Picturing yourself becoming a dental assistant should give you many reasons to smile. Day-to-day, you’ll get to work closely with patients, contribute to the efficiency of a dental practice, and feel confident in your job security. Dental assisting is an increasingly in-demand career that the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts will grow seven percent over the next ten years; this faster-than-average growth means you’ll have plentiful career prospects after graduation and beyond. And to top off these highlights, your dental assistant training and experience can serve as a solid starting place for other careers in dentistry or allied healthcare.
Regardless of how pretty this picture is though, the thought of funding your dental assisting education may transform your smile into a worried frown. After all, how are you going to get there if you can’t afford school? Fortunately, being short on money doesn’t have to hold you back. In fact, there are many dental assistant online schools with financial aid to meet your needs. Keep reading to get acquainted with a few of them and brush up on other funding options to help you make that daydream a reality.
Featured Dental Assistant Schools Online with Financial Aid
When you begin looking for a program, you will notice that there are actually quite a few online dental assistant schools with financial aid and/or that accept FAFSA out there. In the section below, we have spotlighted a few programs that offer quality education, flexibility, and affordability. Check them out to get an idea of what to look for when you conduct your own search. For an even closer look at top dental assistant schools, check out our guide to the best online programs for 2024.
San Diego State University
San Diego State University offers its Clinical Dental Assistant Training program 100 % online. Students have roughly 12 months to complete the program, but courses are self-paced and can be started any time. Over the course of the program, students gain skills in critical areas such as anatomy and physiology, preventive dentistry, radiology, pharmacology, anesthesia, and more. This curriculum prepares graduates to pass national certification exams administered by the Dental Assisting National Board.
SDSU’s online dental assistant school offers several forms of financial aid to help students better afford the total cost of the program ($2,995). Options include a 12-month, equal-payment installment plan and military tuition assistance. Clinical dental assistant program students are also eligible for tuition assistance through the San Diego Workforce Partnership, a program committed to facilitating industry-specific career training, which in turn receives funding through the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This tuition assistance program provides up to $7,000 to approved students trying to train for a new job or career.
Truckee Meadows Community College
The Dental Assisting Program at Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) is delivered in a hybrid format. Some components are completed online, but students must attend certain classes, labs, and clinicals in person. Full-time students can complete the program in ten months, but there is also a part-time option that takes roughly two years. Graduates are awarded an Associate of Applied Science degree, and are fully prepared to take the Dental Assisting National Board exam.
In total, students pay $4,940 in tuition and lab fees for this three-semester program. Students who need assistance shouldering this cost may be eligible for financial aid through one of the school’s Educational Partnership Programs. These programs include, but are not limited to, help for displaced homemakers (individuals who have lost their source of income due to circumstances such as death, divorce, or job loss) and assistance for individuals currently or formerly involved in the justice system. Students in TMCC’s dental assistant online school can also receive funding through FAFSA.
Students who enroll in the accelerated hybrid-online Dental Assisting Program at Unitek College can finish their studies in as few as 10 months. Curriculum topics include chairside assisting for general and specialty dentistry, dental materials, and dental radiology, among others. In addition to the requisite 27.5 semester credits, students complete a 200-hour externship to ensure they have sufficient technical and practical knowledge in the field. Upon graduation, students are prepared for national certification exams and receive additional certificates in Infection Control, HIPAA, Radiology, Dental Practice Act, Coronal Polishing, and Pit and Fissure Sealants.
Because tuition for the dental assisting program can vary according to each student’s unique situation, the school recommends that those interested in applying schedule a personalized counseling session with a student finance advisor for tuition details. In addition to outlining costs, these specialists help prospective students identify relevant financial aid programs, including VA education benefits and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds that can help offset the cost of attendance.
Scholarships for Online Dental Assistant Students
Scholarships are arguably the best financial aid option when it comes to online dental assistant programs since you do not have to worry about paying them back. Although every scholarship you find will have its own qualifying criteria, there are several out there specifically for students pursuing dental education programs. Continue to the next section to start exploring top sources of funding and learn more about five such scholarships.
Other Financing Options for Online Dental Assistant Students
Although scholarships are far and away the best funding option, there are additional avenues you can pursue to obtain financial aid for online dental assisting school. In the following section, we’ve explained some of these alternative sources of funding, including grants, loans, government programs, and more. Keep reading to see which ones best fit your situation.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form allows students to apply for federal financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study funds. As long as your intended online dental assisting program is for-credit and accepts the FAFSA, this is a great place to start. There are also several other federal programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that provide funding for career development and workforce preparation. Many dental assisting schools accept WIOA program funding.
Grants are similar to scholarships because they do not have to be repaid. However, grant eligibility is generally based on financial need instead of merit, so they are only awarded to those who truly lack the monetary resources to pursue their education. Federal grants are available to students enrolled in online dental assistant programs that accept FAFSA. The most common of these is the Federal Pell Grant, which awards funds to undergraduate students who display extreme financial need. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is another need-based grant administered by individual financial aid offices. State-based grants, such as the Cal Grant, can also provide significant financial aid to dental assisting students.
