As the cost of education continues to rise and the average wage of the American worker remains stagnant, high school graduates and their families are facing daunting odds as they try to find funding to pay for higher education. Few students can afford to pay for college without the help of student loans or other financial aid resources.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2008, the average student paid $35,000 a year to attend a four-year private college or university. Students attending a public college or university paid approximately $14,000 per year. After earning a bachelors degree at these types of institutions, most students graduate with $56,000 to $140,000 of student loan debt.
While students looking to earn two-year associates degrees or certificates may pay less than their bachelors degree-seeking counterparts, many of these students also rely on financial aid to help them pay for their education. For instance, though the cost of a teaching certification will vary from state to state and from institution to institution, the average cost for a teacher’s certificate can cost students between $2,000 and $7,000.
One of the best ways students can avoid incurring student loan debt is to take advantage of the numerous scholarships and grant opportunities available to students. There are a number of scholarships and grants available to students that are awarded on the state and federal level. Colleges and universities, corporations, cultural heritage groups, professional organizations and other institutions also provide awards to deserving students.
In addition to the resources listed above, students can also take advantage of field-specific grants, which target students in specialized areas such as STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), education and workforce development and training.
If you are a student who is looking for help paying for college or if you are the parent of a soon-to-be high school graduate, be sure to look into the wealth of scholarship and grant funding set aside for students who are working toward becoming a teacher, college-level instructor or workforce development trainer.
If you are an incoming college student or the parent of a high school graduate, you may be overwhelmed by the many different types of financial aid that are available to students. While the process of applying for financial aid can seem daunting, it is not an impossible task. But, before you begin filling out financial aid applications, be sure you are familiar with the many different forms of financial aid.
A common belief among incoming college students is that all financial aid is free. Unfortunately, this idea couldn’t be farther from the truth. Financial aid is an umbrella term that is used to describe the many different resources students can use to pay for college.
Financial aid includes a wide variety of funding including student loans, scholarships, grants, fellowships and the federal work-study program. In addition to the aforementioned aid types, the umbrella of financial aid also includes waivers for tuition and fees, admission applications and room and board as well as textbook discounts and education tax credits.
One of the most common forms of financial aid are federal and private education loans. The federal government underwrites a number of low-interest loan programs for students. Some of the most common federal loan programs are the Perkins Loan and Direct Loan programs. The Federal Direct Loan program includes the Stafford Loan program for undergraduate and graduate students, the Direct PLUS loan for graduate and professional degree students and the Direct PLUS loan for parents.
The Federal Perkins Loan is offered through educational institutions and is a low-interest loan for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. While students can choose to borrow from private banks or credit unions, in most cases, federal loans programs offer lower interest rates compared to private education loans.
All student loans are required to be paid back in full. Students who enter the teaching profession can enroll in student loan forgiveness programs that will reduce their student loan debt if they agree to teach in inner-city or rural school districts.
One of the preferred types of financial aid are grant awards. Educational grants are often awarded on the basis of academic achievement or based on financial need. These types of aid often cover the cost of tuition and fees and do not need to be reimbursed by the student.
The most common types of grant awards are provided by the US Department of Education. Students can also receive institutional grant awards from their college or university. Institutional grants are also known as merit awards or merit scholarships. Many times, these types of aid are awarded on the basis of academic achievement or financial need. While most grants are not awarded based on academic performance, some grant awards may come with special privileges or obligations.
Scholarships are similar to grants in that they are also a form of gift aid that does not need to be repaid. Like grants, scholarships are awarded in accordance to financial need, but unlike some grants, scholarships require the student to meet certain qualifications. Some of these requirements include residency, major, academic achievement or extracurricular activities.
Fellowships and assistantships are often awarded to graduate or professional students to help them complete a masters program or to assist in advanced research. These types of aids are awarded based on academic achievement and based on letters of recommendation from faculty. Fellowships and assistantships and are not expected to be repaid by the student.
