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2019-2020 FAFSA Credit Requirements for Online College

Lots of students who opt to pursue college online only go part-time. But does that mean you're disqualified from federal financial aid? No. In fact, you may be eligible for some forms of financial aid with as little as one credit hour. 

Here, we'll break down the different forms of financial aid and the minimum credit-hour requirements for each. 

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If you're going to school online, it's important to find out if your school accepts federal financial aid through the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Learn more about that here

Note for that for all of the following categories, aid amounts may be reduced if you're going part-time, which is generally considered six credits or less. Full-time is considered 12 credits or more. 

Pell Grants

These grants are awarded to undergraduate students who are full- or part-time. You must be taking at least one credit hour to qualify. 

Perkins Loans

These are federal loans that are disbursed by colleges and universities. Priority is often given to full-time students, although part-time students aren't disqualified. 

Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

Students need to be enrolled for six credit hours for undergraduate aid or five credits for graduate aid. These loans are often referred to Stafford Loans or Direct Loans.

PLUS Loans for Parents or Grad Students

These loans generally carry higher interest rates than subsidized or unsubsidized federal loans. Undergraduates need to carry a minimum of six credits, while grads need to carry five. 


The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is for students with exceptional financial need. These awards are generally prioritized for students who are enrolled at least half-time, or six credits. 

Of course, all of the above aid options depend on whether you're eligible for federal financial aid in the first place. Here are the requirements:

Education – You must have a high school diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), or have completed high school in a home school setting approved under state law.

Citizenship – You do not have to be a U.S. citizen for consideration for FAFSA aid. Citizenship requirements include:

  • U.S. citizens with Social Security numbers. Males between the ages of 18 and 25 must also be registered for the Selective Service.
  • Legal permanent residents or eligible noncitizens like U.S. nationals.
  • People who were born in one of several Pacific Islands like the Federated States of Micronesia, American Samoa and the Marshall Islands.
  • People with refugee status, victims of human trafficking and those who have been granted political asylum.

Enrollment – You must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program.

Certification – You must agree to the certification statement that you are not in default on a federal student loan, do not owe money on a federal student grant and that you will use federal student aid only for educational purposes.

To retain eligibility for federal student aid, you must meet the following criteria:

Academic progress – You must maintain satisfactory academic progress, which typically means a 2.0 GPA and progress toward completion in a normal timeframe.

Criminal record – You must not be convicted of possession or sale of illegal drugs while you receive federal financial aid.

What's next?

If you're interested in studying online, check out our roundup of the 20 Most-Affordable Online Bachelor Degree Programs.  

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