Best Online Associate in Human Services Programs

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleAssociatein Human Services2017
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The multidisciplinary field of ‘human services’ is dedicated to three overarching goals: assisting people in need using applied knowledge and best-practice methods; placing equal emphasis on prevention of and solutions to common societal problems; and improving the quality of life of as many assistance-seeking people as possible. At the collegiate level, degree programs in this field explore the various tools, organizations and theories guiding today’s human services systems. Students also learn how to encourage and motivate vulnerable people to become independent and less reliant on institutionalized assistance through education, employment and increased self-worth.

Most careers in human services are attainable with a high school diploma or less, although positions often require extensive on-the-job training. An associate degree in human services program equips students with the skills, knowledge and insights to assist people with different problems and issues. Courses cover a wide range of subjects, including sociology, anthropology, economics, history, psychology and urban studies. Associate in human services degree pathways also typically include internships, which allow students to receive supervised, hands-on training from experienced professionals. Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their associate degree in human services online, rather than in a classroom. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, often leading to the same number of post-degree job opportunities. The asynchronous (or self-paced) format and flexible, study-from-home schedule are ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other important commitments.

Learn more about what you can do with an online associate degree in human services and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.


An associate degree in human services will prepare students for this demanding ― yet highly rewarding ― professional pathway. The curriculum will focus on how human services have evolved over the years, as well as the individuals and ideas that have impacted the way people receive social assistance. Internships also give students the opportunity to apply what they have learned to real-world problems in working facilities.


Online associate degree programs offer a flexible, easily accessible alternative to traditional college education. Students can download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their home computer. Current technology also enables them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities.


Although some careers in human services (such as social work) require at least a bachelor’s degree, those who leave school with an associate in human services will be qualified to fulfill various roles in the field. Common job titles include social and human service assistants, social and community service managers, corrections officers and youth counselors, as well as clerks, office administrators and other clerical personnel that work in offices. The associate degree will also serve as a stepping-stone for those who plan to advance in their education and pursue a bachelor’s degree.


Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online associate degree in human services programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online associate in human services, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Bismarck State College 74.88 59% Bismarck, ND

Located in North Dakota and boasting an enrollment of over 3,500 students, Bismarck State College is the third largest institution in the North Dakota University System. The college offers 20 degree programs completely online, all of which prepare students for entry into their designated field. Nearly half the student population of BSM participates in an online degree program. BSM's online associate degree in human services is a 60-credit program that a full-time student can complete in two years.

Students particularly enjoy the the program's flexibility, which allows learners to match their class choices and interests within the field of human services. Since many different types of job opportunities are available in the field, students tailor their class choices to meet specialized needs. Students choose between asynchronous or synchronous classes, all of which are offered at the same per-credit-hour fee whether or not the student is considered a North Dakota resident.

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2 Columbia College 67.86 42% Columbia, MO

Though Columbia College’s main campus is located in Columbia, Missouri, the institution has campuses all over the country and online, allowing the school to serve over 29,000 students across the United States. The college offers 27 accredited degrees completely online and the school's programs are notably affordable. In fact, Columbia’s 60-credit programs cost about half that of similar programs at nonprofit, private institutions.

One such program is Columbia's associate in science in human services degree. This degree program takes a total of 60 credit hours to complete and, with a full-time class load, it can be completed in two years. The institution allows the students to take breaks from the program if needed — say for military leave or a family commitment — and pick up where they left off. Columbia's human services program is designed to provide students with the empirical knowledge and skill set needed for a career in fields such as counseling and advocacy.

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3 Thomas Edison State College 67.62 58% Trenton, NJ

Dedicated to serving adult students, Thomas Edison State College provides flexible learning formats for the mature student who would not otherwise be able to obtain a college degree. One of the ways the institution achieves this is through its array of online program offerings. Thomas Edison's programs are designed to help students excel in their chosen field. The school's online associate degree in human services is tailored to meet the needs of learners already working in the human services field. This 60-hour program is set up so that students can easily transfer into a bachelor’s program for human services.

Thomas Edison’s associate in human services includes a capstone requirement, which can be completed through full-time employment within the field, volunteer experience, or by way of an internship. The program includes required courses in the fields of psychology and sociology along with several cultural diversity classes aimed at assisting students in becoming more familiar with populations they may encounter in the field.

