The cost of attending college has more than doubled since 1980. Public universities now average $12,283 annually and private universities have exceeded $31,233, according to the United States Department of Education. Community colleges had once been considered the affordable way to attend college, but even their price tags have risen over the years. Even with college savings plans, the average citizen finds it difficult to come up with that much money for four years in a row. This situation has led to many students taking out immense student loan debt, stretching their college attendance over five years or more, or even dropping out of school altogether. Fortunately, students have access to a funding source that can help them graduate from college quickly and possibly be debt-free at the end.
Benefit of Student Grants
A student grant is essentially free money that is given to a student to help with college expenses. Grant awards range from a few hundred dollars to “full ride” packages that pay for the entire cost of an education. The majority of student grants fall between $500 to $2000. Each year these types of grants provide significant benefits to millions of people across the United States. For example, a few thousand dollars can:
- let a disadvantaged minority teenager be the first person in his family to go to college,
- help a single mother to return to college and get a better job,
- encourage bright minds to continue exploring new ideas and innovations,
- assist students young and old to embrace other cultures and promote peaceful international relations,
- help an unemployed, older student to receive job training and return to the workforce,
- help working adults to pursue graduate study while still being able to feed their families, and
- permit ethnically, socially, economically, and financially diverse students to attend the colleges, universities, and vocational schools that they choose.
Student grants may be used to pay for tuition, fees, books, research materials, study abroad, living expenses, and many other education-related expenses. Students should keep in mind that little difference exists between grants, scholarships, and fellowships. Anyone looking for financial aid should investigate all three categories.
Repayment of Grants
As people become more and more conscious of their debts, they are hesitant to accept certain financial aid packages. Fortunately, student grants are not like student loans.
Student loans must be repaid within a certain timeframe after graduation or the last date of college attendance. They are essentially cash advances to pay for education. Just like credit cards, student loans tack on interest and can soon grow to an insurmountable level. On the other hand, under most circumstances, grants do not need to be repaid. They are gifts from sponsors that help pay for rising tuition bills, university and course fees, transportation costs, and housing expenses. Grants are always applied to tuition bills before loans, and the more grants and scholarships that students have, the less loan debt that must be repaid in the future.
Some organizations do, however, attach requirements to grant funding and will demand the repayment of grants if those conditions are not met. For example, certain federal teaching grants mandate that graduates teach in low-income school districts for a certain number of years in order to retain their grant status. Otherwise, the funds will be converted into student loans that must be repaid. Some medical school and nursing program pay for all costs of attending college in exchange for at least two years of service in disadvantaged areas or locations with a shortage of medical personnel. If a grant carries any of these stipulations, the criteria will be identified on the application document. Most organizations are upfront about these requirements because they do not want to risk non-payment later.
Sources of Grants
Student grants can come from just about anywhere–from employers, professional associations, clubs, community groups, colleges, state and local governments, and, of course, the federal government. Many financial aid administrators keep records of all the grants for which their students have applied and then pass those funding sources along to future students. In addition, many websites list thousands of grants and scholarships that are open to qualified applicants. Since some student grants receive low publicity (and low competition), students should apply for more than just the high-profile programs.
The four main sources of grants are federal, state, college-specific, and private programs. Details and examples of each category are below:
Much of the grant money that students receive is awarded through the U.S. government. Federal government grants are used to encourage college attendance, increase the United States’ global competitiveness, and enhance economic output. Current programs include Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, Academic Competitiveness Grants, National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. These student grants are both need-based and merit-based.
Pell Grants are a common source of funding for undergraduate students who have not yet earned their first bachelor’s degrees. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 27% of all undergraduates had been presented Pell Grants for 2007-2008, with an average grant award of $2,600. These grants are awarded based on financial need. They take into consideration the cost of attendance, year-round or partial-year attendance, and full-time or part-time status. The current cap on Pell Grants is $5,550 per academic year (July 1 – June 30), with funding available for up to 18 semesters.
Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
Eligibility under the FSEOG program is based on extreme financial need. Priority status is given to students who have qualified for Pell Grants and who possess the lowest Expected Family Contributions (EFCs) based on their FAFSA results. FSEOG funding is based on application date, financial need, school funding, and the school’s financial aid policies. Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grants typically range between $100 and $4,000 per academic year. In 2008-2009, the top five locations providing the highest average FSEOGs had been the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Vermont, Hawaii, and Massachusetts.
