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Online Dental Hygiene Degrees with Financial Aid: A Guide for Students

Ready to become a degreed dental hygienist at a price you can afford? Learn how to find funding and explore resources to lower the cost of your online dental hygiene degree.

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Author: Quinn Dannies
Editor: Mikalee Byerman

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A smiling man wearing a white lab coat sits in a modern dental office with dental equipment in the background. He appears to be a medical professional, possibly a dentist or dental assistant, ready to assist patients.

If you’re like most people, about twice a year you truly understand the true value of a good dental hygienist. And if that appreciation has made you consider the career — after all, you’ve got great people skills, attention to detail, and you recognize the importance of not talking to a patient while you’re digging around in their mouth — it’s time to further explore your dental hygiene education. Whether you’re already practicing in the field and just need your degree or you’re starting from the beginning, you’ll have online options that let you do the bulk of your coursework from wherever you are.

While this isn’t a step-by-step guide to becoming a dental hygienist, it is a deep dive into affordable programs and funding options. Understandably, you want a high quality dental hygiene program that will help you develop the skills and know-how to excel. But you don’t want to lose sight of the bottom line. By taking advantage of financial aid opportunities, you can drastically reduce your out-of-pocket education costs. We’re here to show you how.

In this guide, we’ll talk you through the basics of financial aid and point you toward some excellent opportunities to get you started on your program search. If you want to continue your studies without blowing your budget, keep reading.

Before we get into the tactical aspects of funding your dental hygiene degree, it can be helpful to look at some real-world examples of affordable schools with excellent financial aid opportunities. In the list below, we’re highlighting a few schools that offer attractive financial aid while still offering high-quality academics.

The online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene at Concorde Career College stands out for its commitment to specialized dental hygiene education. Students can choose from seven emphases including office management, dental law and ethics, dental radiology, and periodontology. You can therefore customize your career in dental hygiene according to your goals and interests.

Concorde’s BS in Dental Hygiene can be completed in as little as 18 months, but there is also a part-time option available that caters to the needs of working dental hygienists. Courses cost $511 per credit. Like all of our favorite programs, students can transfer credits from their associate degree program to help reduce their course fees.

In terms of financial aid, Concorde offers institutional scholarships and grants based on merit and financial need. They have additional financial aid available for students pursuing in-demand careers — like dental hygiene. The school also offers additional support and financial aid advising to military personnel, veterans, and military families.

Marian University

Marian University’s online Dental Hygiene Completion Program offers an accelerated option for licensed dental hygienists looking to earn their bachelor’s degree. Students complete their coursework in intensive seven-week sessions, allowing them to earn their degree in a mere 16 months of full-time study. Combined with a generous transfer policy, this arrangement lets students earn their degree and get back to their careers as soon as possible and minimizes out-of-pocket costs. Marian University’s program also features a unique capstone program that places students in local practices so that they can develop their hands-on knowledge.

At $500 per credit, Marian University may be at the higher end of the tuition spectrum for our spotlight schools. However, the school offers multiple strategies for reducing your tuition cost. For starters, students can transfer up to 90 credits from their previous schooling. This means that you can pay for as little as 30 credits. Additionally, Marian works with healthcare networks and local career colleges in a partnership program that offers tuition reimbursement to eligible students. Students can also earn credit based on relevant work experience and are automatically considered for scholarships, grants, and tuition assistance.

Minnesota State University

Logo of Minnesota State University, Mankato, featuring a purple and gold "M" with a flaming torch integrated into the design. Adjacent to the "M", the text "Minnesota State University" is written in purple, and "Mankato" in gold, both with a modern font.

The online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene from Minnesota State University already has a reputation as one of the most affordable dental hygiene BS programs in the country. This Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) to BS bridge program is entirely online, asynchronous, and offers an accelerated one-year track alongside a traditionally paced two-year option.

One way Minnesota State makes its program extra affordable is by ensuring that a minimum of 16 credits are transferred in from your previous education. This means that you can earn your BS with only 32 additional credits. So at a cost of $367 per credit, you’re looking at a total program cost of $11,744 — even before factoring in financial aid.

Because Minnesota State knows that access to financial aid can determine whether or not a student is able to attend college, they go above and beyond to ensure that students receive the maximum available funding. All applicants and current students have access to specialized financial aid advising that can help them keep track of deadlines, submit essential paperwork, and make sure that they are aware of any and all available opportunities.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University’s online RDH to Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene is a four-semester program for registered dental hygienists looking to earn their BS in Dental Hygiene. Because the program’s curriculum builds off of your existing experience, you are able to complete your degree in a shorter timeframe than a traditional bachelor’s program. This means you’ll save thousands by shaving off those extra semesters.

The total cost of this program for Ohio residents comes in at $25,116, including mandatory fees. To help students cover their tuition costs, Ohio State has a robust financial aid program that includes need-based assistance, scholarships, and work-study opportunities. Beyond assistance provided by the school, the Ohio State financial aid department maintains a robust database of external scholarships and grants to help students identify additional funding opportunities.

Additionally, Ohio State is a military-friendly school and offers additional support and advising to active-duty military, veterans, or military families looking to use GI bill funds or seeking additional aid.

Vermont State University

Logo of Vermont State University featuring three interlinked mountain shapes in teal on the left and the text "Vermont State University" in red on the right.

The highly affordable online Degree Completion Dental Hygiene B.S. at Vermont State University has a total program cost of only $17,784. Because the program is entirely online, students qualify for in-state tuition regardless of where they live. Additionally, Vermont State offers excellent financial aid opportunities to make their program even more accessible. In fact, over 80% of Vermont State students receive some form of financial aid from the school.

