Glendive, MT

Dawson Community College is a two-year college located in eastern Montana. The school is a member of the Montana University System. DCC has multiple online offerings, including an associate of applied science in early childhood education program. Coursework in this program is delivered to students through video conferencing software and is accessible asynchronously and synchronously.

This 60-hour program covers the essentials of early childhood education. Students also choose from a wide variety of professional electives, including American Sign Language, educational psychology, and instructional technology. Distance learners are required to complete a one-credit hour internship experience but can carry out up to six credit hours of practicum experiences, depending on their other elective coursework. In-state and out-of-state distance learners at DCC pay the same tuition rate.

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24 Tallahassee Community College 49.46 56% Tallahassee, FL

Tallahassee Community College is a public, two-year college that belongs to the Florida College System. TCC currently offers five degree programs in the fields of education, environmental science, and criminal justice that can be completed entirely online. TCC’s online associate of science in early childhood development, education, and development is well-suited for distance learners who want to work with pre-kindergarten students. This program teaches students the fundamentals of cognition, development, and emotional growth in young learners.

Distance learners in this program complete 60 hours of coursework and must maintain a 2.0 GPA in order to graduate. 15 of these hours are general education courses and the remaining 45 are major-centered courses. Graduates of this program are prepared to work at or manage a variety of childcare facilities.

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25 Fayetteville Technical Community College 48.99 18% Fayetteville, NC

Fayetteville Technical Community College is a public, two-year school located about an hour south of Raleigh, North Carolina. The college currently offers 15 degree programs in the areas of business, education, hospitality, criminal justice, and health care that can be completed entirely online. FTCC’s fully-online associate of applied science in early childhood education degree program qualifies graduates to work at a variety of childcare organizations as teachers and paraprofessionals. Students in this program choose from three concentrations: early childhood, early childhood administration, and early child preschool.

Students typically complete FTCC’s online early childhood education program over the course of five semesters and take a total of 64 course credits. During their last semester, distance learners participate in a capstone practicum, which involves working in a childcare setting under the supervision of a seasoned professional.

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CAREER PATHS

The most common path for graduates of an online early childhood education associate degree program is teaching in a preschool or four-year-old kindergarten setting. Other roles include serving as a teacher’s assistant. ECE professionals must be caring, compassionate, knowledgeable, and able to work with young children and families in a positive way.

Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers provide young children (typically under the age of four) with an early foundation in academics, teaching them basic math, reading, and spelling. Teachers help grow children’s’ social skills and assist in their mental, emotional, physical, and social development.

Median Annual Salary – $28,790
Projected Growth Rate – 7%

Teacher's Assistant

These professionals provide assistance to preschool and kindergarten teachers, typically helping them maintain control over a room full of energetic, young children. An associate degree online in early childhood education prepares teaching assistants to provide one-on-one instruction to students and help organize classroom activities.

Median Annual Salary – $25,410
Projected Growth Rate – 6%

Childcare Worker

Rather than serving in a traditional classroom, childcare workers engage young children in other settings, such as a home or childcare center. In addition to attending to basic needs, they aid in the development of children at a critical age.

Median Annual Salary – $21,170
Projected Growth Rate – 5%

EDUCATIONAL PATHS

An online associate degree in early childhood education prepares you for undergraduate studies, which in return, will prepare you for more advanced positions. An associate degree is sufficient to serve as a preschool teacher or teacher’s assistant, but most states require a four-year degree to teach kindergarten through third grade. Earning an associate degree in early childhood education will allow you to easily transition into a bachelor’s program.

Early Childhood Education: A bachelor’s degree in early childhood education allows you to qualify for jobs as a teacher for children from birth to third grade. These programs represent the most seamless transition for learners who already hold an early childhood education online associate degree from an accredited institution.

Elementary Education: Bachelor’s programs in elementary education prepare students to teach children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Teacher certification, which is required in most states, is a key component of these programs.

Special Education: With a bachelor’s degree in special education, you’ll be prepared to provide instruction to children, teenagers, and young adults with special needs. Special education professionals may work with children as young as three and adults as old as 21.

Library Science: Many individuals with an early childhood education associate degree transfer into library science, where they study to become librarians in a K-12 or community library setting. These programs focus on reading and literacy, along with the use of technology and best practices to help students access information.

ASSOCIATE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION SALARY

Salaries for students with an online associate degree in early childhood education will vary depending on the position, location, professional experience, and level of education. The table below features data from Payscale that reflects the salaries you can expect for various positions depending on your experience.

Early Childhood Education Careers by Experience

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20 years)
Preschool Teacher $27,000 $25,560 $27,270 $29,430
Childcare Worker $21,000 $20,370 $20,790 $23,730
Teacher’s Assistant $23,000 $21,850 $24,150 $26,910
Head Start Instructor $29,000 $27,260 $29,000 $33,640
Day Care Coordinator $20,000 $18,800 $20,200 $22,800

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Professional organizations are important to early childhood education online associate degree holders. Organizations allow graduates to remain engaged in the field. These groups offer valuable networking opportunities, continuing education opportunities, conferences, career services, and various other resources that can help you in your career. Below is a list of some of the most popular organizations for individuals who have an associate degree in online early childhood education.

Despite the media reports on the rising costs of higher education, it is possible to earn an affordable early childhood education associate degree. First, students should complete the FAFSA form, which will help you determine if you are eligible for any federal grants, subsidized loans, or work-study support. There are also numerous scholarships available for students looking to enter the early childhood education field, so be sure to check with your program or search online for additional support to finance your education.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.