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants
Level: Undergraduate, Post-Baccalaureate, Graduate
TEACH Grants are offered to students who commit to serving as full-time teachers in high-need fields in public/private elementary or secondary schools that serve low-income students. Example of high-need fields include mathematics, science, reading specialists, foreign languages, bilingual education, English language acquisition, and special education. Within eight years of graduation, grant recipients must teach for at least four academic years. If these stipulations are not met, the grants will be retroactively converted to Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, interest will accumulate, and students will be responsible for repaying the money.
TEACH Grants are awarded for up to $4,000 per year. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s http://www2.ed.gov/finaid/prof/resources/data/teach-institution.html”>records, in 2009-2010, Pacific Lutheran University distributed the highest TEACH Grant award per student at $4,850, while Arizona State University presented over $4 million in TEACH Grants to 1,325 students–the highest in the nation. For more details on what the federal government considers to be a high-need field or a school serving low-income students, review the TEACH Grant program profile.
Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)
Awarded to students who have graduated from rigorous high school programs, the Academic Competitiveness Grants are set at $750 for first-year college students and $1300 for second-year college students. Additional eligibility requirements can be found at the U.S. Department of Education’s ACG profile.
National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant)
The National SMART Grant is designed to enhance the United States’ global competitiveness in the areas of mathematics, technology, engineering, physical science, life science, computer science, critical foreign languages, and non-major single liberal arts. To be eligible for SMART Grants, students must major in one of these areas and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA. SMART Grants are available during the third and fourth years of undergraduate study, with a limit of $4,000 per year.
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is offered to students who do not meet the requirements for the Pell Grant but whose parent or guardian died as a result of U.S. Armed Forces service performed after September 11, 2001 in Iraq or Afghanistan. Students must be younger than 24 and enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death. The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is capped at the Pell Grant limit.
Applying for Federal Grants
Students who are interested in applying for federal grants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To receive federal aid, each student must meet all of the following criteria:
- be a U.S. citizen or qualified non-citizen (such as permanent residents, conditional permanent residents, students granted certain visa or refugee statuses by the Department of Homeland Security, and citizens of certain island nations)
- possess a valid Social Security Number
- hold a high school diploma or GED
- be enrolled or intending to enroll at an approved higher education institution
- register with Selective Service, if a male aged 18 to 25
- not be in default on any federal loan or grant
- promise to use federal grants and loans on educational and housing expenses only
- demonstrate satisfactory academic progress while taking courses
The deadline for filing the FAFSA is June 30 for each academic year, but students are encouraged to apply early for access to the most aid. FAFSA processing can take up to six weeks, so apply well before any federal, state, or college deadlines. For the best financial aid opportunities, students should complete the FAFSA with estimated or actual income tax return numbers each January before the next academic year starts in July. Most grant programs require the FAFSA to be completed annually for renewal purposes.
The FAFSA process can be overwhelming the first time, but the FAFSA renewal for subsequent years pre-fills much of the information. The FAFSA must be completed for every academic year that grants, loans, and other financial aid awards are being requested. To speed up the application process, have the following details nearby:
- Social Security Number
- Driver’s license number
- Previous year’s W-2 forms
- Previous year’s federal income tax return for yourself, your spouse if you are married, and your parents if you are a dependent student
- Current bank statements and investment records
- Alien registration or permanent resident card for non-citizens
Students can complete the online FAFSA application, download a paper application, or request an application to be mailed to them at http://fafsa.ed.gov.
Several states offer student grants under various conditions, such as attending a college or university in the state, being a resident of the state, and/or gaining education with the purpose of serving one of the state’s specific needs.
For example, in Texas, the TEXAS Grant helps residents with financial need to go to a public college or university. In the same way, the Tuition Equalization Grant Program helps students go to private, non-profit colleges and universities in Texas.
In New York, part-time undergraduate students may be eligible to receive the Aid for Part-Time Study (APTS) grant for up to $2,000 per year. The New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) awards grants of up to $5,000 per year to New York residents studying full-time at approved schools.
In addition to Cal Grants, students in California can receive other state-based aid. For instance, the Child Development Grant Program awards an annual need-based grant to students pursuing a Child Development Permit. For each year the grant is accepted, students must work full-time for at least one year in a licensed children’s center. The Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program (LEPD) is another need-based California grant that can be awarded to the dependents and spouses of select law enforcement personnel.