Many times, fellowships cover the cost of tuition and may include a monthly stipend award. Assistantships also cover the cost of a student’s tuition but may require the student to serve as a teaching or research assistant. In most cases, assistantships also provide students with a monthly stipend for their teaching or research services.
One of the more unconventional forms of financial aid is the Federal Work Study (FWS) program. The FWS program enables students to find part-time employment on campus. The program provides funding to the student, which is then given to the university, to help pay for the cost of a student’s salary while they work on campus. FWS funds can be used at any of the 3,400 institutions across the US that participates in the FWS program.
Some colleges and universities will provide waivers for tuition and fees, admission applications and room and board. Most often, these types of provisions are made for underserved students, but only on rare occasions and for individuals with extraordinary circumstances. You will need to contact your university’s financial aid office, graduate school or alumni association to find more information about your school’s wavier programs.
While educational tax credits are not technically forms of financial aid and do not provide immediate help with tuition, fees and book costs, students can use their educational costs to help reduce the amount of taxes they pay each year. Students can take advantage of a number of tuition and fee deductions as well as tax credits such as the American Opportunity Credit, the Hope Credit, and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
For more information about these credits, visit the Internal Revenue Service’s website at www.irs.gov.
If you are a student who is looking to begin a career in education or if you are a student teacher, there are a host of federal grant programs that can assist you on the road to becoming an educator or workforce trainer.
Students should begin their search for grants with the US Department of Education. This governmental department provides billions of dollars in grants to students attending colleges and universities located throughout the US.
In addition to providing grants to students through their student aid program, the department also provides a number of educational grants to schools, teachers and researchers. The department also establishes policies related to education, collects data on American schools and student outcomes and enforces federal laws related to discrimination in the educational setting.
The US Department of Education administers several grant programs to help students find success in school and in life. Some of the most recognized grant programs are the Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, the National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, and the Academic Competitiveness Grant.
The most frequently awarded federal student grants are the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). These grants are mostly awarded to undergraduate students who have yet to earn a bachelor’s or a professional degree.
Students who are enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program to obtain teacher licensure may also be eligible to receive a Pell Grant. The Pell Grant has recently been opened up to education students in efforts to encourage more students to become teachers in high-need fields.
While each grant award is determined based on a student’s dependency status, number of credit hours, income and cost of attendance, the maximum Pell Grant award for each school year is approximately $5,550. Unlike some grants, excess monies left over from a Pell Grant can be reimbursed to the student for room and board, books and other educational expenses once the cost of tuition and fees are paid.
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is also awarded to students who meet the same qualifications as a Pell Grant recipient and is available to all majors. The FSEOG Grant, which is awarded annually, is usually between $100 and $4,000.
The FSEOG is awarded as a need-based grant for low-income undergraduate students. The award is based on a student’s dependency status, number of credit hours, income and cost of attendance. Priority is given to undergraduate students who have exceptional need.
In addition to the Pell and FSEOG Grant programs, the US Department of Education also awards specialty grants to the families of military service people and high-performing freshmen and sophomore college students. The Department also awards field-specific grants to students who plan to teach in high-need fields such as science, technology engineering, reading, foreign language and mathematics.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is open to any student who has a deceased parent or guardian who died after September 11, 2001 while serving in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. In order to be eligible for this award, the student must be under the age of 24, meet the same requirements as a Pell Grant recipient and have been enrolled in school prior to their parent or guardian’s death. The funds from this program can be used for students in education as well as any other major.
If you are a high-performing high school graduate who is looking to earn a degree in education or any other field, you may be eligible for the federally issued Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG). This program is designed for first- and second-year college students with high grade point averages. If you are a high-performing graduating senior or a college sophomore with a 3.0 GPA, be sure to apply for this grant. The ACG awards $750 for a student’s first year of study and $1,300 for the second year.
Two of the most applicable federal grants for student teachers and students who want to become teachers are the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant and the Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant.
