Either way, it will cost a lot of money to complete a four-year degree. Many students graduate college and enter a declining job market owing over $50,000 for their degree. This is why many students depend on scholarships and grants to help defray the cost of their education.
The smart student will start investigating funding sources for their college education while they are still in high school. There are three main ways of financing higher education.
Students who excel in something, whether it is academics, sports or the arts can apply to their schools of choice for scholarships. A scholarship is money that is awarded by the school to the student who is deserving of the assistance due to their special skill.
The student may have a high degree of knowledge in a specific subject, may be mentally gifted overall, or may excel in a sport, music, art or other area. Scholarship money is generally maintained by continuing that excellence, and does not have to be paid back to the school.
A student loan is given to the student who applies to a bank or other financial institution for monetary assistance to help pay for college expenses. Loan packages can be put together by several sources, such as the school along with banks or other types of financial aid organizations, and generally have to be repaid once the student graduates and becomes employed.
The only truly free money comes in the form of grants, which are generally awarded to students who have a need or fall into a special grant category. Unlike merit-based scholarships, grants can be awarded to a person in a specific class, such as being a member of a minority or underrepresented group. Grant monies do not have to be repaid to the organization awarding the grant.
Grant dollars are awarded by public or private independent organizations, federal and state governments, or by the college or university the student is attending.
Grants can be awarded for different reasons, including grants for obtaining a degree in a specific subject, grants for obtaining a specified degree, grants based on the student’s merits, or grants for minorities or under-represented classes of people. Grants awarded by these types of organizations are often referred to as scholarships.
A student must apply to the organization awarding the grant or scholarship and show their financial need or disadvantage. Grants are very competitive, but there are grants designed specifically for minority students.
Just about everyone can claim some sort of minority status. Women are considered minorities, as well as people who are differently abled or have any type of disability whether it is learning or physical.
Ethnic minority students refer to people who are African American, Asian, Hispanic, Eastern Indian or Native American, to name a few. There are certain grant programs that are geared specifically to ethnic minority students.
Ethnic minority grants are purposed for adding diversity to the educational and professional fields by enrolling more minorities who may find challenges related to their ethnicity.
Non-ethnic minority grants focus on individuals who may have physical challenges that may impede their ability in attaining an advanced education degree or professional employments. These grants include those with learning disabilities such as autism or attention deficit disorders.
Women-focused grants are important to assist women in breaking into historically male-dominated fields and educational institutions.
While there are many private organizations that award grants to minority students, the state and federal government grants are known for being a good place to begin the search for minority grant opportunities. The government also gives grants based on financial needs of students (i.e. those who come from a low income bracket).
There are several grant programs with which minority students should begin, and some grants must be sought in order to get access to other funding opportunities. And while these grants may not be only for minority students, they do award most of their money to minorities.
This is the first grant a minority student should apply for, as other grants such as the FSEOG, AC grant and the SMART grant require that the student be a Pell Grant recipient. The Federal Pell Grant Program focuses on awarding money to low-income students. Their average award amount is $5,550 and the student must be enrolled at an approved, accredited school.
A student must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FSFSA) to apply for the grant, and the grant recipient amounts are determined by how much the student and family will contribute to the school, as well as the cost of the institution.
The student applying for the Pell Grant must be in an undergraduate program, though there are grant monies available to students who are in a teacher certification program on a post-baccalaureate level. A student under age 24 will get the full amount of the grant if they are a child of a parent who has died serving the country in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Students applying for the Pell Grant should also be applying for other financial aid programs as well.
Pell Grants are paid either directly to the school or to the student. The school provides a written document of the cost and how the money will be applied to the student. The school will determine how the monies will be paid to the student, either per semester or per quarter.
Pell grants may be used for tuition, books and other costs related to school such as transportation. The grant can also be applied to up to 30 credit hours of remedial courses before the actual degree-focused courses begin. This is important since there are minority students, especially those educated in urban schools, who may require remedial courses that enable them to increase their chances of successfully completing a four-year degree program.