Individual colleges process some state grants with FAFSA information, while other grant programs require additional application materials. A link to each state’s higher education authority, with grant and other financial aid information, is accessible here.
In combination with federal and state grants, many colleges administer their own grant programs. In addition, various external organizations help pay for students to attend a particular college or a specific classification of college, such as a law school grants, teaching grants, nursing grants, medical school grants, cosmetology grants, and trade school grants. Some programs require the college to be accredited by a certain body; others are open to any accreditation. Most colleges and universities automatically check if students have submitted FAFSA records to their institution before calculating the financial aid packages. Students who have completed the FAFSA should see federal, state, and college grants listed on their financial aid award letters.
Noted below are some examples of college-based grants:
- Florida State University gives up to $1,800 per year to eligible undergraduate and graduate students under the FSU Grant.
- Northwestern University gives up to $3,000 toward scholarly research for PhD students in the social sciences or humanities and toward creative endeavors by MFA students.
- At the University of Colorado, the Student Fee Grant offsets up to 20% of the Student Capital Construction Fee.
- The University of California at Berkeley offers a DSP Student Grant to help disabled students with the cost of assistive technology and specialized equipment.
Students who are interested in college-specific grants should contact their financial aid departments. They should also meet with their academic departments, as some academic departments award grants that are not available to the university community as a whole. Students should be aware that college grants may have different application deadlines than federal or state grants.
Additionally, some colleges choose to use customized Need Access forms through http://www.needaccess.org. The instructions for each grant will identify whether the Need Access form must be completed.
Numerous private entities recognize the importance of higher education. These employers, community organizations, professional associations, and credit unions set aside money to help students with financial need or outstanding academic merit to achieve success.
- One example is Educational Employees Credit Union in the Central San Joaquin Valley of California, which pays for some of its student members to attend U.S.-based community colleges, universities, and vocational schools.
- Another example is the GE Foundation and its STAR Awards program, which gives up to $3,500 to the children of eligible GE employees and retirees.
- Baptist Memorial Health Care in Tennessee uses its student grants to pay for up to four years of tuition for qualified nursing and allied health students.
- The Hopi Indian Nation offers the Hopi Education Award of up to $2,500 per semester to Hopi member students who are pursuing AA, BS, BA, Doctoral, or Professional degrees from qualified colleges or universities.
- The Geological Society of America gives grants to members who are conducting masters-level or doctoral-level research in a geologic earth science degree program at an American, Canadian, Mexican, or Central American university.
- The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation supplies up to $30,000 for college juniors to continue their education in public service/government graduate degree programs. These student grants are competitive; approximately 10% of applicants are selected for the award. In addition to the application, the Truman Scholarship requires a nomination from the student’s school, three letters of recommendation, a policy proposal, and a recent transcript. Details about becoming a Truman Scholar are available here.
Types of Grants
Some people are under the misconception that they are not qualified for grants because they or their parents “make too much.” Other students believe that grants are out of their league because they are not academic superstars. Still others think that student grants are only intended for young people and undergraduate study, while others think grants are always project-based with official proposals and timelines. The following information will help correct these misunderstandings.
Clearing Up Myths
- An individual does not necessarily need straight A’s to qualify for a student grant.
- College grants are for everyone, from graduating high schoolers to mid-level professionals entering graduate school to mature adults returning to college to complete a lifelong dream.
- Grants can be based on financial need, academic merit, particular talents, or project proposals.
Some grants are need-based, which means that individual awards are distributed based on financial need and are intended to send students to college who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Grants can also be merit-based, which means that students must qualify through academic performance, proposal submission, project completion, or other criteria. Some grants require only a simple application, while others demand weeks of preparation. Some grants are dedicated to public schools, some to private schools, and some to any accredited college, university, or vocational school. While the majority of grants are intended for undergraduates, graduate student grants are plentiful.
Level-based grants are limited to students with a particular academic standing or education objective. For instance, a grant may be open to any individuals entering a graduate degree program–no matter what degrees they already hold–or restricted to current undergraduate students who are planning to continue their education with their first master’s degree or doctorate. Some student grants are open to all levels.
- The MSU Freshman Grant is automatically disbursed to new freshmen at Michigan State University who complete the FAFSA, are Michigan residents, and demonstrate financial need.