Students with aspirations to become a teacher should begin by applying for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program. The TEACH grant was established in 2007 to help produce a stronger teaching workforce in the US. The grant is open to students who plan to teach at the elementary or secondary school level.
Participants in the TEACH Grant Program are awarded grants of $4,000 for each year of study on the condition that they teach in schools that serve students from low-income families. Students must agree to serve as a full-time teacher in a high-needs field such as bilingual education, English, mathematics, reading, science and special education.
If awarded the grant, the student must agree to teach for at least four years after graduation. Students who receive this grant should be aware, if they fail to complete their teaching obligation, the TEACH Grant award will be converted into an unsubsidized Stafford loan and must be repaid in full plus interest.
Student teachers and future teachers involved in STEM fields should also look into The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant offered by the US Department of Education. The Department developed the SMART Grant in order to encourage American students to pursue and then possibly teach in high-need fields such as science, technology, engineering and math, all areas that have traditionally been overlooked by American students.
The grant is awarded to students studying STEM fields, physical, life, or computer sciences, a foreign language or a non-major liberal arts program.
The SMART Grant is only open to third- and fourth-year undergraduate students as well as fifth-year students who are enrolled in a five-year academic program. Students who receive this grant are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA in order to receive the $4,000 annual award.
If a student wants to apply for federal student aid, they must make sure they meet certain eligibility requirements. Students who receive federal grants and loans must be a US citizen or eligible non-citizen and be working toward a degree or certificate in an academic program.
Most students can receive federal aid to help pay for online courses as long as they also attend one campus-based course in addition to their web-based courses. All recipients of federal aid are required to hold a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate.
Students who are awarded federal grants must demonstrate financial need, which is determined by a student’s expected family contribution (EFC). Federal student loans are awarded to all students who belong to a degree program and who are enrolled in at least six credit hours at their college or university.
Any student who is interested in applying for any type of federal student aid, including grants and loans, must fill out a copy of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form is accessible as a digital form online at www.studentaid.gov. Students can also request a paper copy from their college’s financial aid office. Students will be required to submit their tax information and, in some cases, their parents or guardian’s tax information in order to complete the form.
Each student’s federal aid package is determined by their cost of attendance, number of credit hours and their family’s expected family contribution or EFC. According to the US Department of Education, a student’s EFC measures a family’s ability to contribute to a student’s educational expenses.
The formula that determines a student’s EFC is federally regulated and takes into consideration the number of family members attending college, the size of the family and the family’s income, assets, and benefits. The EFC amount is automatically determined when each student submits his or her FAFSA application.
If a student is determined to have financial need, which is evidenced by a low EFC, they will be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant and other federally dispersed grants on the condition that they also meet each grants individual requirements.
In addition to federal grant resources, students pursuing careers in education should also look into funding from professional teacher’s organizations. Many of the scholarships and grants offered by these organizations require students to hold memberships with the organization. In some cases, students may qualify for scholarships and grants if their parents or teacher belong to the organization.
Before a student commits to taking out student loans, he or she should be sure to look into the number of free sources of financial aid provided by professional teacher’s organizations like the National Education Association (NEA), the Future Educators Association (FEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
The National Education Association (NEA) provides funding assistance for student teachers and future teachers via their Learning and Leadership Grant. This grant program was designed to help student teachers and graduate student instructors access funding for professional development, research activities and for mentoring activities in their particular area of expertise. The Learning and Leadership Grant provides $2,000 awards to individual students for professional development, conferences and teaching seminars related to education.
The NEA, in partnership with Bright Horizons Family Solutions, also provides scholarship assistance to student teachers via the National ECE Scholarship Program. The National ECE Scholarship includes several different awards that range from a $1,500 awards for undergraduate students to a $2,500 award for second-year undergraduates and graduate students. In order to be eligible for the National ECE Scholarship, students must be enrolled in a degree program in early childhood education (ECE) or a related education-oriented field.