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4 Madisonville Community College 65.95 44% Madisonville, KY

One of the fastest growing community colleges in the country, Madisonville Community College is located in Madisonville, Kentucky and serves over 4,500 students. As part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, MCC’s community connections provide great value to students in the form of multiple campuses on which to study and job opportunities. The institution offers several online programs, including an online associate degree in human services.

This 64-credit hour program can be completed in two years. Students have the option to complete courses at any institution that is a member of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (note that 25% of all course work must be completed at MCC). Additionally, 24 credit hours must be taken on campus. MCC's associate in human services online is designed to ready students for an entry-level job opportunity in a variety of settings under the human services umbrella. To gain real world access in the field — and to graduate — students are required to complete four hours of clinical field instruction or cooperative learning.

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5 Coastline Community College 65.24 37% Fountain Valley, CA

Located in Fountain Valley, California, Coastline Community College has three campuses in California and a robust selection of online course offerings. The institution provides a wealth of services to military students, including health services and financial assistance.

CCC offers students a number of online degree options. For example, its 60-credit-hour online associate in human services is offered completely online (though students may be required to take exams in person). Transfer students can use their classes from other institutions to count for credit, although 12 credits from CCC are required to graduate. The program requires 60-credit hours total, and students must complete a few classes in multicultural and global studies, including courses on international business and foreign language.

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6 Excelsior College 63.33 N/A N/A Albany, NY

A leader in adult education, Excelsior College has provided adult learners with convenient, flexible higher education options for over 45 years. This completely online college offers flexible, affordable degree programs and certificates in five colleges: business and technology, human services, liberal arts, nursing, and public service. Excelsior offers distance learners an online associate degree in human service, as well as a bachelor’s degree, and a master's program.

Excelsior's associate degree in human services online is designed to ready students for positions in their intended field. Students pursuing this degree will gain the knowledge and skills needed for a job in a variety of healthcare settings. The 60-credit program is designed to fit into the busy lifestyle of the adult learner. Students can choose a full class load or opt for a slower pace and take one class at a time. Classes are offered in an accelerated, eight-week format and include subjects like professionalism in healthcare and medical terminology.

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7 Brescia University 61.31 46% Owensboro, KY

Brescia University’s online programs are specifically designed with adults in mind. The institution provides associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in 14 concentrations from human services to political science. The institution’s online associate degree in human services is a 60-credit program designed to fit the working professional’s busy schedule. This program is 100% online and students that take on a full course load can finish it in two years.

Brescia University’s human services degree focuses on several areas within the healthcare field, including information theory, case management, and crisis management. Provided core requirements are met, students tailor their degree plan to fit their interests. Additionally, students can transfer up to 42 credits from other regionally accredited institutions. Once obtained, Brescia's associate degree in human services may be used to pursue an online bachelor’s degree in one of four concentrations: social work, psychology, integrated studies, and theology.

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8 Gateway Community and Technical College 60.60 46% Florence, KY

Focused on helping adult students find alternatives to the traditional classroom, Gateway Community and Technical College provides flexible, adaptive online programs of study that easily fit the busy lifestyle of the working adult. At Gateway, students earn their degree completely online and the institution's online programs have been ranked among the best and most affordable in the state of Kentucky.

Gateway's online associate degree in human services is geared toward providing students with the skills they need to pursue an entry-level position in fields such as mental health or community health, or to work in a private office.

Created to seamlessly work around busy schedules, learners at Gateway choose to take classes at the pace that fits their needs. Gateway’s human services associate degree online is a 65-credit program that may be completed in as little as six semesters. Classes focus on subjects including group dynamics, sociology, and hands-on learning in the student’s chosen field within the human services realm.

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9 Great Basin College 59.64 25% Elko, NV

Located in rural Nevada, Great Basin College serves ten Nevada counties and borders five additional states, including California and Oregon. The school offers affordable career, technical, and academic education to about 3,800 students. Additionally, the institution provides online classes and programs tailored specifically to the unique needs of the distance learner. When a student pursues Great Basin's associate degree in human services online, that student never needs to attend a single class on campus.

This human services degree also encompasses certificates of concentration as well. While pursuing an associate degree, students can simultaneously earn a substance abuse counselor training certificate, which paves a solid foundation for a student's entry into the field. This human services associate degree is a 60-credit program.

