How to Find the Right Sources
Today, few students are able to simply foot the bill for a college education. Only the wealthiest can manage this and their numbers are few in comparison.
The average cost of a private, four-year college is well over $20,000 per academic year.
Divide this figure in half and you have the average tuition for a public university; in half again, the still formidable tuition at a community college.
The purpose of college grants is to make educational funds however minimal, available to financially needy students to help defray the cost of a college education. Students seeking grant money may begin by searching for grants by student-type or subject-specific grants.
Grants—Different from Scholarships and Student Loans
Grants are distinctly different from both scholarships and student loans in that they are free gift money—so unlike student loans that must be repaid—and primarily need-based, compared to traditionally merit-based scholarships.
Grants may be divided into the following searchable categories:
- Degree Level
Common sources for grant funding:
- Federal and state governments
- Colleges and universities
- Public and private organizations
Because most grant recipients are financially impaired or otherwise disadvantaged, there are many grants specifically designed for minorities and low-income students.
The federal government is putting more money into the hands of college students than ever before and much of the impetus behind it is the No Child Left Behind Act. The measures help to assure that more primary and secondary schools are held accountable for making sure kids get the attention and education they deserve without prejudices. Which means a much higher percentage of high school students are earning diplomas. More students stand a chance of attending college when the right financial and social resources are available to them along with educators with the know-how and experience to guide them to the right academic and career choices.
The following federal grant programs offer hundreds of thousands of students the necessary assistance that makes college a financial reality:
- The Pell Grant, in existence since 1972, remains one of the staples of federal funding for millions of low-income students. This fundamental grant program is somewhat at the mercy of the federal government’s budgetary and political whims, but nevertheless remains a valuable source of funding for impoverished undergraduate students.
- The Academic Competitiveness (AC) Grant is available to undergraduate freshman and sophomores with outstanding academic records and with demonstrated aptitudes for leadership and service. Qualifying candidates must also be Pell Grant eligible.
- The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART Grant) picks up where the Academic Competitiveness Grant leaves off – with $4,000 awards to undergraduate juniors or seniors studying computer science, engineering, mathematics, or sciences. Applicants must be eligible for and receiving the Pell Grant.
Many states administer grant programs to resident students based on merit, need and even area of study. Here are some examples:
- Oklahoma offers need-based grants and “specialized” grant programs.
- Michigan’s grant programs are designed for a cross-section of students, including general undergraduates, academically gifted, low-income and even non-traditional adult students.
- Florida’s Office of Student Financial Assistance administers a wide array of grants from those for disadvantaged, disabled, loan repayment, Hispanics, and academically talented.
Popular Minority Grants
Over the last decade the percentage of minorities graduating with a four-year degree has risen sharply. More African Americans are in college now than ever before and the 39 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country offer top-notch programs and administer scholarships and grants just like other colleges and universities. Find out from us where to find the richest vein of African American student grants.
African American Students
African American women are perhaps one of the most disadvantaged minorities. In fact, this group of students will find countless sources for grants that target women and minorities, especially those grants rewarding involvement in specialized fields of study. Spelman College is the only college in the United States that is devoted to nurturing the needs of African American women students.
Hispanics have recently overtaken African Americans in number, but as far as education is concerned most educators sadly label the group as a whole “under-educated.” This means that most do not pursue education beyond high school and those that do are satisfied with a vocational or two-year degree. Cultural, social and economic problems have held past generations of students back from four-year college programs. Despite the fact that numbers remain small, more Hispanic students are finding the means both socially and financially to attend college, often via Hispanic grants. In Texas, California, Florida and Arizona, Hispanic serving colleges – or those whose student bodies are at least a quarter Hispanic – offer need-based grant and scholarship opportunities.
Native American Students
Native Americans constitute the smallest minority group of all, call this their native land and yet are plagued with some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds of all. Up until recently, Native Americans have been isolated in typically remote and rural environments and in reservation communities. Like Hispanics most Native Americans have no family history of higher education – most consider a high school diploma the final goal; a primary reason that Native American grants are so critical.
Asian American Students
The fastest growing ethnic population in America is Asian American. Grants for Asian American students are commonly sponsored by ethnic organizations or available as general ethnic minority grants through the government or colleges and universities.
Are you a First in Family college student?
- Both Sallie Mae and Coca Cola provide grants to first generation college students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Grants for Women
For generations women were disregarded on most college campuses. Many educators argue that women are in general not as engaged on a coeducational campus as they are on a women’s campus. Private women’s colleges have continued to thrive thanks to the generosity of corps of alumnae, innovative curricula, and expanded programs such as athletics that round out a more complete educational experience.