- Virginia residents can attend George Mason University through the Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program. This state grant is awarded to dependent first-time freshmen who enroll full-time, maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, and display significant financial need through FAFSA details
- Colorado residents can apply for the Colorado State University Land Grants, which provides funding to sophomores with financial need.
- Sophomores at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst can take advantage of the Citizen Scholars Program. Awards are $1,000 per year for two years for students with a 3.2 GPA or higher, a history of community service, and a commitment to future community service.
- The University of Washington offers one full-tuition Remo S. and Sheila A. Galvagno Scholarship per academic year. The program is open to juniors and seniors who are Washington residents and enrolled full-time.
- The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program awards up to $7,500 annually for juniors and seniors who intend to continue their careers in mathematics, engineering, or natural sciences.
- The Linen Prize in Chinese is offered to Williams College seniors who have taken Chinese language courses at Williams and shown outstanding promise, whether or not they are majoring in Asian Studies.
- The MillerCoors National Adelante Scholarship gives a grant of $3,000 to Hispanic seniors and juniors attending partner universities. Students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and be enrolled full-time in one of the following degree programs: Sales, Marketing, Public Relations, Communications, Business, Finance, Accounting, Economics, or International Business.
Public College Grants Vs. Private College Grants
Some grants can be used only at public institutions of higher ed while others are confined to private colleges and universities. These types of student grants are often seen in college-specific aid packages, but they may also originate from external organizations.
Graduate School Grants:
- The Beinecke Scholarship Program gives $34,000 to students wanting to attend graduate school for the arts, humanities, or social sciences.
- The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans program donates up to $90,000 toward graduate study. Applicants must be younger than 31, have completed a level of education between their college senior year and their graduate school second year, and be classified as a New American (a child of naturalized citizens if born in the United States or a green card holder or naturalized citizen if born abroad).
Law School Grants:
- The American University Washington College of Law awards need-based grants to full-time JD students for up to three years. The grant must be renewed annually, and applicants must complete the Need Access form.
- The American Bar Association’s Legal Opportunity Scholarship encourages racially and ethnically diverse women and men to attend law school. These grants provide $15,000 over three years.
Medical School Grants:
- The National Health Service Corps Scholarship pays for all medical school expenses in exchange for serving as a physician in a high-need Health Professional Shortage Area for at least two years after graduation. Women and men in MD, DO, DDS, DMD, Family Nurse Practitioner, Certified Nurse-Midwife, and Physician Assistant degree program are eligible.
- Students entering their third year of medical school can access a $5,000 student grant from the Herbert W. Nickens Medical Student Scholarships. Applicants must demonstrate leadership in addressing health care, educational, and societal needs of U.S. minorities.
Nursing School Grants:
- Nursing students can have their tuition, fees, books, and other educational expenses paid for by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration. In exchange for this grant, nurses must work at least two years in a health care facility with a critical shortage of qualified nurses.
- The March of Dimes grants $5,000 stipends to registered nurses enrolled in master’s-level or doctoral-level maternal-child nursing programs.
Business School Grants:
- Mays Business School, a part of Texas A&M University, offers an extensive list of grants and scholarships to in-state and out-of-state students pursuing an MBA degree.
- Full-time MBA students at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business can earn full tuition payments for two years through the Dean’s Scholarship.
Technical School Grants / Trade School Grants / Vocational School Grants:
- Students who have been in the Colorado foster care system for at least two years can receive financial assistance to attend a technical school, trade school, community college, or four-year college. This grant is offered through the Helen M. McLoraine Scholarship for Foster Care & Emancipating Youth.
- The Home Depot Trade Scholarship Program gives $500 to women and men enrolled in construction and building programs.
- Students attending certified trade schools, colleges, and universities throughout the United States can apply for the $2,000 American Fire Sprinkler Association scholarship.
- Students age 25 or younger with hemiplegia can attend a trade school or college through the Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association.
- Low-income women with minor children can gain up to $2,000 for vocational training through the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation Scholarship. Recipients do not need to be single mothers.
Many grants are based on a person’s major and are limited to a particular college. Education majors, English majors, biology students, nursing students, business students, engineers, police officers, scientists, and musicians can all find an array of worthwhile grants.