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10 Alexandria Technical & Community College 59.17 67% Alexandria, MN

One of two technical colleges in Minnesota, Alexandria Technical & Community College boasts the highest student retention rate among the two. Understanding the need for flexible schedules, ATCC offers several online degree programs for students with busy schedules. The school's associate in human services online, which can be completed 100% online or in a blended format where students attend classes both online and on campus.

ATCC's associate in human services focuses on readying students for jobs in the field. Coursework includes life span psychology and community social welfare services. Designed for students working in the human services field and those interested in a future career in the field alike, this 60-credit program also includes practical learning through internships and shadowing. Students are required to complete and pass a background check before any internship can begin. Once completed, students may either use the associate degree to gain employment in the human services field or choose to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program.

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11 Hazard Community and Technical College 58.93 34% Hazard, KY

Of the nearly 3,500 students attending Hazard Community & Technical College, 1,400 participate in distance learning through online courses and programs. The Kentucky-based college is a part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which includes 16 colleges and over 70 campuses throughout the state. The college also provides many online programs to accommodate distance learners. Students complete degrees completely online and in a traditional 16-week format. Also available is the school’s “on demand” schedule, which allows students to complete courses asynchronously in a range of accelerated formats.

The college’s online associate degree in human services is a 65-credit program that may be tailored to learner interests. Students choose to pursue many concentrations within the field, including substance abuse, child welfare, elderly care, and family relationships.

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12 Elizabethtown Community and Technical College 58.81 33% Elizabethtown, KY

Part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College provides students with access to several campuses and locations, and serves students throughout twelve counties — and, via distance learning, far beyond. The school's online associate degree in human services is designed to provide students with an array of career opportunities within the field, including substance abuse, community health, elderly care, and more. Tuition is affordable and special financial assistance options are open to military personnel.

The human services program is a 64-credit hour program that includes general education, human services theory, and practical application classes. This associate degree can be earned in as little as four 16-week semesters. Distance learning includes access to classes online and through ITV, the institution's interactive television learning module.

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13 Hopkinsville Community College 58.21 37% Hopkinsville, KY

One of the benefits of attending a college in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System is the access to an array of amenities and resources of a large college system. Hopkinsville Community College offers students this benefit along with a large selection of online courses and programs. In turn, students pursuing an associate degree from HCC can then transfer seamlessly into a four year university. Learners who choose not to transfer can also use their associate degree to gain access to the job market in their chosen field.

HCC offers a human services associate degree online, where students can use their degree to obtain employment in a variety of settings. The human services degree available at HCC is broad and comprehensive so that students have access to jobs in many markets. Students who take 15 to 18 credit hours per semester can complete this 60-credit program in as little as two years.

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14 Niagara County Community College 56.79 40% Sanborn, NY

Located just minutes from Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, Niagara County Community College is situated on 250 acres in rural upstate New York. NCCC is dedicated to meeting current and future student needs, and the institution does so by providing many different learning options, from traditional classroom settings to night classes and online programs. This online associate degree in human services can be achieved 100% online.

Niagara's 64-credit hour human services program is designed to prepare students for further education at a four-year university. At NCCC, students in the associate degree program for human services focus on five outcomes: familiarity with human services as a field, an understanding of the grief and loss process, professional ethics in the field, practical application of theory, and a demonstrated understanding of research in the field. The program also offers enrollees first-hand, professional on-site experience through practical application courses.

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15 Big Sandy Community and Technical College 52.98 25% Prestonsburg, KY

Kentucky’s system of community and technical colleges offer students some of the best learning environments in the country. Located in Prestonburg, Kentucky, Big Sandy Community and Technical College provides a wealth of resources to its students. Geared toward the busy adult student, Big Sandy’s online programs are flexible, convenient, and affordable. The institution’s online associate degree in human services prepares students for a career in a variety of fields like community health, elderly care, and educational services.

Much like the other colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Big Sandy’s human services program can be completed 100% online. The institution’s program is specifically designed to ready students for a career working with the disabled and elderly. Courses include topics such as nursing assistant skills, values of human services, and working with disabilities. Students who enroll in the program receive a certificate to apply toward an AAS degree in human services.

