With the cost of going to college on the rise, there is a growing need for financial aid. Financial aid opportunities for disabled students are in great supply. There are many federal grant programs available to disabled students along with resources from private organizations willing to support their need for a good education. Here are some of the financial opportunities available for disabled college students.
Even though the government doesn’t offer any individual student grants geared toward the needs of disabled students, there are nevertheless federal grant opportunities these students may be able to qualify for if they meet the financial need. The largest of the federal grant programs is the Pell Grant. It awards students up to $4,000 for every academic year if they meet the financial need. For the 2008-2009 school years, the average annual cost of an education was $6,500. College expenses would have been cut in half for students who applied and were granted the Pell Grant.
There are three other federal grants worth mentioning that disabled students could apply for including the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, National SMART Grant and the Academic Competitiveness Grant. These of course depend upon what course of study the student intends on pursuing and their eligibility. These, along with the Pell Grant, would definitely pay for a student’s full college education. For more information on federal grants, go to www.fafsa.ed.gov
Types of Disability Grants
You can look through local, regional, national and state institutions to find disability grants. If you need help for these resources, your prospective college should have a disability support service office where you can go for more information and referrals.
Don’t wait until you receive and admissions decision or you may miss the opportunity to apply for grants.
Many disabled students are qualified to receive grants which target minority students. They do this because these students are thought to be underrepresented. Here are the types of disabilities students are often given grants for.
There are often college grants available for students who have a mental or neurological disability like autism or depression. One such organization is the Schwallie Family Scholarship Program which supports students with autism or Asperger Syndrome who want to pursue a higher degree of education. For more information on this program visit this site at ResearchAutism.Org
The Omaha’s Crawford Scholarship is awarded to students attending The University of Nebraska. It is awarded from the college itself to students with a physical disability and is based on financial need. For more information on the Omaha Crawford Scholarship visit Unl.Edu
There is a Florida program and a national program held by the ChairScholars Foundation which provides financial support to those with a physical disability. The award amount varies. However, the national program does offer an amount up to $20,000 which goes toward expenses for higher education. If you’re interested in this program, more information can be found at www.chairscholars.org
Grants are also available for the blind and deaf. For example, the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing offers a range of grants in the amount of $1,000 to $10,000 for those students who were diagnosed with a hearing condition before the age of seven. Blind students who wish to go to college may qualify for the Reggie Johnson Memorial Scholarship offered by the Association of Blind Citizens in the amount of $1,000 to $2,000.
There are things to consider before applying for grants. Many programs have specific requirements regarding disability eligibility. You may need a signed verification form from a doctor and proof of disability such as when you became disabled possibly from social security. It’s important to get these documents in on time before applying.
There are many opportunities for disabled students to receive both grants and scholarships. These are awarded by institutions and foundations all the time. In fact, the National Federation of the Blind is known for awarding scholarships in the amount of $12,000 per year. There is an annual scholarship in the amount of $3,000 given out by the Schwallie Family Scholarship Program for students with autism.
Another important scholarship awarded every year for those students in wheelchairs which goes to help them pay for supplies and books, is the AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship. There are also several other organizations which offer financial aid to disabled students. For more information on scholarships check out this website.
Institutions receive federal money through a government program called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. This act helps both universities and colleges become more accessible to the needs of the disabled making the academic environment equal for everyone. It allows them to have adequate housing as well. One important thing to remember before starting college is to inform the school that the student is disabled before the year begins so necessary accommodations can be arranged.
Other Financial Considerations
There are other forms of financial assistance available to disabled students other than grants and scholarships. Things like loans and work-study programs. There are many designed just for students with disabilities. Some students combine these programs to pay for their financial expenses through college. The best place to start is through the financial aid office at your prospective college. Check with the administrator for more information regarding your options to see what is available in your state, what your school offers and what you may qualify for from outside resources.
These are just available to undergraduate students and you are not required to pay them back.
Federal Stafford Loan
These are based on need and are offered to undergraduate and graduate students. Their loan amount varies every year and it must be repaid. Interest on this loan is a variable rate. If the student qualifies for the subsidized Stafford loan, the interested will be paid by the government while he/she is in school and during any grace period or deferments. This loan is based on financial need.
Federal PLUS Loan
This loan is subsidized and paid to the student’s parents. If the parent’s don’t qualify for the PLUS loan or the student is an independent, they can always apply for more Stafford Loans. The interest on the PLUS loan is also variable.
Undergraduates can receive the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. Amounts vary each academic year.
Federal Work-Study Programs are offered to both undergraduate and graduate students. This allows them the opportunity to earn money to cover the cost of educational expenses.
Perkins Loans are loans with low interest that have to be repaid. The maximum loan amount for graduate students is higher than it is for undergraduates on an annual basis.
If you would like more information on federal student aid programs or would like to fill out an application online, visit www.fafsa.ed.gov or www.student.ed.gov.
Awards are gifts in the form of money given on the student’s behalf for their academic achievements, background, interests and criteria. When you first start searching for awards or scholarships, ask your parents to check with their employers, check local organizations, the high school guidance counselor and the financial aid office at the college.
Also look at the local library and pay a visit to the department chairman at the school you’ll be attending.
It may be a good idea for your parents to check with the administrative office where they work to see if they are offering financial aid opportunities, scholarships, or tuition reimbursement for the children of their employees. If you are an employee yourself or volunteer somewhere, see if that company offers such a program.
Check to see if your church may offer a scholarship program. Some churches do offer them.
Professional and Social Organizations
Places like the Elk Club, AFLCIO and Teamsters all offer millions of dollars every year in scholarships for both members and their children. If you don’t happen to be a member, look around for organization offering scholarships in the field you’ve chosen to study.
Chamber of Commerce
There may be smaller grants and scholarships available for local college students through your local Chamber of Commerce especially if you are pursuing a business degree.
One site worth checking out is disability.gov. This site is one of the leading resources for disabled students wanting to further their education. Once you’re on the site, simply register and begin searching for loans, grants and scholarships. It is a site with other topics on disability, but the section on education is extremely informative. Here are a list of sections and topics worth checking out.
News and Events
The news and events section shows what’s going on at various colleges and universities. It has links to articles you can read and lesson programs you can download. You can see webcasts from the Autism Center for Excellence. These are very informative and you’ll have the opportunity to chat with the participants and presenters after the webcast is over.
This section provides students with information on services to help them succeed. It includes support, help with accommodations, preparation for college, work, and development and leadership programs are also available.
This section is designed just for the parents. It includes an early intervention service, detailed information on rights and laws that protect their disabled student and transition support.
These resources help aid in the teaching of both children and adults who have disabilities. They include instructional strategies, parent collaboration techniques, and professional development and student support services.
Of course, this site will also help students find loans, scholarships and grants. You’ll find several links to help you in your search for college funding.
Veterans and Military
The veterans and military section includes information on programs for those in the armed forces and their families. Here, they will receive financial assistance for their educational needs. There are many programs available to those who qualify.
Laws and Regulations
Here, you’ll find a complete rundown of disability laws including The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. It’s always a good idea to look these over anyway. You want to be sure of what you or your child may qualify for in the way of college funds.
Research and Statistics
This section has the statistics beginning before 2000 to present day of how paying for a disabled child’s education is now easier and how it has changed over the years.
College can be an exciting time in a young person’s life. A disability shouldn’t stand in the way of someone living that experience. All it takes it doing a little research to find the right financial organization to aid your child with their educational goals. All they need is someone to care enough to start the process.