Need-based vs Merit-based Grants
As previously mentioned, the Pell Grant is one student grant that is based on financial need. Other examples of need-based grants include the Penn Grant from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina Need Based Grant, the Guaranteed Access Grant open to Maryland residents, and the Winston-Salem Foundation’s various grant and scholarship programs for area students.
Students should keep in mind that need-based grants do not only go to “poor” students. According to U.S. News, the majority of federal aid goes to students with household incomes under $50,000, but some colleges award grants and scholarships up to $180,000. Furthermore, Ivy League schools do not grant athletic scholarships or merit scholarships; all aid is need-based.
Merit grants are typically awarded to students with high GPAs, extracurricular involvement, and community service experience. Individual programs may maintain more or fewer requirements. Unlike need-based grants, merit grants do not factor in whether or not a student displays a financial hardship.
For the 2009-2010 academic year, U.S. News had listed the colleges that distribute the most non-need-based merit aid. The rankings do not include athletic scholarships or tuition benefits. Topping the list is Louisiana College, in which 88% of students had received merit grants and scholarships, followed by Cooper Union, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Free Will Baptist Bible College, University of Central Oklahoma, and Hawaii Pacific University. Some of the awards are based on academic merits alone, whereas others include college-generated scholarships for qualified students who could not afford the cost of attendance.
Listed below are a few of the thousands of merit-based grants and scholarships found across the country:
- The ECCHO Scholarship is available to Hispanic students with at least a 2.5 GPA or 450 GED score who are attending their first undergraduate program at a qualified Educators and Community Helping Hispanics Onward (ECCHO) member school.
- The Alaska Performance Scholarship is granted by the state to students who graduate high school with strong GPAs, college entrance test scores, and rigorous coursework. Students will receive up to $4,755 to attend accredited Alaska colleges, universities, and job-training schools.
- The National Restaurant Association Education Foundation offers various merit-based scholarships to students and educators in the food service industry.
- The Elks National Foundation provides Legacy Awards of $1,000 for each of four years to children and grandchildren of living Elks.
- The EnergySolutions Foundation awards $2,000 merit scholarships to students who will enroll in math, science, and engineering bachelor’s degree programs. These student grants are open to 10th graders in Washington, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Canada.
Talent-based student grants are merit grants or need-based grants for students who demonstrate excellence in a particular area of study. They generally promote specific fields or careers, such as sports, music, theatre, painting, sculpture, dance, math, science, medicine, photography, videography, and any number of other areas. Some talent-based student grants are limited to members of certain organizations, while others are open to anyone in the community.
Earning a talent-based grant can not only reduce the burden of going to college but also impress future employers. Examples of talent grants include the following:
- The Minnesota State University at Mankato awards talent grants to high school seniors in the categories of music, theatre, creative writing, communications, and diversity awareness.
- Talent-based student grants at Rhode Island College are available in dance, music, film studies, theatre, art, and communications. Awards range from $100 to $2,500.
- The University of Hartford considers athletic scholarships to be part of its talent-based awards. Recipients must participate in NCAA Division I athletics in the areas of baseball, basketball, golf, lacrosse, soccer, or tennis (for men) and basketball, cross-country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, or volleyball (for women).
- The Gertrude Whitney Conner Scholarship for Excellence gives up to $10,000 to incoming MFA students at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture who demonstrate artistic ability and financial need.
Project grants are awarded on a competitive basis, usually for scientific research, advanced technologies, the arts, and social services. Project grants are usually prestigious, so winning an award can open doors to future grant projects and employment offers. Some popular project-based student grants are listed below:
- Fulbright Grants are some of the most well-known project grants. Fulbright Grants are administered through the Institute of International Education, with sponsorship from the U.S. Department of State. These grants permit undergraduate students, graduate students, and recent graduates to undertake advanced study, research, and teaching opportunities abroad. Fulbright Grants last nine to twelve months, and competition is intense. More information for both U.S. students and non-U.S. students can be found here.
- The American Medical Association gives medical students the opportunity to plan and execute community projects through their Chapter Involvement Grant program. These student grants offer awards of $150 to $500 per event. Each project must be related to medical education, medical practice, public health, patient safety, and/or community outreach. More details can be found here.
- The Oregon Media Production Association promotes Oregon-based film productions through its Media Arts Education Fund Project-based Scholarship. Applicants can be undergraduate or graduate students but must be pursuing a career or coursework in film, video, journalism, photography, audio, or multimedia.