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16 Owensboro Community and Technical College 51.19 44% Owensboro, KY

Owensboro Community and Technical College is another highly rated Kentucky Community and Technical College System institution. The school offers a wealth of degrees on campus and online, and students enjoy access to over 70 locations thanks to the school's extensive campus system. This online associate degree in human services is available to OCTC students just as it is to the entire Kentucky system student population.

The human services degree focuses specifically on elderly care and care for people with disabilities. This provides students the opportunity to work with elderly in assisted living facilities or in their homes. Additionally, students are equipped for caring for the mentally disabled. The 60-credit hour program can be completed in two years and students have the option to participate in courses 100% online or at one of the many campuses available through the Kentucky system. Online students are provided all the services and amenities of a traditional student, including financial aid, student advisers, and career services.

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17 Ivy Tech Community College 49.52 26% Indianapolis, IN

Committed to providing students with a proper education in some of the job market’s most lucrative fields, Ivy Tech Community College offers several on-campus and distance learning programs in health care, technology, and business and public services. Additionally, students can also use their coursework to transfer to a four-year institution. Ivy Tech offers several options in the field of human services, including an associate degree online.

Ivy Tech's online associate degree in human services is designed to help students prepare for a career in childcare, substance abuse, and long-term care facilities. Students are immersed in real-world experience from the beginning and engage in job shadowing and volunteering within their communities. Students also choose 15 credit hours from a list of statewide electives, which includes courses focused on counseling issues in substance abuse, women’s issues, and youth and family treatment. This 60-credit hour program can be completed in as little as two years.

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18 Bluegrass Community and Technical College 49.40 33% Lexington, KY

Located in the famous Kentucky city of Lexington, Bluegrass Community and Technical College brings together the performing arts and professional academics. Thanks to the institution's membership in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, learners have access to the best in resources and amenities. BCTC offers students several online programs from which to choose. The school's online associate in human services program is geared toward providing students with the knowledge and experience they need for an entry-level position within the discipline.

BCTC’s human services degree is the perfect segway into a bachelor’s program in psychology, sociology, or social work. Courses include subjects such as the values of human services in a contemporary society, clinical practices, and human services theory. The 64-credit hour program may be completed in as little as two years, though many students require an extra semester of study. Classes are offered in the traditional, 16-week format online as well as a “learn on demand” format which allows students to complete coursework in a brief five weeks.

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19 Elizabethtown College School of Continuing and Professional Studies 48.57 N/A N/A Elizabethtown, PA

Pennsylvania's Elizabethtown College of Continuing and Professional Studies is dedicated to providing educational opportunities for both the busy professional and the student looking to enter the job market armed with necessary skills and experience. Students have the option to complete one of seven online associate degrees in an accelerated, five week format. The institution’s human services associate degree is not only 100% online but also yields a smooth transition into a bachelor’s degree.

The program’s five week format makes it easy to obtain an associate degree in a short period of time, which enables students to get out into the workforce or obtain a bachelor’s degree quickly and affordably. Students in the human services associate degree online will take courses on subjects like community-based treatment, social issues, and marriage and family. The program focuses on how the human services field can help with societal issues. Students will be immersed in courses that promote best practices and practical application.

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20 Franklin Pierce University 48.21 50% Rindge, NH

A private, small institution grounded in the liberal arts, Franklin Pierce University is widely recognized as one of the best higher education institutions in New Hampshire. The institution is especially highlighted for its online programs, which offer adults a flexible alternative to the traditional classroom setting. Franklin Pierce’s liberal arts approach provides more than just job training — its educational approach is personalized to fit the needs and interests of the student. The university’s online associate degree in human services is rooted in community relations and the exploration of how social structure and counseling styles can help those in need.

The school's human services online associate degree is composed of six eight-week accelerated terms, which allow students to complete the program faster. Additionally, Franklin Pierce allows students to apply for credit for life or job experience applicable to the degree requirements, saving students both time and money. Learners explore a variety of fields under the human services umbrella including criminology, social work, and psychology.

