Any woman who is determined to go back to school and needs financial aid to do so can find funding to help with her education. There are a number of grants, scholarships and loans available to women today. Though many are small in amount it’s possible to get more than one grant or scholarship for the woman who puts the effort into finding grants and scholarships and the work into applying for them.
How do women find grants and scholarships?
There are many paths to finding the money to attend post-secondary school.
Before following those paths, first apply for a Federal Pell Grant, which will be granted for any degree program as well as for certain vocational courses such as nursing. Pell grants are given to any prospective or ongoing student who has the financial need and meets the program requirements. Approximately 5,400 institutes of higher learning have been approved for Pell Grant funding.
The amount awarded depends on financial need, the tuition costs of the school chosen, status as a full-time or part-time student, and how long the student plans to attend school. Pell grants are by far the easiest to obtain since they’re issued by the Federal Government and based solely on need as long as other basic requirements are met. Students can apply for Pell Grants online which ensures the fastest response time to an application.
The two things most important in applying for Pell Grants are to pay attention to the filing deadline for the school’s semester or term and to fill out the application completely.
The reason students should apply for Pell Grants first is because the Pell Grant application process uses the FAFSA system, which also is the application process for many other Federal programs for educational funding, whether they are needs based programs or merit based programs. Applying for Pell Grants gets student information into the system.
Students with exceptional financial need should also apply for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program which is also administered through the FAFSA system. There are many other grant and scholarship programs tied together through FAFSA.
Students should also apply at the State level for any grant money available through State programs.
If one or both parents are union members there are often grant or scholarship funds available to student children or spouses of union members. Check with the specific union’s local branch to see what programs are available.
Military Families and Veterans
Military families that have financial aid needs should check the Department of Defense website which links to many of the organizations which offer financial aid to students from military families. Student children and student spouses of members of the Armed Services may also qualify for Fisher House Foundation Education Scholarships for Military family members.
Veterans have educational benefits available through the GI Bill Some veterans may be eligible to transfer GI Bill benefits to a spouse or dependent children so any student with a parent who is a veteran should check eligibility for this type of transfer if their parent doesn’t plan to use their GI Bill benefits.
When researching programs it is always wise for the student to work with a financial aid counselor at the student’s chosen school since there are often programs available specifically for students of that school that have been set up by the alumni associations or individual alumni.
Often there are local companies and corporations that offer grant money through the local colleges for programs in which they have employment needs. These school specific grants and scholarships are often easier to obtain since there is less competition for them than for the state or national programs.
Other paths to educational funding depend on the type of program the student wishes to pursue, the age of the student, the student’s racial profile, whether the student is a single mother or divorced, and a host of other factors.
Grants and Scholarships Specifically for Women
- The American Association of University Women offers scholarships through their state and local branch offices. Amounts and criteria vary by region. They also offer a portal to many other grant and scholarship resources from both non-profit and corporate sources as well as links to demographic-specific scholarship resource lists.
- The Philanthropic Educational Organization offers both needs based and merit based scholarships, grants and loans to women. Some are for who wish to continue their interrupted education, others are for women who are just finishing high school. Programs are administered through local chapters, and the amounts and criteria vary by region and by program.
- The Talbot Scholarship Foundation offers scholarships to women in the US or Canada who are returning to school to complete at least two semesters for an undergraduate degree. Talbot’s Charitable Foundation also awards smaller scholarships in communities in which Talbots maintains a corporate presence. These are given out through the applicable local high schools.
- The Emerge Scholarship Fund provides scholarships to women who have had their education interrupted or who have overcome obstacles and wish to return to finish school. These are merit based awards given to women who have given back to their communities.
- The AARP Foundation offers scholarships to women age 50 or older who are pursuing either a technical or vocational education, an associates degree or their first bachelor’s degree. Priority is given to women who have faced challenges such as raising the children of another family member, working in a low paying job with no significant benefits, or who have been out of work for five years or more. Needs and merit are both considered in awarding these scholarships.
- The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to low income women aged 35 and older who are pursuing a degree or vocational training.
Vocation Specific Grants and Scholarships
Any prospective student who wishes to enroll in a nursing program should first check with the local hospitals to see if there are any educational funding opportunities and which school’s nursing programs they will fund.