Beyond the financial aid provided by Vermont State, students may qualify for the New England Board of Higher Education’s Tuition Break Program. This program subsidizes tuition for students pursuing in-demand degrees in the region, including degrees in dental hygiene.

Further, Vermont State has a number of other programs designed to reduce students’ out of pocket costs. These include discounted rates for student health insurance, cost of attendance allowances, and the opportunity to apply for supplemental funds that offset the indirect costs of attendance.

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Different Types of Funding for Students: Scholarships, Grants, and Loans

All financial aid has the same goal: to reduce the immediate out-of-pocket cost of your education. But there are some ins and outs to keep in mind as you start seeking out funding opportunities. Below, we’ll look at the most common financial aid sources to help clarify their goals, requirements, and obligations.

Scholarships

Scholarships are typically based on merit. So if you’ve excelled in your previous studies or are uniquely equipped for the dental hygiene field, you have a good shot at having your achievements rewarded. Unlike loans, you aren’t on the hook to pay back scholarship funds. However, you may be required to maintain a certain courseload or GPA to keep the funding, so be sure to review your offer letter carefully.

Scholarships can be awarded through your future institution, but there are also plenty of outside opportunities available through private companies and professional organizations. Here are a few excellent scholarships to consider as you start your financial aid search:

Grants

Like scholarships, grants may cover tuition and/or living expenses and do not need to be repaid. The difference between the two is that grant awards are typically based — at least partially — on financial need. While your achievements and potential still matter, you’ll likely also be asked to submit documentation to demonstrate that your finances present an obstacle to enrolling in a dental hygiene program.

Fortunately, completing your FAFSA application means you’ll automatically be considered for hundreds of grants. Your future program may also have grant opportunities that fit your situation. Beyond government or institution-sponsored grants, you can also look out for private organizations or non-profits that offer grants to aspiring dental hygienists, servicemembers, first-generation students, low-income students, or other identity groups. Below we’ve offered examples of a few grants you may be eligible for to help you start your search.

Loans

After you’ve exhausted your grant and scholarship opportunities, you may need to turn to student loans to cover your remaining costs. When it comes to loans, it is important to shop around. After your FAFSA has been processed, you’ll likely have received an offer for federal loans. Most students prefer these loans because they offer fixed interest rates and more flexible repayment options. However, it is worth shopping around. If you have great credit, you might be able to find lower rates on the private market. You may also need to consider private loans if your federal loan offer doesn’t cover your costs.

Remember, too, that the goal should always be to graduate with as little debt as possible. If you find yourself considering taking on a large amount of loan debt, it is worth considering if there are more affordable dental hygiene programs out there that can help you reach your goals.

Steps to Get the Most Out of Financial Aid Opportunities

Maximizing your financial aid opportunities requires planning and organization. Different students will have different application processes based on the opportunities they pursue, their goals, and their available resources. That said, there are some basics that everyone should know. Starting with this checklist sets you up for a productive and profitable funding search.

Complete the FAFSA Early

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be your first stop when it comes to funding your degree. This application puts you in the running for grants and establishes your eligibility for low-interest federal student loans. Your school also uses this info to put together your financial aid offer. And timing does matter: Students who fill out their applications before December qualify for twice as many grants as students who wait until the June deadline.

Thoroughly Review Eligibility Criteria & Requirements

After your FAFSA has been sent off, it’s time to broaden your search. Besides dental hygiene-specific scholarships, you may find opportunities you qualify for based on your background, location, service record, or other identity-based factors. As you sift through these opportunities, make sure you carefully review the application requirements so you don’t waste time on applications you don’t qualify for or miss important opportunities. If you’re unsure if you are a good fit for a scholarship or grant, don’t be afraid to reach out to the organization and ask.

Check Deadlines and Apply Early

Many scholarships have application deadlines well before the start of the school year, so it is important to plan ahead. As you identify potential awards, add deadlines to your calendar or make a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. And don’t wait until the last minute: Starting your application early ensures that you’ll have time to thoroughly polish your application. Checking applications off your list ASAP is a surefire way to reduce stress about your tuition budget.

Gather All Necessary Documents

Every application is different, but most will ask for a few supporting documents. These might include transcripts, an offer letter from your future program, financial information, etc. You can save yourself time and effort by keeping all of these materials organized and easily accessible. Set your computer up with a dedicated folder for application documents so that these are easy to access as needed. And when the time comes to submit an application, make sure to triple check that you’ve included all the required documents.

Receive Feedback on Supplemental Materials

Alongside the documentation we just mentioned, most scholarships are going to have some opportunity-specific supplemental materials. Depending on the size and competitiveness of the opportunity, these might include a resume, a few short answer questions, a statement of purpose, or an essay. These materials are the most important part of your application, and it pays to spend some extra effort on them. For each application, seek out additional feedback on your work. If you are a current student, you might ask your admissions counselor or writing center for support. You can also ask a trusted friend or family member, or even hire an editing service.

Review Award Letters

Now that you’ve nailed all your applications and the award letters have started rolling in, you still have a bit more work to do. Make sure you read all of your award letters carefully and that you understand what you are being offered — again, don’t be afraid to follow up with questions if you’re unsure. Note that some awards might be dedicated to certain expenses like tuition or materials, while others might be cash grants that you can use to cover whatever you need. Compare what you’ve been offered against your overall budget so you can evaluate if there are any gaps you need to cover.