To find more information about the NEA’s grant and scholarship programs, visit the NEA website at www.neafoundation.org. For more information pertaining to the National ECE Scholarship Program, visit www.brighthorizons.com to access the scholarship application and detailed eligibility requirements.
In addition to organizations like the NEA, The Future Educators Association (FEA) also provides scholarship and grant funding. The FEA and the PDK Educational Foundation award approximately 30 scholarships each year to future teachers and student teachers working toward a degree in education.
Students must be a member of a local FEA chapter or have a family member or teacher who is a PDK member in order to apply for this award. Students who meet the eligibility requirements should also apply for the organization’s Prospective Educator Scholarship as well.
Applications for these awards are available for download on the organization’s website, www.futureeducators.org, and must be submitted by April 1, 2012 to be considered.
Another popular teacher’s organizations that provide funding to student teachers and future educators is the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The AFT provides funding for students in education via the Robert G. Porter Scholars Program. This program includes two scholarships, a $2,000 scholarship for dependents of AFT members and a $2,000 scholarship for post-secondary students.
Students who are interested in applying to the Robert G. Porter Scholars Program must submit their application along with an essay, transcripts and two letters of recommendation by March 31, 2012 in order to be considered for the award. For more information, visit the AFT website at www.aft.org.
In addition to the scholarships and grants awarded to student teachers or the descendants of teachers, students majoring in education should also look for educational funding related to specialized teaching fields. In order to encourage more American students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM-fields, several teacher’s organizations, foundations and government entities have developed grant programs to encourage participation in these fields. STEM-oriented financial aid programs were established to help more students pursue these fields of study, which often take longer to complete than traditional four-year degree programs.
One of the best places for student teachers and education majors to begin looking for funding is with AFCEA International. AFCEA International is a non-profit organization that focuses on increasing the number of individuals serving the military, government, education and industry sectors.
Each year, the organization awards 50 scholarships to students pursing degrees in education. AFCEA International awards scholarships to both undergraduate and graduate students as well as students earning teaching certifications.
Applicants may apply for the organization’s STEM Teachers Scholarship award of $5,000 as long as they plan on teaching STEM subjects at the middle or secondary school level upon graduating. Students who are awarded an AFCEA STEM Scholarship are also eligible to receive a $1,000 AFCEA Science Teaching Tools Grant for an additional three years after graduation if they continue to teach STEM subjects.
For more information about the AFCEA STEM Teachers Scholarship, or to download an application for the program, visit the organization’s website at www.afcea.org. All applications for this program must be submitted by April 1, 2012.
If you are a student teacher of mathematics or a student earning a degree in a math-related field, be sure to apply for educational funding from the National Space Grant Consortium. The organization provides a $3,000 scholarship for students working toward becoming a middle or high school teacher of science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Students who are studying astronomy, planetary science and environmental studies may also apply for the grant.
The grant is available to high performing students who attend one of the 52 National Space Grant Consortia institutions located throughout the US. Students will need to apply for funding issued by the National Space Grant Program operating in their state.
To access the full list of institutions that participate in the National Space Grant Consortium, visit www.nasa.gov.
In addition to federal grants and educational funding offered by teacher’s organizations, students should also tap into grant and scholarship resources offered by institutions, foundations and private corporations. In efforts to help encourage the development of a strong teaching workforce, private sector corporations and charitable foundations have developed grant and scholarship programs to help students afford the rising cost of a college education.
The Straightforward Teacher Program is one of the more unique scholarship programs available for student teachers. Orchestrated by the Straightforward Media Foundation, the Straightforward Teacher Program is the perfect scholarship option for students who are not eligible for merit-based scholarship awards.
While most scholarships are awarded annually or on a semester basis, the Straightforward Teacher Program provides four $500 scholarships every three months. The foundation offers a variety of scholarships for many different areas including education.
If you are interested in applying to the Straightforward Teacher Program, visit the foundation’s website at www.straightforwardmedia.com to obtain deadline information as the deadline dates vary every three months. Special variations of the scholarship are available for minority students, married parents, single parents and for individual students.