Demographic grants are awarded based on a student’s particular characteristics, a student’s desire to explore a certain field or career, or a combination of the two. Common demographic-based programs include minority grants, women grants, Native American grants, Hispanic grants, gay/lesbian grants, and religious grants.
As previously mentioned, demographic-based grants may or may not be limited to people who display select traits themselves. For instance, an African American Studies grant may be open only to African Americans or may accept applications from people of all races who want to study African American culture and heritage. A GLBT grant may be given to gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender students with any majors, to any student with a GLBT-related major, or to a GLBT student with a GLBT major. The same principles apply for religion-based grants. Student grants may be provided to individuals who practice a certain religion, to any student who wants to attend a college with a particular religious affiliation, to students intending to start a religious career, or to any combination of the aforementioned characteristics.
- The Fisher House Foundation funds the Heroes’ Legacy Scholarships Program through the proceeds of President Obama’s children’s book, Of Thee I Sing. Scholarship applications are open to the dependent unmarried children of active duty personnel, retirees, Reserve/Guard members, and survivors of military personnel who died while on active duty who are younger than 23 and meet certain criteria.
- Women can apply for career development grants through the American Association of University Women. Between $2,000 and $12,000 is bestowed upon women who will enroll in a second bachelor’s degree program, master’s degree program, or specialized training in order to advance, change, or re-enter their careers. Preference is given to women of color and women in nontraditional fields.
- Non-traditional students can gain funding through the American Legion Auxiliary. This association grants Non-Traditional Student Scholarships to older members and returning college students in two-year or four-year degree programs.
- Tennessee State University offers the Geier Nontraditional Student Scholarship to individuals aged 25 or older who have been away from school for at least two years and reside in the Nashville metropolitan area. These student grants are available for both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
- Openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or gender nonconforming Physician Assistants (PAs) can take advantage of the LGBT Physician Assistant Caucus’ Student Leadership Grants. Awards of $1000 are given to student members of the caucus who are enrolled in an accredited PA program and attend the annual conference.
Grants for People With Disabilities and Medical Conditions:
- Many associations offer grants to people with physical and mental impairments. Student grants exist for the learning disabled, the hearing impaired, recovering addicts, diabetics, amputees, people with bipolar disorder, people with epilepsy, women and men with scoliosis, and numerous other health conditions.
- Legally blind students can access $15,000 for college through the Jewish Guild for the Blind.
- The Cancer Survivors’ Fund helps current cancer patients and cancer survivors to return to college.
Grants for Minorities
- Through the Jackie Robinson Foundation’s Education and Leadership Development Program, minority students can receive up to $7,500 annually to attend an accredited four-year college or university.
- The Gates Millennium Scholars grant gives African American, Hispanic American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian Pacific Islander American students the opportunity to attend college for free. Applicants must have at least a 3.3 high school GPA, display active leadership, and meet Pell Grant eligibility requirements.
Grants for African Americans
- The United Negro College Fund administers over 30 grants and scholarships from school districts, government entities, top employers like Google and Lockheed-Martin, and non-profit organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA).
- The Lydia Donaldson Tutt-Jones Memorial Research Grant provides $3,000 toward graduate students who want to conduct a research project on the positive portrayal of African-American success.
Grants for Hispanic Americans
- The Hispanic Scholarship Fund offers grants for community college transfer students, undergraduate students, and graduate students. Applicants must complete the FAFSA, plan to enroll full-time, and maintain a 3.0 GPA or better.
- The Council for Exceptional Children gives $1,000 to a Hispanic student member who is pursuing a degree in special education. This program is also open to students of other ethnically diverse backgrounds.
Grants for Native Americans
- Only 17% of Native American high school students go on to college, in contrast with the 62% average across the United States. The American Indian Education Foundation seeks to close the gap by providing up to $2,000 per year to competitive grant recipients.
- The Menominee Tribal Scholarship program gives a $1,000 student grant to each of the four category winners: high school senior, undergraduate four-year college student, technical college student, and graduate student.
Grants for Asian Americans
- The Asian American Journalists Association grants up to $2,500 to students who have received summer internships as television or radio male broadcasters.
- Boston College juniors can have up to 75% of their senior year paid for by the Asian American Scholarship.