While this grant, like the Pell Grant, is not specifically designated for minority students, a lot of the money from this grant goes to minorities. The FSEOG grant is a needs-based grant that is not repaid. The student getting the grant receives between $500 and $4,000 so will need to supplement the grant with other awarded grants.
FSEOG grants are funded 75 percent by the federal government, and 25 percent by the school. The monies provided by the schools are not guaranteed to remain at the same level from year to year.
The grant money is awarded to schools that have students with extreme financial needs, and if the school does not use all of the money they will have their funding levels reduced for the next academic school year. That is why schools are highly motivated to award all of the money, and it often goes through their minority recruitment financial aid needs program.
The application process is not difficult to complete online, but the qualifications are that the student has to have completed the FAFSA form, be a full-time student and a citizen of the United States, and document financial need.
These two examples of federal grants that are available to minority students require completed applications that can be accessed online.
The allocation of educational grant monies specifically to minorities still causes controversy, but the statistics show the need to have a highly educated and trained workforce consisting of minority individuals.
According to several research studies, minorities will make up an important part of the total labor pool in the 21st century, and most of the jobs that will be available will be in the technological fields that require a college education.
Many colleges and universities have programs that reach out to recruit students in schools that have high minority populations. There was even a concerted push focused on undocumented immigrants receiving in-state tuition so that they could afford to attend schools of higher education.
These institutions understand the importance of educating the emerging labor force, especially since the United States Census Bureau predicts that by 2050 the population will be comprised of 47.2 percent minorities.
Undergraduate enrollment by 2015 is projected to grow by 2.6 million and 80 percent of that growth will be minority students. Conversely, white undergraduate students are projected to decrease to 62.8 percent of total enrollment by 2015 (Carnevale & Frye, 2000). The U.S. Census Bureau also is predicting the male white workforce to decrease by 11 percent.
For the United States to remain competitive in a global economy, the available workforce must be educated in greater numbers than exist today. Diversity in the classroom leads to a greater and broader educational experience, fosters a higher degree of intellectual learning, reduces prejudice and increases tolerance, and provides a broader perspective on social issues. It makes sense to encourage a more diverse educational and workplace experience.
Lack of financial aid is one of the major hurdles to obtaining a post-secondary school education that faces minority students. This is a result of being in urban areas where access to quality education is limited.
A study by the National Center for Educational Statistics back in 1996 reported on the unfavorable educational climate in areas of high poverty. Academic admissions officers have developed strategies that not only recruit minority students more efficiently, but help ensure academic success and retention.
There are several agencies that focus primarily on awarding educational grant monies to African American students.
This organization was founded in 1942 and has played an important role in helping more than 60,000 students each year attend colleges or universities.
The United Negro College Fund has 400 scholarship and internship programs for low- and moderate-income students. They have member colleges that are predominately small, private institutions that they also support. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” is the nationally recognized slogan of the United Negro College Fund.
An example of the United Negro College Fund programs is the Gates Millennium Scholars Program that supports students through to a doctoral program, the Merck Science Initiative focusing on students interested in bioscience and biotechnology research, and the Corporate Scholars Program that provides scholarships and internship programs at major corporations.
While the United Negro College Fund manages several scholarship programs, there is a general scholarship application that should be completed. That application is then matched to one of the many programs providing scholarship funding. The applications must be completed online.
Several schools have this scholarship program for outstanding academic performance. Each school can determine their criteria for the scholarship, but an example would be American University’s program that awards the scholarship to students that have an unweighted 3.8 grade point average or a weighted 4.0 grade point average, along with a score of 1300 on the SAT or 29 on the ACT.
Students must either be first-generation college or have a diverse ethnic, cultural or socioeconomic background. This Frederick Douglas Distinguished Scholars Program provides full tuition along with room and board and books.
