Can I Get Financial Aid at an Online Christian College?
Yes, you can use money from both government and private sources to pay for a Christian online school!
While the separation of church and state means the government can't provide direct funding to religious schools, it doesn't prevent students from using federal financial aid at Christian colleges. However, only those schools that meet accreditation requirements and agree to adhere to federal laws are eligible to participate in the federal student aid program. This goes for online Christian colleges as well as on-campus ones.
In addition to government aid, you can also use private Christian scholarships, grants and loans to pay for your education. Keep reading for more information about each of these options, as well as advice on where to find financial aid for Christian students. Alternately, if you're interested in learning more about online faith-based education, see our ranking of the best online Christian colleges.
Grants are one of the best ways to pay for a Christian online school. That's because grants don't have to be repaid. The government offers Pell Grants to income-eligible students, but many online Christian schools have their own grant programs as well. Christian grants can have various criteria, such as church membership, ministry involvement or financial need.
Here are three grant examples:
- Christian Ministries Dependent Grant: Offered by Roberts Wesleyan College, this need-based grant is available to dependent students whose parents are employed full-time in Christian service. The grant provides $1,000 for the college's programs.
- Wesleyan Grant: The Wesleyan Grant provides $1,500 a year to students at Houghton College who regularly attend services within the Wesleyan Church. It is one of several grants offered to students who are enrolled at this college in Houghton, New York.
- Church Matching Grant: Several online Christian universities offer grant programs that match the contributions of a student's home church. For instance, Ohio Christian University matches up to $500 paid by a church on a student's behalf.
The Bible cautions in Proverbs that the borrower is slave to the lender, but many Christian students still rack up significant student debt by graduation. A 2017 report from Christianity Today noted that the average debt for students taking out loans at schools belonging to the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities was a little less than $30,000. Many evangelical leaders would even prefer to see Christian students attending a state school over a Christian school if it meant reducing debt; only 35 percent of those surveyed by the National Association of Evangelicals in 2016 said they would definitely encourage young people to attend a Christian school if doing so would mean incurring more debt.
That said, students loans play a crucial role in making higher education accessible, and they can be a smart financial tool if used wisely. While you can obtain student loans from the government or a bank, here are three other sources of Christian loans.
- America's Christian Credit Union: This nonprofit credit union offers up to $50,000 for an undergraduate education. A cosigner may be needed for these private loans, which are offered as lines of credit. They feature no origination fees and lower interest rates than what may be offered by for-profit financial institutions.
- Abeka Fund: Offered to students at Pensacola Christian College, the Abeka Fund extends low-interest loans to deserving students. The college offers both traditional and online degree programs, and eligible students may receive up to $5,000 per year for four years.
- Charles E. Schell Foundation: A number of schools offer interest-free loans thanks to funding from the Charles E. Schell Foundation. Cincinnati Christian University, which offers distance education degrees in partnership with Point University, is one of the online Christian universities that was awarded money by the foundation to establish a loan fund.
Before taking out any Christian loans, be sure to understand the terms and repayment schedule. If you find you're unable to make payments after graduation, a Christian debt consolidation program may be able to roll existing debt into a new loan with more manageable terms. For those working in ministry or church service, Christian debt forgiveness programs may be another option. For instance, the Presbyterian Church helps repay the loans of those who are involved in mission work.
Scholarships are similar to grants in that they don't have to be repaid. Many top online Christian colleges have scholarship programs, and you may also find Christian scholarships being offered by foundations and nonprofit organizations. Here are five of the many programs available to Christian students.
- InFaith Community Foundation Scholarship: Formerly known as the Lutheran Community Foundation Scholarship, this $5,000 award goes to one high school senior who is seeking a four-year degree at an accredited school and who is a member of a congregation that holds an active InFaith Organizational Fund.
- General Scholarship from The United Methodist Church: Offered through the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, this scholarship provides up to $1,000 to undergraduate students and up to $2,000 for graduate students. Applicants must be active members of the United Methodist Church for at least one year and have a GPA of 2.5.
- Rhonda Brock Memorial Endowed Scholarship: LeTourneau University is one of the best online Christian universities in the country, and it offers this scholarship specifically for working adults pursuing a nontraditional undergraduate or graduate degree. The award amount can vary.
- John W. McDevitt (Fourth Degree) Scholarship: The Knights of Columbus offer several scholarship programs for students planning to attend a Catholic college or university. The John W. McDevitt (Fourth Degree) Scholarship is one of them; it awards $1,500 to incoming freshmen who are either members of the Knights of Columbus or a member's wife or child.
- National Presbyterian College Scholarship: Each year, anywhere from 25-30 students receive this award, which provides up to $2,500 to incoming freshmen at a Presbyterian college or university. Applicants have to be active church members, demonstrate financial need and have a GPA of at least 2.5.
Other Forms of Christian Financial Aid
Grants, loans and scholarships aren't the only way to pay for an education at the best online Christian colleges. Other forms of financial aid for Christian students are available as well.
For instance, even if you're enrolled in an online Christian school, you may be eligible for a work-study program if you live near campus. Schools like Central Christian College of Kansas have student job positions that can help offset tuition costs.
Meanwhile, other top online Christian colleges offer discounted tuition to certain students. Liberty University, one of the largest online Christian universities in the country, provides a 15 percent discount to students affiliated with partnering corporations and a 15 percent discount to Canadian students enrolled in the school's online programs.
Some churches, such as the Presbyterian Church, help repay student loans for those who volunteer for missionary work or similar roles. Fellowships and teaching assistant positions are also options for financial aid at online Christian colleges. Don't overlook the availability of payment plans at your college, either. While not direct financial assistance, these plans can make paying back the cost of a degree program easier and less stressful.
How to Apply for Christian Financial Aid
Because so many of the best online Christian colleges participate in the federal student aid program, the best first step for finding Christian financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly called the FAFSA.
The FAFSA is a form that the government uses to determine eligibility for federal grant and loan programs. Information from the FAFSA gets forwarded to certain schools of your choosing, and those institutions use this information to determine which grant and scholarship awards they can distribute to their student body. Check out our Ultimate Guide to the FAFSA for more information.
The next step is to contact the institutions on your list of Christian colleges that you wish to attend. Many top online Christian universities have financial aid counselors who can walk you through the process of applying for assistance and may be able to direct you to additional resources.
Finally, reach out to your church and pastor. Some faith communities may have Christian financial aid available, particularly for those who are planning a career in ministry. Others may not be able to provide funds directly, but they may still be able to connect students with other faith-based organizations that do offer aid.
For more information, visit the How to Pay section of OnlineColleges.com. There, you can find plenty of additional tips, strategies and information that can help you navigate the complex world of financial aid.