While financial assistance options for a sonography degree can seem confusing and even overwhelming, most fall into one of these categories: grants, loans, and scholarships; student employment; or veterans benefits.
Sources of financial help include the federal government, state programs, private and nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions themselves. Scholarships and grants for ultrasound technician degrees do not have to be repaid and are thus the most advantageous sources to tap. Student loans, whether from federal or private sources, must be repaid with interest even in the event of bankruptcy. Schools participating in the Federal Work-Study Program offer part-time employment to students to assist with paying for college. Finally, veterans and their family members qualify for a number of programs from the Department of Veterans Affairs including grants, scholarships and favorable loan repayment terms. Financial aid for college is also available from some veterans’ service organizations.
Investigating and Accessing Financial Aid
Online college students can apply for financial aid on the same basis as those attending campuses. The process for all students begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. This form is the basis for calculating how much students and their families are expected to contribute to college costs as well as their eligibility for federal grants and loans. Many students qualify for Federal Pell Grants, which are awarded based on financial need to students in universities, four-year colleges, technical and career schools, community colleges and online schools recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Work-Study jobs and low-interest loans are likewise available to full-time and part-time sonography students in a variety of educational institutions.
In all cases, students can obtain the best financial aid possible by doing their homework and researching all available options. For example, many students apply for private loans from banks and other institutions without realizing they are eligible for federal loan programs that come with a lower interest rate. Even more beneficial is the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (the program is retired, updated in Jun 2017), which provides loans to students regardless of income, but includes a provision where the federal government pays the interest portion for qualifying need-based student loans. The Internal Revenue Service also offers tax credits to help offset educational expenses for those paying for college for themselves or family members. Those who qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, formerly the Hope Tax Credit, or the Lifetime Learning Credit can claim these when filing federal tax returns.
Beyond Federal Government Assistance
Students who do not qualify for federal financial assistance should investigate available programs through their respective states or educational institutions as well as those from private sources. Sonography students can search for accredited ultrasound programs at Ultrasound Schools Directory to see which schools offer aid and scholarships and what their tuition and expenses cost are. College financial aid and admissions offices can provide further information and answer financial aid queries. In some cases, ultrasound schools offer departmental or donor scholarships to specific programs or for the benefit of specific groups of students. Schools also typically offer general scholarships more widely available to the student population based on established criteria such as academic merit or financial need.
In addition to these options, professional organizations, service clubs, employers, health-focused philanthropies and similar entities may offer financial help to those interested in ultrasound technician careers. For example, entry-level sonography students are eligible to compete for one of six Jerman-Cahoon Student Scholarships worth $2500 each offered by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. The ASRT also offers five Royce Osborn Minority Student Scholarships, each worth $4000, to beginning minority students in sonography and related radiologic fields. The Anne Jones Scholarship Fund of the Society for Vascular Ultrasound and scholarships offered by the Society for Diagnostic Medical Sonography likewise offer a scholarship worth $2500 and three runner-ups worth $1000 each. In California, students willing to volunteer or to work in medically underserved regions can apply for a scholarship through the Allied Healthcare Scholarship Program. As these examples demonstrate, the need for financial assistance should not be an impediment to considering a career in sonography given the available options.