In addition to the regular scholarship awards, the foundation also awards the Dale E. Fridell Memorial Scholarship, a recession relief scholarship for underprivileged students and the SFM Teacher Scholarship for student teachers or education majors.
The Applegate/Jackson/Parks Future Teacher Scholarship, offered by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, is another great financial aid resource for student teachers. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to graduate or undergraduate students majoring in education.
Students can apply for the scholarship via the online application that can be accessed on the organization’s website, www.nilrr.org. Applications for this award can be submitted between October 1 and December 31 of each year.
If you are not a Dean’s List student or have struggled with your GPA but are still interested in applying for scholarships, be sure to look into funding from the Common Knowledge Scholarship Foundation.
The Common Knowledge Scholarship Foundation (CKSF), a member of the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA), organizes an unusual scholarship program that is perfect for students who are not eligible for merit-based scholarships. The foundation provides hundreds of scholarships to students in order to ensure both high-performing and average-performing students have an equal chance to participate in higher education.
Unlike most scholarships, which require students to hold specific GPA requirements, this unique scholarship program provides awards based on a student’s common knowledge. Applicants are required to take an online quiz to test their common knowledge. Individuals who successfully pass the quiz are entered into a drawing for a scholarship ranging between $250 and $2,500.
High school graduates, college students and graduate students who are U.S. residents are eligible to apply for CKSF awards. If you are an education major, be sure to log onto the foundation’s website, www.cksf.org, during December and April when the foundation awards special scholarships for students pursuing teaching degrees.
One of the most widely recognized corporate-funded educational grant programs is the Coca-Cola Scholars Program. This program is open to high school graduates who are interested in pursuing careers in business, government, education and the arts.
The program provides 250 scholarships for students attending an accredited college or university. Fifty scholarships are awarded under the National Scholars Program. Recipients of the National Scholars award receive a hefty scholarship package of $20,000 for college. An additional 200 scholarships are awarded via the Regional Scholars Program, which grants awards of $10,000 per recipient.
Students must hold a 3.0 GPA to apply to the Coca-Cola Scholars Program and must undergo a rigorous interview process. For more information about the Coca-Cola Scholars Program and to download an application, visit www.coca-colascholars.org.
If you are a minority student or belong to an underserved population, be sure to tap into the number of grants and scholarships available through cultural heritage organizations. In addition to cultural heritage organizations, students who belong to special populations may also want to investigate institutional, state and federal grants for minority students.
If you are a student of American Indian descent, be sure to apply for educational funding issued by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). The BIE provides scholarship assistance to Native American and American Indian students who want to pursue careers in health and education.
The BIE administers the Indian Adult Education Grant and the Indian Education-Higher Education Grant, both of which aim to improve educational opportunities for Native American students.
The Indian Adult Education Grant is awarded to Native American students who are enrolled in teaching fields that encourage and facilitate adult education programs. Students may receive up to $35,000 in educational funding through this program. The Indian Education-Higher Education Grant provides funding to Native American students who are working toward any degree program, including education.
For more information about how to apply for these programs, visit the BIE website at www.bie.edu.
Students of Latino or Hispanic decent should look into funding opportunities through the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Hispanic Caucus. The CEC Hispanic Caucus is a consortium of educators who support the continued development of student teachers and future teachers who can facilitate bilingual education in American schools as well as assist Hispanic children with disabilities. For more information about the their scholarship initiatives and programs, visit the organization’s website at www.cec.sped.org.
Likewise, African-American students should tap into educational funding from the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The UNCF works with a number of colleges and universities to administer scholarship, grant and internship opportunities for a variety of underserved students. The organization makes awards at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels.
Some of the organization’s most notable programs are the Gates Millennium Scholars Program and the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, which is open to students at every level, provides funding for student teachers and students majoring in STEM-fields. The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative is targeted toward future teachers of bioscience.
For more information about the UNCF’s many scholarship and grant programs, visit the organization’s website at www.uncf.org.