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18 months to 2 years
Program Costs
$8,000 to $25,000 in annual tuition
Social Work, Sociology, Psychology, Substance Abuse Counseling, Family Counseling, and Economics


The coursework of an associate in human services degree program online will largely revolve around the fields of sociology, psychology and economics. Specific courses may include topics related to aging, cultural diversity, law and ethics, counseling and substance abuse/addiction. Courses in foreign language ― particularly Spanish ― are also usually offered. Concentrations at the associate level are somewhat rare, but programs may allow students to focus their studies on fields like youth and family services, substance abuse counseling, community outreach or corrections. Capstone research projects are also relatively uncommon, but students should expect at least one on-site internship or field experience during their two-year program.

It’s crucial to research the accreditation status of an MBA program before making a final decision. In the U.S., online associate degree in human services programs usually receive accreditation from the associate degree division of the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE). In addition to programmatic accreditation, make sure that the college or university has received regional or national accreditation.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the ‘community and social service’ sector (including human services) are expected to rise 10% between 2014 and 2024, resulting in a total of roughly 257,700 new positions. Comparatively, the average growth rate for all occupations currently sits at 6%.

The table below features a more detailed job growth breakdown for four common careers in human services.

Occupation Current Number of Jobs Projected Industry Growth (2014-24) Projected Number of New Jobs (2014-24)
Social and Human Service Assistants 386,600 11% 44,200
Correctional Officers and Bailiffs 474,800 4% 17,900
Health Educators and Community Health Workers 115,700 13% 15,600
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 91,700 4% 3,300

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)


Like unemployment rates, the earning potential of an employee with an MBA in sustainability will largely depend on their specific professional title. Other factors to consider include experience level, employer size and city/state of employment. The next table looks at career salary growth expectations for five of the most common job titles for sustainability MBA recipients.

Occupation Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (Less than 5 Years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years) Median Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Social/Human Service Assistant $29,000 $37,000 $33,000 $27,000
Case Manager $35,372 $39,971 $43,705 $57,457
Family Support Worker $29,854 $32,804 $30,619 $33,000
Community Support Specialist $31,443 $34,921 $37,649 $38,194
Corrections Officer $33,509 $38,753 $45,028 $49,189

Source: PayScale

As the table indicates, all five occupations experience minimal salary growth ― and in the case of social/human service assistants, a $2,000 loss in annual earnings after 20 years on the job. Case managers reported the highest rate of salary growth: a 62.4% increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Corrections officers placed second with 46.8% career salary growth, followed by community support specialists with 21.5% growth.

Career Opportunities

Those who earn an associate degree in human services online will be eligible for a wide range of entry-level positions. Three common career paths for these degree-holders are outlined in detail below.

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs: Correctional officers oversee prisons where convicted offenders are kept (also known as correctional facilities); they ensure safety, security and prisoner wellbeing throughout the facility. Bailiffs are responsible for maintaining order and safety in courtrooms during trials and other legal proceedings. Many human services associate degree recipients will be qualified for either of these positions with some on-the-job training.

Social and Human Service Assistants: These personnel provide services for people who need assistance in different areas, such as employment and financial support, education or counseling. According to the BLS, roughly 28% work in individual and family services; 20% are employed through state and local government agencies; and 16% offer their services in nursing and residential care facilities.

Health Educators and Community Health Workers: These employees work at the community level to educate people about topics like diet and nutrition, exercise, disease prevention and positive lifestyle choices. The associate degree track is perfect for community health workers, who collect different types of data from community members and use these findings to develop impactful education programs and services.

Profession Median Annual Salary Median Hourly Wage
Correctional Officers and Bailiffs $40,580 $19.51
Social and Human Service Assistants $30,830 $14.82
Health Educators and Community Health Workers $43,840 $21.08

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to human services is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for human services professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • National Organization for Human Services: The NOHS is home to the Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner, a voluntary credential that can help associate degree-holders boost their professional standing and advance in their careers. The organization also publishes a peer-reviewed online journal, sponsors six regional U.S. chapters and hosts an annual nationwide conference.
  • American Public Human Services Association: Established in 1930, the APHSA strives to create “better, healthier lives for children, adults, families and communities”. Membership options are available for individuals, associate members and industry partners; the association also maintains affiliate partnerships with nine other organizations working in the field of human services.
  • National Human Services Assembly: The NHSA is the organization behind the Extra Mile Pathway, a memorial in Washington DC honoring notable Americans in the human services field. Other projects include the National Reframing Human Services Initiative, the National Collaboration for Youth and the National Collaboration for Families.
Despite the relative affordability of online associate degree programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


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