Minority students that meet the academic criteria should inquire at their college or university about availability of the scholarship program and application process. It is a very competitive scholarship program that also includes interviews, but the benefits of fully paid tuition makes the process well worth the effort.
There are other scholarship and grant programs for African Americans, such as the Mordecai Wyatt Johnson Program for students attending Howard University.
Many associations have scholarship programs, including the National Black Nurses Association, the March of Dimes Nursing Scholarships, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and the American Psychological Association’s minority fellowship program. Students interested in these fields of study should contact the associations to determine scholarship award criteria.
The available grants for Hispanics have not kept up with the population growth. The United States has been developing funding opportunities specifically for Hispanic-focused education, and enrollment in postsecondary education institution by Hispanic students has been steadily increasing. Some of the more prevalent grant and funding opportunities are expanding their monetary allocation and experiencing larger funding requests.
The leading funding group for Hispanics offers not only educational financial assistance, but also outreach and educational programs that help the students and families navigate the college experience.
Requirements are that the Hispanic student has a cumulative grade point average of 3.0, is a United States citizen or legal permanent resident, is getting an undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited school, and has completed the FAFSA application. The Fund administers several grant and scholarship programs, including:
This funding program started in 1999 by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides scholarships to Hispanic, African American, American Indian and Asian Pacific Islander students who maintain a grade point average of 3.3 (on a 4.0 scale).
Students receiving the funding may attend the college of their choice, and must have a record of leadership skills as well as having a financial need. Students applying for the scholarships must intend to pursue degrees in mathematics, education, public health, science, library science or engineering. Students can get more information and an application at http://www.gmsp.org.
The Gates Millennium Scholars programs attempt to undo the disproportionately low number of minorities in the technology field, by focusing on exposing minorities in urban communities to the technology fields through the development of technology high schools that can feed into college programs.
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund manages several other grant and scholarship funding programs, so a student can submit the online application to the Fund, which will then direct the student to the appropriate scholarship or grant program.
By visiting http://www.hsf.net, the student can find a listing of all of the programs that provide financial support for Hispanic students and view the qualifications and application process.
This organization produces the Scholarships, Internships and Fellowships for Latino Students, which is a directory of many financial funding opportunities for Hispanic students pursuing a postsecondary education degree. This is the only publication that focuses on Latino students finding grant money for their education.
Students applying for funding must be enrolling in a full-time accredited college or university, have demonstrated community service, financial need, have good writing skills and be a United States citizen or have legal permanent residency.
While this scholarship program does not require a specific grade point average, the student applying for the funding must have participated in their community performing public service activities. The students should also show leadership skills and have a desire to continue being involved in empowering their community in the future.
Students can receive $1,000 to attend a community college or pursue an Associate’s degree, $2,500 to attend a four-year academic program, or $5,000 to attend graduate school. As long as the student maintains good academic standing, they will continue to receive the money. More information is available at www.chci.org/scholarships.
These types of organizations are beneficial because they help the Hispanic student navigate the available programs. Very often, minority students are the first family member to pursue a college degree, so are not familiar with researching and applying for grant funding. The organizations try to match the student to appropriate funding programs based on interest, grade point average, and financial need.
This eliminates the major barrier to Hispanics and other minority students attending colleges and universities. It is not just the lack of funding, but the lack of understanding how the grant and scholarship programs work.
Hispanic students can apply to some of the same programs as other minorities, such as the Hispanic Nurses Association grants and scholarship programs and the March of Dimes Nursing Scholarship program. There are other regional or school-specific grants, such as the Jose Marti Scholarship Challenge for students residing in Florida.
Native Americans seeking college grants and scholarships have to document their status by supplying a Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB) as well as belonging to an actual tribe. Most Native Americans do not possess this actual documentation, which is unfortunate as many tribes never kept documentation of their existence. There are, however, a couple of opportunities for those Native Americans who can provide their status documentation.
