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Top Financial Aid Questions to Ask When Choosing a School

by South University
December 31, 2018
A photo of a student shaking hands with a support professional, perhaps a financial aid counselor.

Once you’ve selected your top school and found the right degree program for you, the question of how to pay for college is still top of mind for almost every student. Your school’s financial aid team will be key in helping you apply for financial aid and create a financial plan that fits your needs. Here are some of the critical financial aid questions to ask this college department.

What types financial aid options are offered?

Among the most obvious financial aid questions to ask a college, this is also the most important. Below are common types of financial aid for college students your school should mention.

Federal grants: Grants are a form of a federal financial aid that eligible students do not have to repay as long as they remain in school. “A student may have to pay back all or part of a grant if they withdraw from school before finishing an enrollment period,” explains South University Student Services Manager, Brent Whigham.

Federal student loans: “Federal student loans are borrowed funds that must be paid back to the Department of Education, with interest,” says Whigham. “Students are required to begin making payments 6 months after graduating, leaving school, or dropping below half time enrollment.”

To apply for federal student loans and grants, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

State aid: State-funded financial aid may be available for some students. Eligibility varies based on the individual state requirements.

Institutional scholarships & grants: Schools may offer institutional grants and college scholarships based on merit or need. Speak with your school to see what’s currently available.

Outside sources: Many non-profit and private organizations offer grants, scholarships, and loans that can help you to pay for college. Even your employer may offer tuition assistance or reimbursement. While many legitimate grants, college scholarships, and lenders exist, do be suspicious of offers that seem too good to be true and particularly those that require a fee. “Be cautious of online scams and consult with a financial aid counselor at your school if you are concerned with a certain online offer,” recommends Whigham.

Who will assist me with financial planning and paperwork?

Being unsure of how to pay for college is normal, and you shouldn’t be left to figure it out on your own. Make sure your school offers a dedicated financial aid advisor who can walk you through applying for financial aid, help you understand your financial aid options, and answer questions as they come up. At South University, this person will be your Student Finance Counselor, who will support you through all aspects of the financial process.

What transfer of credit options are available?

Transfer of credit can be a great way to reduce the cost of your education. Your school may accept transfer credit from:

  • Prior college credit
  • Military experience
  • Military training
  • Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DSST)
  • College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
  • American Council on Education (ACE) certifications

At South University, our admissions team will work you with to secure prior transcripts and any related documentation that we can evaluate for potential transfer credit.

What benefits are offered to military members, veterans, and family members?

For military personnel, veterans, and military family members, this is a must-ask financial aid question. Eligible institutions may offer programs such as Tuition Assistance, GI Bill® benefits*, the Yellow Ribbon program, and more.

“South University is proud to accept most military benefits available. Finance counselors can direct students to resources to determine what benefits may be available,” says Whigham. “We are also glad to offer a 10% tuition scholarship for qualifying military personnel, veterans, and active duty military spouses.”

When will I find out about and receive a financial aid award?

If you complete the FAFSA online, you may receive a Student Aid Report with basic details about financial aid eligibility in as little as 3 days. For a paper FAFSA submission, this may take up to 3 weeks. If you entered a school code in your FAFSA, that school will receive your FAFSA information and, depending on their processes, should be able to discuss your college financial aid options with you shortly.

Timelines for dispensing aid vary by school. At South University, once all of your documents are on file and your financial aid plan is approved, your aid typically pays around 4 weeks from the start of class. You can check financial aid status anytime on the My Finances page of your online portal.

Connect with the Financial Aid Team at South University
Our financial aid counselors are here to answer all of your college financial aid questions. To speak with our admissions and financial aid teams, request information online or call us at 1.888.444.3404.

*GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/Trademark_Terms_of_Use.asp.

by South University
December 31, 2018
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How the GI Bill® Can Help You Advance Your Education

by South University
December 7, 2018
A photo of two South University nursing students in their commencement garb.

Many military members know that the GI Bill®* can help them pursue their education, but the details of GI Bill® benefits and eligibility are lesser known. So what is the GI Bill®? First passed in 1944 and since revised many times, the GI Bill® encompasses multiple education benefit programs provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While each program’s eligibility and benefits vary, over the years, the GI Bill® has helped millions of qualifying servicemembers, veterans, and their families further their education, training, and skills.