Grants for Women
- The National Women’s Studies Association presents four Women of Color Caucus graduate study awards for $500 each. Applicants must be women of African descent, Latina descent, Asian/Asian-American/Pacific-Islander/ Arab/Middle East Asian descent, or African Native American/American Indian/Alaskan Native descent.
- The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund gives tuition assistance to low-income women who are age 35 or older. Applicants must enroll in a regionally accredited or ACICS-accredited school for an associate’s degree, first bachelor’s degree, or technical/vocational education.
- The AARP Women’s Scholarship Program encourage low-income women age 40 and older to go to college with $500 – $5,000 grants.
College Grants for Veterans:
- Honorably discharged veterans can receive $250 per session at Keller Graduate School of Management through the Veteran’s Appreciation Grant.
- The Illinois Veterans Grant pay tuition and fees for Illinois veterans attending a public community college or public university within the state.
- In addition to student grants for veterans, many institutions offer grants or discounts for active duty personnel and children of veterans.
College Grants for Non-Traditional Students
- The Talbots Women’s Scholarship sends older students to college with either $15,000 or $30,000.
- The Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) Scholarship Grant gives variable awards to economically, socially, and physically challenged adults who are responsible for raising small children.
Catholic College Grants:
- The Knights of Columbus gives $1,500 to members or to spouses and children of deceased or active members. Applicants must attend a Catholic university or college in the United States.
- Catholic Financial Life gives one-time grants to students who are age 23 and younger and who have performed at least ten service hours at a non-profit organization.
Islamic College Grants:
- The Fadel Educational Foundation supports the college education of Muslims in the United States by granting up to $3,500 per year. Grants are based on both need and merit.
- The Ameen Rihani Scholarship helps students of Lebanese or other Arab descent to continue their education. Applicants must have a 3.25 high school GPA or higher, be entering college for the first time, and have documented records of leadership abilities.
Jewish College Grants:
- The Lloyd Bardach B’nai B’rith Scholarship sends any Jewish resident of the greater Springfield, Massachusetts area to a four-year college.
- Future Judaica librarians can receive $1,000 for graduate study of library and information science through the Association of Jewish Libraries.
How to Find Student Grants
This year, nearly $3 billion in financial aid will be distributed. Due to the immense number of student grants, finding a grant is easy, but finding the right grant may be difficult. The most common ways to locate grants are:
Ask friends what grant applications they submitted. Talk to friends who are attending the same college and different colleges, who have the same major and different majors, who live in the same area and outside the area, who possess the same interests and different interests, who work for the same employer and different employers, and who share the same interests and different interests. Requesting grant advice from people who are in a similar situation may lead to one-track thinking, while speaking to people in a variety of circumstances may identify previously undiscovered grant opportunities.
Financial Aid Administrators
Representatives who work in the financial aid office have a strong grasp of not only their own college’s grant options but also the grants provided by nearby schools and organizations. They can often steer students toward both widely recognized publications and little-known resources.
Read college newspapers, listen to college radio stations, and review university websites. Most institutions publish their grant and scholarship deadlines, and current students are likely to talk about hot items.
Career-specific organizations often publish advice to help students through college and gain employment in the field. Many organizations offer student grants themselves.
The huge demand for student grants has lead to the indexing and cataloging of numerous funding sources. Large grants, small grants, full grants, partial grants, high-profile grants, and nondescript grants are all accessible. Performing a simple Internet search can lead to pages and pages of information.
Student Grant Services
Some services offer to scour online and offline sources for the latest student grant opportunities. For a fee, they match students and grants based on financial need, merit, talents, demographics, location, selected colleges, connections with associations and employers, cultural heritage, interests, career plans, and more. Some of these student grant services provide immense value and are worth their price. Other times, students can save a substantial amount of time and money by conducting their own research.
Tips on Applying for Student Grants
1. Consider your characteristics. Each year grants are awarded to thousands of individuals on a virtually unlimited number of traits. Some common grant categories include:
- Citizenship status: American citizens attending a U.S. college or university, foreign residents attending a U.S. college or university, children of immigrants
- Education level: undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, graduate
- College type: public, private, non-profit, law school, medical school, film school, community college, four-year institution, vocational or trade school
- College location: state or region, college-specific
- Class: freshman, sophomore, junior, senior
- Financial need: need-based or merit-based, low-income only
- Enrollment status: full-time, part-time
- Major: with and without future employment requirements
- Future occupation: nursing, childcare, education, visual artist, zoologist, firefighters, etc.