Grant programs designed for women promote their participation in underrepresented degree programs such as the sciences, mathematics and business. The American Competitiveness Initiative is designed to introduce and prepare future generations of students at primary and secondary levels to be more assertive in subjects like math and science. But for now big corporations and professional organizations emphasize grants and scholarships that reward those students studying in underrepresented professions. One of the most influential organizations, the American Association of University Women, offers an outstanding array of grants to minority and disadvantaged women looking to return to college, or pursue a degree for the first time.
Popular Student-Specific Grants
There is little limit on the types of students seeking college grant money. However we have created some loose categories that successfully embrace significant populations of students. The most popular student-specific grants are:
- Low-income and disadvantaged
- Graduate and doctoral
- High school and undergraduate
A growing population of students is outside the traditional college age – between the ages of 18 and 24, posing unique challenges for post-secondary education and driving new demand for non-traditional student grants. Americans are living longer, many are choosing alternative careers, higher degrees, or finishing a degree for the first time in their lives. Community colleges, as well as many traditional campuses, now offer flexible course schedules that include evening and weekend classes specifically tailored to working adults.
Native American tribal colleges and universities serve a wide array of community individuals, many of their students outside the traditional college age. Since tribal colleges are typically the only educational resources remote communities have, they offer all types of degrees, including two-year and certificate programs, and are popular for all members of a community.
Low Income and Disadvantaged Students
There is no reason a student should be denied a college education because of lack of money. Many federal, state, college or private organizations subsidize need-based aid awards for the most financially disadvantaged students.
The federal Pell Grant can ultimately become a generous gift if you are one of the most financially strapped students. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also offers the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students. This award is need-based and disbursed to students studying in an approved health care profession.
Only in the last few decades have accessibility and mobility issues been clarified and institutions of all kinds made accessible to disabled students. Now grants for disabled students such as those from the National Federation of the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf assist students in achieving their goals of participating in and completing a traditional college education.
Graduate and Doctoral Students
Many types of grant programs for graduate students and doctoral candidates are available from colleges and universities and private organizations. Colleges and universities are quite competitive in offering grant awards to the right candidates. In some instances grants support most of a doctoral student’s research and living expenses.
Grad students who must travel to participate in studies abroad, take part in research, or professional conferences may discover a slew of small grants administered by professional organizations or college travel grants designed to cover such auxiliary expenses.
Popular undergraduate grants range from general grant programs that provide monetary incentive to low-income and disadvantaged students to specialized grants in science, math, engineering, and technology (SMET subjects). The grant options for undergraduate women or minorities are even more bountiful.
High school students enrolling in college; do not overlook your college’s grant hand-outs. Most smaller, private colleges are quite generous when it comes to kicking in funds to augment financial aid. They are more interested in attracting quality students regardless of financial ability to pay.
Grants for Military Students and Families
Interested in a branch of the military, but still want to attend college? The Army, Air Force and Naval ROTC, among others, offer full tuition to qualified students in the armed forces. For those active in the military, programs such as the Army’s Spouse Education Assistance Program or the Navy equivalent—the Spouse Tuition Aid Program—are available to married active duty personnel. Check the military section for each branch’s opportunities.
Considering the fact that scores of professional organizations have active educational funds that help foster their fields of interest, it’s no wonder that it is just as easy to shop for grants based on subject or field of interest. Corporations spend millions of dollars offering internships, fellowships, scholarships and grants intended to attract academically driven and talented students to their corporate folds.
High Need Fields Fuel Grant Giving
There are fields of study that draw considerable funding from sources in large part due to challenging shortages. The fields with the most significant shortages drive the biggest supply of grants:
- Healthcare, especially nursing
Nurses and Med Students
Significant regions of the country remain medically underserved. Specific examples are urban health centers or rural and remote medical facilities. Nursing students: mine rich veins of grant funding. The nursing profession affords flexible hours and schedules and an above average income and earning potential, depending on which professional level you earn. Search for the most popular grants in nursing from federal programs and your state nursing funds.
Public school systems remain as professionally bankrupt as some medical facilities. Teaching, like nursing is often a thankless profession, albeit rewarding. However, attracting students to the fold is challenging considering the number of jobs that must be filled. Prospective student teachers must first explore grant programs for teachers with their home state and federal sources such as the Department of Education.
Grants-for-Service programs: How they work
Grant monies administered by many government and university sources may be designed as grant for service programs. These are successful programs that provide two-fold solutions: they give students the financial support necessary to cover tuition and they secure talented and well-educated staff to serve in their medically or educationally underserved facilities for a certain length of time.
Remember, many sources exist for free and clear grant money. Where there is a need, there is a way. Don’t stop searching.