GI Bill® Benefits for College Degrees

Military members and veterans can use GI Bill® benefits for undergraduate degree or advanced degree programs. You can also use the GI Bill® to pay for multiple degrees if you have remaining benefits after your first degree. For example, you might pursue an undergraduate degree in Psychology and then a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

In cases where the GI Bill® does not fully cover college tuition, Active Duty, Reservists, or National Guard members may qualify for Department of Defense (DoD) funding such as Tuition Assistance or Top-Up benefits, which can cover part or all of the remaining tuition costs. Some states and/or schools also offer military scholarships/grants. Beyond these DoD and VA education benefits, you may qualify for financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

When using DoD or VA benefits, it is important to know your benefit limits and that eligibility may depend on successful course completion.

Major GI Bill® Benefit Programs & Eligibility

Post-9/11 GI Bill®: The Post-9/11 GI Bill® provides up to 36 months of education benefits for servicemembers who have served on active duty for at least 90 days after 9/10/2001 or were discharged with a service connected disability after 30 consecutive days. Honorably discharged veterans awarded a Purple Heart after 9/10/2001 can also qualify.

Individuals entitled to 100% of this benefit may have their entire cost of tuition and fees covered and paid directly to your school. In addition, you may qualify for a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) and book and supplies stipend. Active duty members may be able to transfer unused benefits to a dependent or spouse. See www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp for more information.

Yellow Ribbon Program: The Yellow Ribbon Program can assist veterans with 100% Post-9/11 GI Bill® eligibility whose tuition and fees exceeds the VA’s annual cap. Once you reach this cap, the VA and the participating school each cover half of the remaining tuition and fees until the new cap year begins (August 1 – July 31). (Select South University programs may be subject to a maximum yearly tuition & fee reimbursement.) Fry Scholarship recipients as of 8/1/2018 are now eligible to participate in the Yellow Program. Child transferees of active duty servicemembers may be eligible if the servicemember is qualified at the 100% rate. See www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/yellow_ribbon.asp for more information.

Montgomery GI Bill® Active Duty: Servicemembers who have paid into this benefit while on active duty may have a significant portion of their tuition and fees covered. This program can provide up to 36 months of education benefits paid directly to you, so you will need to work with your school on a financial plan. To qualify, servicemembers must have an honorable discharge and meet other eligibility requirements set by the VA. For more information, visit www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/montgomery_bill.asp.

Montgomery GI Bill® Selected Reserve: This program provides up to 36 months of education benefits. It is intended for members of the Selected Reserve and National Guard who have enlisted or re-enlisted in the Selected Reserve with an obligation to serve 6 or more years after June 30, 1985. To be eligible, you must complete initial active duty for training (IDAT). Eligibility expires upon leaving the Selected Reserve. This benefit is also paid to you monthly, so you’ll need to work with your school on a financial plan. For more information, visit www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/mgib_sr.asp.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment: This program supports eligible servicemembers and veterans with service-connected disabilities. Designed to help you prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment, it may cover the entire cost of tuition and fees. Before receiving this benefit, you will meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to develop an education plan. For eligibility details or to contact a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/eligibility_and_entitlement.asp

Fry Scholarship: This scholarship provides the Post 9/11 GI Bill® to children of servicemembers and surviving spouses of Armed Forces members who died in the line of duty after 9/10/2001. Qualifying individuals may receive up to 36 months of benefits at the 100% level as well as a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) and a book and supplies stipend. For more information, visit www.benefits.va.gov/gibill or www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/docs/factsheets/fry_scholarship.pdf.

Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA): DEA provides educational assistance to spouses and dependents of veterans who have died or are totally and permanently disabled as a result of their service. This benefit pays directly to the student, so you’ll need to work with your school on a financial plan. For more information, visit www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/survivor_dependent_assistance.asp.

Using Your GI Bill® Benefits at South University

To learn about using military and VA education benefits at South University, visit our Military Benefits page or view our Military Brochure. When you request information online or call South University at 1.888.444.3404, we’ll connect you with a team member who specializes in supporting military students as they prepare to pursue a college degree.

*GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

by South University
December 7, 2018
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Going Back to School as an Adult - Overcoming Your Fears

by South University
April 9, 2018

Earning a degree is no doubt different for adult learners than for those fresh out of high school, but being an adult learner has it positives. At a younger age, maybe you were less confident about what you wanted or had to delay degree completion for personal reasons. Now, you’re at a different time in your life with more defined career goals, life skills and experience—all things that will come in handy in as you pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree.

If you are looking start or finish your degree but have fears about going back to school, know that it is possible to achieve your academic goals. Below, we compare four common concerns of potential students to the realities of going back to school as an adult learner.