Often in areas where there is a nursing shortage the local hospitals will offer grant or scholarship funds in exchange for a commitment from the student to work for that hospital for a set number of years after graduating from the nursing program and obtaining certification. In some cases the funding will equal as much as 100% of the nursing program’s tuition.
Students who expect no family contribution to their nursing program education, and who exhibit sufficient financial need may qualify for the nursing scholarship program administered by the US Health Resources and Services Administration.
Upon graduation and certification, nurses will be expected to work for two years at certain health facilities where there is a nursing shortage. Nurses will be able to negotiate their own salary and benefits package when arranging to fulfill their service requirement.
African American students who wish to enroll in a nursing program can apply for one of many scholarship programs available through the National Black Nurses Association.
African American students from the Kansas City area can apply for the General Hospital #2 Nurses Alumnae Scholarship Program if they’re attending school in the greater Kansas City area.
Most states also have grants and scholarships available to those who wish to be a nurse.
Health Services Fields
For those who wish to pursue careers as physicians, dentists, family nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, or physician’s assistants, the National Health Service Corps Scholarship pays tuition, required fees and some other educational costs for up to four years tax free and also supplies a small taxable monthly living stipend. There is a service commitment upon completion of the program of one year’s service in a job in an area which is experiencing a shortage of health professionals for each year of support.
Service jobs may include working at any Federally supported health center, which may include Indian Health Service clinics, managed care networks, prisons, rural health clinics, public health department clinics and other Federal health sites. Scholars negotiate their own salary, but NHSC regulations require that they be paid equivalent to a Federal civil service employee in a similar position.
The Health Resources and Services Administration administers Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students who wish to work in the health professons or nursing, which is a needs based scholarship.
Public Service Fields
Students who wish to enter public service can apply for the Harry S. Truman Foundation Scholarship, a merit based scholarship which has a 3-7 year service requirement upon completion of school. Because scholarship awards are generous this program is highly competitive.
The Accounting Field
The Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting offers a number of scholarships for women who wish to pursue Accounting degrees. Some are needs based and some are merit based.
Science and/or Math
The National SMART Grant is a Federal Grant available for the third and fourth year of undergraduate study to students in an undergrad degree program in life sciences, physical sciences, computer sciences, technology, math, specific foreign languages, or engineering who have been maintaining a 3.0 or better GPA in a 4.0 scale as of the end of their second undergrad year. Students must also be Pell Grant eligible during the same award year.
The Brookhaven Women in Science of Brookhaven National Laboratory sponsor the Renate W. Chasman Scholarship, which is a merit based scholarship for women returning to school to complete a degree in engineering, the natural sciences or in mathematics. Applicants must be residents of Long Island, NY.
The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship is a merit scholarship for women returning to school to pursue a career in technology. Google also offers other tech field scholarships for Hispanics, in partnership with Lime for students with disabilities, for Native Americans, and in partnership with the United Negro College Fund.
For those wishing to enter the field of primary or secondary school teaching the TEACH Grant Program is a Federal Grant administered through the FAFSA application process. It’s intended for future teachers who intend to teach in a school that serves low income families. There is a service requirement upon teacher certification requiring the recipient to accept employment as a teacher in a high need field and region.
There are specific shortage areas that are covered such as bilingual education, foreign language, math, reading specialist, science, and special education. There may also be other regional teacher shortage subject areas at the time of application.
Most states also have grants and scholarships available to those who wish to teach.
The Children’s Music Workshop maintains a very comprehensive list of places to apply for music grants and scholarships.
Grants for Specific Demographics
Along with women-specific funding, there are also many programs for other specific demographic groups to which the student may also belong. Here are a few of note:
- The United Negro College Fund
- Hispanic College Fund
- Hispanic Scholarship Fund
- Hispanic Heritage Foundation
- Disabled World Disability Scholarships List
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
- Bureau of Indian Education
- Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund
Additions to Grants and Scholarships
If, for some reason, a student comes up short on grant funding, then there are Federal Direct Stafford Loans, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, Federal Direct PLUS Loans, and Federal Direct Consolidation Loans. There is also a Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which was designed to encourage graduates to enter public service jobs.
There are strict guidelines for this program, but it may be a good option for getting out from under a student loan burden while working at a paying job helping others and gaining valuable on the job experience.