School is expensive, and many people rely on financial aid (usually student loans) to pay for it. But sometimes, the amount of aid you qualify for is more than you need to pay for your education.
That’s where refund checks come into play. The system works like this: you apply for financial aid, then, once approved, the school gets the amount in full and calculates how much you owe. Once everything is paid for, if there is leftover money, you get a refund check from the school.
That money is technically yours, but it’s still part of your financial aid package, which means you’ll have to repay it eventually.
As for laptops, some online schools are giving away laptops to new students. The requirements are usually that you maintain a certain GPA and be enrolled in a certain number of credit hours.
In this article, you are going to learn which online schools give refund checks and laptops, and how to get them.
Refund Checks — Free Money or Extra Debt?
There is a common misunderstanding among students. They think that the refund check they receive from their college or university is free money. It’s not!
The truth is, the refund check is part of your financial aid package. You are borrowing this money from the government (or private lender) and will have to repay it with interest.
This is why it’s important to spend your refund check wisely. You don’t want to use it on unnecessary things and then find yourself in debt before you even graduate!
Here are a few smart ways to spend your refund check:
- Use it to pay off any outstanding debts you may have, like credit card bills or other loans — having a good financial start to your adult life is important!
- Save it in a high-yield savings account or invest it in a 529 college savings plan — this way, you’ll have the money when you need it and it will grow over time.
- Pay for educational expenses not covered by financial aid, like books, supplies, or a laptop — these are things you’ll need for school, so it’s a good idea to use your refund check to pay for them.
- Save it for emergency expenses — you never know when you’ll need some extra money on hand.
- Give it back to the lender — if you don’t need the extra money from the refund check, it’s smart to give it back to the lender. This lowers the amount you’ll have to repay later on, which means lower interest rates on your loan.
Free Laptops for Online Students — Too Good to be True?
In recent years, a new trend has emerged among online colleges and universities: giving away free laptops to students. Laptops are a necessity to attend online college, just as much as textbooks, so it makes sense to offer one when needed.
However, there are usually requirements to receive a free laptop. The most common one is that you must maintain a certain GPA.
Other requirements may include being enrolled in a certain number of credit hours or taking part in specific programs. Some schools also require that you live in a certain state or country to be eligible.
Before you get too excited about receiving a free laptop, make sure you understand the requirements and whether or not you qualify.
Also, keep in mind that the laptops given away by online schools are usually low-end models. They may not have all the features and bells and whistles that you want or need.
8 Top Online Schools that Give Refund Checks and Laptops
Before getting into the list, it’s important to learn about the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that every student who wants to receive financial aid must fill out.
The FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for grants, loans, and work-study programs. It’s also used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount of money your family is expected to contribute to your education.
Now that you know what to expect, let’s take a look at some of the top online schools that give refund checks and laptops to their students.
1) Walden University
Walden University is a well-known online school that offers a variety of degree programs, including business, education, nursing, and more. It has been accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1990.
Due to its online nature, having your own desktop or laptop is a necessity. Walden does not offer free laptops to its students. To qualify for a refund check, you must be enrolled in at least six credit hours per semester and have a FAFSA on file.
The amount of your refund check will depend on your financial aid package and the cost of attendance. If you drop below half-time status or withdraw from the school, you will not be eligible for a refund check.
Walden also has a variety of scholarships and grants available to help students pay for their education. As for the quality of the education it offers, it depends on whom you ask. Some people swear by Walden, claiming it helped them find a high-end job. Other people found the experience miserable, and wouldn’t send their worst enemy there.
2) Liberty University
Liberty University, another well-known online school, also offers a variety of degree programs. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Like Walden, Liberty requires that you have your own laptop or desktop to participate in its online courses. The school does not offer free laptops, but it partnered with various suppliers to offer discounts. You can find a list of the suppliers and the discounts they offer on Liberty’s website.
To qualify for a refund check, you must be enrolled in at least six credit hours per semester and have a FAFSA on file. The amount of your refund check will depend on your financial aid package and the cost of attendance. If you drop below half-time status or withdraw from the school, you will not be eligible for a refund check.
If you have extra money flowing over from your financial aid, you can either decide to get it back via a refund, or to let Liberty university hold it and use it for future charges. Like, say, if you decide to retake a class.
The quality of education at Liberty is, again, up for debate. Some students love it and others swear they will never set foot on the school’s campus – even if it’s only online.
3) Capella University
Capella University is an online school that specializes in providing health care education. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
It is home to over 37,000 students from all 50 states and more than 60 countries. The average age of a Capella student is 39, and most are working adults.
Capella University processes financial aid refunds by the end of the 4th week of classes. If you are eligible for a refund, the money will be sent to you via direct deposit or check within 14 business days.
Unfortunately, Capella does not give out free laptops to its students. But it has a page detailing the minimum requirements for your PC if you want to attend its classes. Luckily, you don’t need a powerful machine to do so.
As for education itself, Capella university is very well respected among employers. You’ll still find the occasional one who thinks online universities are false, but they are a dying breed. The majority of employers today are happy to see an online degree on a resume.