Myth #1: You Don’t Have Room in Your Schedule

Balancing a job, family, friends, and school won't be easy, but many before you have a found a way. With the right amount of planning, you can too. When talking with school representatives, ask how many hours you can expect to spend in class and doing class work. Then, create a plan for how to divide your time each day. Simply knowing you have a plan can go a long way.

Beyond this plan, you'll need support from those around you. Before you start classes, let your family know that they'll have to pitch in a little more while you’re in school. Then, talk with your friends about why you’re continuing your education and how much this means to you, so that they can offer emotional support and will understand if you miss the occasional get-together.

If earning your undergraduate or graduate degree could enhance your current career, share your plans with your boss. Hopefully, they’ll offer encouragement and maybe flexibility in your work schedule. (Plus, there's always the possibility of tuition assistance.) During classes, one way to save time is by relating your schoolwork to your job where possible. For example, for a class assignment, you might choose to create a business proposal that could be reused for your job.

Myth #2: You've Been Out of School Too Long

In reality, your life and work experience will likely benefit you as a student. Instructors appreciate adult learners who ask informed questions and bring real-world examples to class discussions. Besides that, if you've participated in continuing education courses, learned new software, or had to prepare for presentations at work, then you’ve already been using many of the same skills you’ll need in school.

Today, nontraditional students are becoming the norm and schools often design undergraduate and graduate degree programs with adult learners in mind. As you research schools, ask how many adult learners are currently enrolled. See if they offer an orientation class to ease you into the swing of things or provide support staff who will be readily available to answer your questions. Once you’re in school, get to know other adult learners; you can swap study and scheduling tips, and make valuable contacts for after you graduate.

Myth #3: You’re Not Skilled Enough with Computers or New Technology

Orientation classes can help you get up to speed on the software you’ll need, and schools commonly offer software tutorials, tutoring, and webinars for those who want extra training. Even in online programs, these days, online classrooms are designed with ease of use as a key goal for everyone, regardless of technological expertise. So many careers require computer skills today anyway, so, while it might sound stressful, brushing up on your tech knowledge will be good for you.

Myth #4: You Won’t be Able to Manage the Cost of Your Education

An important aspect of returning to school is knowing what return on investment to expect from your program. Tools like the government’s Occupational Outlook Handbook can offer helpful details about the value of education in specific fields. Beyond this, try finding programmatic alumni stories and talking to your manager and others in the field to understand how a degree might help you.

If you’re worried about the cost of degree completion, make sure you explore all options—including federal financial aid, employer tuition assistance, military benefits, and scholarships from private and public organizations. By transferring credit from past college experience, you may be able to save time and money. As you narrow in on your top schools, take the time to talk to their finance counselors about transferring credit and other options for making a degree program more affordable.

Moving Forward with Confidence

Remember, age can play in your favor when going back to school. Life and work experience often teach lessons and skills that young students rarely possess, things like time management and not being afraid to seek help when it’s needed. As an adult, you’re likely more organized, responsible, and motivated to get your degree.

Along with offering a full array of academic resources and dedicated support staff for every student, South University's campus and online programs are designed to accommodate the schedules of busy, working adults. To learn more about how we support adult learners across all undergraduate and graduate degree programs, contact us today.

Note: This blog was originally published October 6, 2016 and updated April 9, 2018.

by South University
April 9, 2018
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Quick Tips for Transferring College Credit to a New School

by Jared Newnam
November 10, 2016

Quick Tips for Transferring College Credit to a New School

When it comes to college, not everyone finds the right fit the first time. Maybe your degree program no longer excites you or your current school isn’t as supportive or flexible as you’d hoped. Perhaps you took a break from college, and you’ve decided to finish what you started. Whatever the case, transferring college credits to a new school is sometimes the best choice for completing your degree.

The following tips can help you create a plan for transferring your credits and finishing your degree.

  1. Set aside time to research programs and contact your target schools.
    Once you pick what type of program you want, you’ll need to see what schools offer the program near you on campus or online. If you’re switching schools but want to stay in a similar program, be aware that program names may differ slightly across institutions. You’ll need to dig into the program details or ask an admissions representative to ensure you understand the program outcomes.

    While you’ll likely find programmatic information online, everyone’s academic history is unique, so you’ll need to speak to the admissions team about your eligibility for transferring credits. Your easiest and fastest option will be talking on the phone or in-person to avoid a long, complex email chain. Make sure to come prepared for these conversations by gathering documentation, including transcripts, to make sure you can prove you’ve completed courses or training.