Although they get a bad rap and must be repaid with interest, loans can help you cover the remaining cost of your dental assisting program after scholarships and grants. There are two main categories of loans: federal and private. As in the case of grants, federal loans are only available in online dental assistant programs that accept FAFSA. In general, federal student loans offer greater advantages than private loans. Not only are they cheaper than private loans, but the federal government pays your interest on direct subsidized loans while you are in school, and for six months after graduation, so long as you are enrolled at least half-time.
Military & VA Benefits
Many dental assisting schools accept funding through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Specifically, the GI Bill covers some or all of veterans’ educational costs—these benefits can even be extended to spouses and dependents under certain circumstances. Veterans may also be able to take advantage of certain state programs, such as the Hazlewood Act in the state of Texas, which provides a tuition exemption of up to 150 hours for qualified veterans, spouses, and dependents.
Even if your online dental assistant program does not accept FAFSA, you prefer not to take out loans, or do not qualify for need or merit-based aid, you have other options. Payment plans allow you to pay your tuition in installments over the course of your studies are common in dental assisting programs. This option can help make the cost more manageable and help you avoid accruing student loan debt. Sometimes these plans require a larger down payment, but subsequent payments typically break down the remaining cost into equal payments.
What to Look for in Dental Assistant Programs with Financial Aid
There are many great online dental assistant schools with financial aid, but it is not always simple telling them apart from those that are not as reputable. Fortunately, there are many features of high-quality, credible programs that you can look for to ensure that your selected program will offer you a sound educational, and financial, experience. Keep reading to learn more.
Accessible & Reliable Financial Aid Office
You want to guarantee that your school of choice has professionals available (usually by appointment) to assist you with identifying sources of financial aid to make your educational journey possible. They help remove financial impediments by being willing and able to assist you throughout the entire financial aid process—from application to funds disbursement.
Any reputable school will be fully endorsed by an accrediting agency. Essentially, accreditation is a seal of approval that verifies that the institution maintains a high level of educational standards, and it ensures that you will be able to apply for federal financial aid. The highest quality programs also go a step further to prove their excellence by obtaining programmatic accreditation through the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
Financial Aid Options
Financial aid is not one-size-fits-all; that is, every scholarship and grant has its own qualifying criteria. However, a school that offers a variety of funding options opens up possibilities for a wide swath of students by accommodating diverse circumstances. So, look for schools that have many financial aid sources available to increase the likelihood that you will find something that suits your needs. And remember—online dental assistant programs that accept FAFSA are likely to offer the most funding opportunities.
Need & Merit-Based Aid
Schools that offer need and merit-based aid tend to value having a diverse, highly successful student population. These types of financial assistance level the playing field for capable students who are unable to afford the price of a quality education, and they encourage academically gifted and financially disadvantaged students to enroll.
A great way to assess the quality of a potential dental assisting program and its financial aid services is to seek out reviews from current or former students. These individuals can provide first-hand insight into the quality of a given program and the ease of the financial aid process. There are many websites that collect such reviews; some schools even provide this information on their own sites.
For the majority of students considering dental assisting school, cost is a major determining factor. Truly reputable schools understand this and do not keep their price tag a mystery. Look for schools who make their tuition (along with other fees and financial aid options) readily available in plain terms on their websites.
FAQs About Online Dental Assistant Schools with Financial Aid
There are many questions that arise when searching for an online dental assisting school with financial aid or one that accepts FAFSA. We have collected and answered many of these common queries in the section below, so keep reading to get the clarity and confidence you need to take the next step.
Am I still eligible for financial aid if I’m attending dental assistant school part-time?
Yes. However, in the case of federal financial aid such as grants and loans, the amount you receive will be less than what a full-time student receives. This guide to calculating Pell Grants from the Department of Education explains that a student who is entitled to $5,350 for the year would receive half this—$2,675—if attending on a half-time basis. Other forms of aid, such as the scholarships offered through Madison Area Technical College, specify that students must attend on at least a half-time basis to be eligible for funding.
Are there online dental assistant programs that accept FAFSA?
Most online dental assistant programs that culminate in a diploma, certificate, or degree accept FAFSA. Some schools may require you to contact the financial aid office for specifics, but others, such as Carrington College, immediately eliminate any confusion by confirming outright their participation in federal assistance programs. Generally, the only online dental assistant programs that do not accept FAFSA are non-credit programs, because they are not eligible under federal guidelines.
Can I use my financial aid to cover my certification exams and licensing fees?
According to the Department of Education, financial need (the basis upon which financial aid is awarded) is largely determined by a school’s estimated cost of attendance (COA). For students who attend school at least half time, the COA includes the costs of obtaining a license, certification, or first professional credential.
Can I work while completing my dental assistant program?
A self-paced, 100% online program such as the one available at San Diego State University will make it easy to work while you complete your studies. However, fitting work into your schedule may become more difficult if you attend a hybrid or traditional program that requires you to complete an externship or report to campus for in-person labs and training.
What forms or documents do I need to apply for scholarships?
The application requirements for each scholarship are different, so this will differ with every application you submit. However, all scholarship programs will require you to fill out a form with basic biographical and academic information, at a minimum. Other common forms and documents include letters of recommendation, proof of community service, transcripts, enrollment verification documents, and essays.