- Demographics: age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, military status, disabilities, past/present medical conditions, and more
- Family situation: single mother, single father, pregnant women, unwed mothers, married with children, working adult, dependent with one or more parents deceased, children of divorced parents, adopted children
- Current employer: grants and scholarships for a current employee as well as an employee or retiree’s children, unemployed individuals, business owners
- Association membership: grants and scholarships for members and/or their children and spouses
- Personal characteristics: grants for left-handed people, vegetarians, online students, etc.
2. Match yourself to the eligibility requirements. Review all of the details and make sure you fit the grant profile. Do you have the required grade point average? Do you fit within the income requirements? Does your school participate in this particular grant program? Do not waste your time applying for grants unless the minimum standards are met.
3. At the same time, do not limit yourself unnecessarily. By widening your grant search, you may find lucrative grants that are indirectly connected to your selected field of study. Applicants may also gain significant advantages by attending a college in a nearby state. Obscure grants that “no one” has ever heard of can work to your advantage; by applying, you will face less competition. Remember to search for synonyms. For example, English majors could search for grants related to English, writing, editing, publishing, poetry, authors, novels, essays, and other relevant topics.
4. Apply early. Grants funds are generally limited, so they are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Applying early for project-based grant funds may demonstrate enthusiasm about the subject and, in turn, increase the odds of earning the grant. Are grant applications due a year before college attendance is scheduled to start? Are recipients expected to start their degrees within six months of earning an award?
5. Apply for need-based, merit-based, talent-based, and project-based grants, if applicable. Submit the FAFSA, but do not overlook other local and national grant sources. Apply to as many funding sources as possible.
6. Provide all requested information. Keep in mind that, while many grant applications can be completed online, some require paper applications, transcripts, letters of recommendation, proof of membership in a particular tribe, group, or association, and other documents. A few incomplete grant applications are returned for corrections and additional details, but most are rejected altogether. In either situation, the grant application is delayed and funding opportunities are decreased.
7. Have a clear purpose for the money. For project-based grants, presenting clear problem statements, objectives, methods, and evaluation guidelines is critical. Need-based grants may have a more general purpose, such as “pay for textbooks and course fees.” In addition, be aware of what a grant can and cannot be used for. Do not plan on purchasing that new iPod if a grant only pays for tuition.
8. Write essays and documents in formal language with proper spelling and grammar that adheres to the grant guidelines. Avoid jargon and slang. Be concise, specific, and descriptive. If handwritten documents are a requirement, use black ink and print legibly. Otherwise, submit typewritten copy. Focus your statements on the grant agency’s priorities and how you can benefit them in those areas. If requested, discuss your personal story and the impact that a student grant would have on your future.
9. Stay organized. Maintain a record of each grant’s requirements, deadlines, timeframes, award amount, and the documentation submitted. Make copies of all originals before submitting them online or mailing them. Keeping all of this information is helpful for making follow-up calls and for knowing how much the proceeds of one grant might reduce the funding for another grant.
10. Get a second opinion. Review all grant applications before submitting them. Then ask a trusted family member, friend, or advisor to look them over again. Accept constructive criticism instead of becoming defensive. Make edits and ask for more feedback. Important, competitive, and/or high-dollar-value student grants may benefit from up to seven reviews before the final submission.
Combining Student Grants With Scholarships and Loans
Student grants can typically be integrated with scholarships, loans, workstudy funds, and other types of financial aid to offset the expense of going to college. In most cases, the total amount of funding cannot exceed the cost of attendance with tuition, room, board, textbooks, and fees. Virtually all colleges and universities demand to be notified if students receive financial aid from external programs.
Students must keep in mind that some grant administrators ask that all other forms of non-loan aid be exhausted before their grants are applied. Most grant funds are sent directly to the school, but some money may be handed to students with the intention that they use it for college-related expenses. Grant recipients must understand when the free money will be disbursed, in case that date passes the tuition deadline.
Grants that cover tuition, fees, textbooks, supplies, and equipment are generally tax-free for degree-seeking students. The Internal Revenue Service considers grants and scholarships given to students who are not seeking a degree as income. At the same time, any portion of a student grant that covers room and board, living expenses, research, or travel is also typically counted as income and may be taxable. Students must report taxable income on their federal income tax returns, whether or not they receive an official end-of-year statement asking them to do so.