  2. Ask schools about their transfer policies.
    Transfer of credit policies and procedures will vary by school and often involve minimum grade requirements. Schools typically require that courses you transfer for credit have similar descriptions and outcomes to the courses they offer. In addition, some schools may be able to take your diploma, certificate or associates degree and apply those credits towards a bachelor’s or even master’s level degree program.

    Sometimes two schools may have an articulation agreement--a document that describes what courses students may transfer from one school to the other in specific programs. While an articulation agreement between two schools can make transferring credit easier, you’ll still want to review the document carefully and contact a school representative for specific questions. Most community colleges will have articulation agreements in place with traditional, 4-year institutions.

  3. Don’t overlook non-traditional sources of transfer credit.
    Having prior college experience isn’t the only way to earn transfer credit. If you’ve been in the military, you may qualify for military experience transfer credit, as most military training courses have been evaluated for academic credit by the American Council on Education (ACE).

    Other non-traditional sources include exams that assess whether what you’ve learned from the military or other professional experiences may be deemed equivalent to college credit. These exams include the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support) Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) exams.

    Let the schools you’re considering know if you have military experience or are researching the CLEP or DSST exams, so that they can advise you on how to move forward.

  4. Transfer credit policies should not be the only factors driving your decisions.
    It’s easy to get caught up in the focus on transferring credit, but picking a school should be a fully thought out decision. Treat the process the same as if you were looking for a new school from scratch. Be sure to ask about accreditation, financial aid, academic support resources, faculty credentialing and access, alumni success, career services, class scheduling and anything else that might be important to you in a new school. Was there something you didn’t like about your last school? If so, avoid running into that same problem again.

  5. Considering transferring to South University? Let’s arrange a time to talk.
    If you’re thinking about transferring colleges, consider South University. Backed by a tradition of over 100 years, South University allows you to earn your degree online or on campus, with classes led by qualified and supportive faculty who are always ready to lend a hand. We are driven to help you succeed, so our transfer of credit policies are designed to make the most of the effort you’ve already put into your education. Request information online to learn more today.

Transfer credit is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. South University offers no guarantee that credit earned at another institution will be accepted into a program of study offered by South University.

by Jared Newnam
November 10, 2016
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9 Fast Facts about the FAFSA

by South University
April 26, 2015

Before filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), it's important to get familiar with a few facts. Remember, the FAFSA must be completed accurately and on time if you hope to obtain federal aid. We're here to help with these 9 quick tips! (Financial aid is available to those who qualify)

9 Fast Facts about the FAFSA

1. Financial support is widely available.

Over $150 billion in financial aid money is awarded annually by the U.S. Department of Education to more than 15 million students across the country.

2. You must apply to see if you qualify for federal aid.

Remember: if you don't apply, you don't qualify. Applying doesn’t mean you automatically qualify, but you won’t know if you don’t apply. Also, the earlier you complete your FAFSA, the better.

3. The FAFSA includes all types of federal student aid.

This includes grants, loans, and work-study eligibility.

4. You’ll need to gather specific information before starting the application.

When you complete the FAFSA, you'll need the following information by your side: a FSA ID (obtained from the FAFSA website), your social security number, a driver's license (if available), tax records, records of untaxed income, information on your assets, and the names of the schools you may be attending.

5. The FAFSA should take less than 30 minutes.

The average FAFSA application doesn't even take a half hour, so pick a time and complete it!

6. Many state governments and schools use FAFSA.

It's not just the federal government using FAFSA to determine financial aid. Individual schools and state governments also reference the application to determine financial aid eligibility.

7. Don’t rely only on filing the FAFSA.

In addition to applying for federal aid, you can apply for scholarships and grants from a variety of other organizations, possibly including your school. You might qualify for state aid, military education benefits, private loans, or for an employer-sponsored education plan. You can also make monthly payments on your tuition. If you still feel your aid package isn't enough, contact your school's financial aid office and talk with them about your concerns and what options may be available to you.

8. You need the complete the FAFSA every year.

FAFSA is not a one-and-done deal. You’ll need to complete the full application for every year in which you will be attending college and requesting financial aid, and your packages may vary.

9. You can find your South University FAFSA code here.

You’ll need to know the code for your location when completing the FAFSA. Find each code by state at https://www.southuniversity.edu/Admissions/financial-aid.

by South University
April 26, 2015
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