Education grants are available to individuals with Â¼ Indian blood who are members of federally recognized Indian tribes. Students apply through their tribe or area Office of Indian Education. Grants are awarded in amounts from $500 to $5,000, and are generally based on financial need.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs operates two schools; Haskell Indian Nations University located in Kansas and the Southwest Indian Polytechnical Institute in New Mexico. There is a also a graduate school, the American Indian Graduate Center located in Albuquerque which has concentrations on business, engineering, health, law and natural resources.
Tribal colleges and universities determine which student receives funds through this program. Students interested should contact their school’s financial aid office for application process information.
There are over 30 accredited tribal academic institutions operating on Indian reservations that educate over 30,000 students not only in academics but in their cultural history. Most of the schools do not receive funds from casino operations.
This grant is operated by the Presbyterian Church General Assembly Mission Council, and awards scholarships to Native American and Alaskan American students. Any Native American of a federally recognized tribe can apply, but some funders restrict funding to certain tribes.
Students must be attending an accredited school full-time, and must have earned a grade point average of 2.5 and demonstrate financial need. Interested students can find application criteria and information here.
This organization was created to provide opportunities to an often underserved population by providing financial support to Native Americans who desire to attend college, as well as through funding projects to develop and fund tribal colleges.
The American Indian College Fund collaborates with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, which is their sister organization. More information can be found here.
There are other grants that Native American college-bound students can apply to, including:
Other grant and scholarship programs are available for Native American students entering fields of study where they are unrepresented including medicine, teaching, technology and healthcare.
The Asian population is growing in the United States, so it makes sense that there are higher education financial funding grants and scholarships.
Grants are awarded to Asian students interested in the field of journalism. This funding source was organized in 1981 by Asian and Pacific Islander journalists who wanted to increase the number of Asians in the field of journalism.
The scholarships are awarded to outstanding students, and include the Mary Moy Quon Ing Scholarship and the Vincent Chin Scholarship. Information can be found at www.aaja.org/programs/scholarships.
This organization is helpful in listing organizations that fund Asian students attending college, such as the Asian American Giving and Asian Cultural Council. Information is available at www.asianamericanalliance.com/financial.html.
Provides information on available scholarship programs for Asian students. This site lists grants and scholarships specific to Asians, along with application deadline information.
The American Disabilities Act has bought broad-based awareness to providing equal access to persons with disabilities, and this includes college educations. Further, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act passed in 1975 focuses on organizations providing grants and scholarships to persons with disabilities.
This publication lists many scholarships for people with disabilities, and even includes a guide that defines what is considered a disability. The information includes links to the websites of the funding organizations, the majority of which are private organizations and associations. Visit the website for more information.
Serving minority students, the Consortium is an organization that promotes cultural diversity in American businesses. It provides merit-based, full-tuition fellowships to candidates that have proven to be highly qualified candidates that will partner with member schools, companies and the alumni of the Consortium.
There are regional alumni chapters that provide encouragement and support to grant awardees, and the special areas of interest include finance, human resource, marketing, media, social impact, healthcare and energy.
Students preparing for graduate school in management can complete one application online and apply to up to six of the 17 participating schools. GMAT or GRE scores must be submitted, along with college transcripts. Tuition and fees are covered for up to two years if a person is awarded a Consortium grant. Information can be found at
There is so much information online about how to get free money, and the person researching college funding has to be extremely discerning and diligent about the process.
Any site that asks for money before they send information should be disregarded. Reputable funding sources never ask for money, and any information can be obtained for free.
The best place to start is on government websites or by researching associations and organizations that provide services to a specific minority group. Also research large organizations, as they often have outreach programs that provide specific grants, such as teaching, research, technology or other areas of study that support their business.
Close attention should be paid to the application deadlines, as well as all the information that must be included in the grant funding process. Lack of attention to detail could result in the grant being denied.