4) Grantham University
Grantham University is another online school that offers a variety of degree programs. It is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
Grantham offers two types of financial aid: federal and private. Federal financial aid is available to those who qualify, and private financial aid is available to those who don’t qualify for federal aid or need additional funding.
Grantham also offers a free laptop to students enrolling in its courses. The school will give you a laptop if you complete the admission process and enroll in a Associate, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.
The laptop isn’t the most powerful one out there, but it’s more than enough to get you through your online courses.
The quality of Grantham’s education is pretty high. The university has plenty of experience in delivering distance education, and it shows. The vast majority of students who attend Grantham are happy with their decision.
5) University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix is one of the most well-known online schools. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and has been so since 1978 (back when the HLC was called the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools).
The University of Phoenix has over 70,000 students worldwide, with most of them being based in the United States.
The University of Phoenix offers a variety of financial aid options, including grants, loans, and scholarships. You can also choose to get a refund if you have money left over from your financial aid package. In order to do so, you’ll need to fill out a form and submit it to the school’s financial aid office.
You will receive your refund either as a paper check or as a direct deposit, depending on your choice. However, direct deposit is usually the preferred method, as it’s faster and more convenient.
There is no laptop program at Phoenix. You’ll have to buy your own machine yourself.
As for the quality of education, it’s a bit iffy. University of Phoenix has among the lowest graduation rates in the country, at around 28%. It’s drastically improved in the past decade, when in the early 10s it’d be a single digit number. Still, you might want to consider another university if your main goal is to actually graduate.
6) Moravian University
Moravian University is a small online school with around 2500 students. It is based in Betlehem, Pennsylvania, and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
It’s accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The type of financial aid you can get depends on whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student.
Undergraduate students can get federal and state grants, as well as private loans and scholarships. Graduate students can get federal loans, as well as private loans and scholarships.
Also, Moravian is an Apple Distinguished School, which is a partnership program between Apple and universities. As part of this program, Moravian students get a free MacBook and a free iPad when they enroll.
Moravian university’s graduation rate is around 60%, which is pretty good. The school also has a pretty good reputation, and most of its students are happy with their decision to attend.
7) American National University
American National University is an online school that offers a variety of degree programs. It is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
AN will give you a refund within 10 days if you have money left over from your financial aid package. In order to do so, you’ll need to fill out a form and submit it to the school’s financial aid office. However, you won’t get a free laptop by attending this university.
As far as education quality goes, it’s ok. Here, you’ll find associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs, in areas like accounting, nursing and cybersecurity.
The school has a graduation rate of around 24%. While this number is low, it’s important to remember that many of ANU’s students are adults who are attending school while also working full-time jobs. So, the fact that they’re able to graduate at all is pretty impressive.
All in all, American National University is a decent online school. It’s not the best, but it’s certainly not the worst.
8) Dakota State University
Founded in 1881, Dakota State University is a public online school with around 3000 students. It’s accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and offers a variety of online degree programs.
Dakota State University has a laptop program for all of its students. When you enroll, you’ll be given the latest Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, a 2-in-1 Laptop configured specifically for DSU academic programs.
As far as refund checks go, you’ll have to wait until the end of the semester to get one. If you have money left over from your financial aid package, you’ll receive a refund check within 14 days of the end of the semester.
The school offers 23 majors, including courses in artificial intelligence, biology, and business administration. Unlike most other universities on this list, DSU also offers Ph.D. programs to its students.
The graduation rate here is around 35%, which is…unremarkable. But most students say they’re happy with their decision to attend Dakota State.
Picking the Right School for You
While these refund checks and free laptops are no doubt alluring, it’s important to pick the right school for you. Make sure you do your research, and don’t just pick a school because it’s offering you a financial incentive. With that being said, all of the schools on this list are decent online universities.
But not all offer laptops, so if that’s what you’re after, make sure to double check before enrolling. Also, make sure to read the fine print that’s always present when schools offer a big incentive like a laptop. You don’t want to get stuck with a school that’s not a good fit for you.
Always check the school’s graduation rate, and make sure the program you’re interested in is accredited. These are two of the most important factors to consider when choosing an online school.
Finally, don’t forget to ask around. Talk to friends, family, and co-workers who have gone to or are currently attending online schools. They’ll be able to give you the best advice on which school is right for you. And naturally, online reviews are also very helpful in this regard.
Picking a college with refund checks and/or that gives out laptops can be a huge boon to students on a low budget. However, don’t get blinded by free stuff. You should treat your education with the utmost respect. Pick a course that actually interests you and that excites you to follow. Don’t pick a course because you get a free cool MacBook.
Best of luck in your search for the perfect online school! And remember, there’s no such thing as a free lunch…or a free laptop. You’ll have to put in the work no matter where you go to school. But if you do your research and make sure the school is a good fit for you, you’ll be sure to find success. Thanks for reading!
I hope this article was helpful in your search for the perfect online school! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks for reading!