A study by the Institute for College Access & Success found that approximately 71 percent of all students leaving a four-year college graduate with student loan debt – a number that has steadily climbed in recent years. While data about individual minority groups is lacking, reports have shown that these students often graduate with even more than the national average of $29,400. Fortunately, tons of scholarships and grants catering specifically to students of color exist, making it easier for them to avoid crippling debt. This guide shares scholarships for individual minority groups and helps students better understand current funding options.
Dr. Nicki Washington is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Winthrop University. She previously spent nine years at Howard University as the first Black female faculty member in the Department of Computer Science. She is the author of Unapologetically Dope: Lessons for Black Women and Girls on Surviving and Thriving in the Tech Field. She has also authored Prepped for Success:What Every Parent Should Know About the College Application Process and Stay Prepped:10 Steps to Succeeding in College (and Having a Ball Doing It).
Katy McWhirter is a nationally-recognized historian and writer based in Louisville, Kentucky. After working abroad in educational marketing, McWhirter returned to America to combine her two passions: writing and education. She has also published one popular history book and is currently working on her second publication, a biography.
Scholarships for Minority Students
In addition to general awards based on location, discipline, merit, and financial need, many scholarships exist that specifically help minority students achieve their dreams of attending college. In addition to those highlighted below, students should conduct additional research to find funding opportunities that meet their needs.
Data about American students of Arab and Middle Eastern heritage is sadly lacking when it comes to financial aid reports (the National Center for Education Statistics does not include this population in reports) but an article by Arab America posits that Arab American students tend to earn some of the highest GPAs in college, setting them up for success when seeking merit-based funding.
The Qalam Center offers this scholarship for individuals to take part in a language intensive courses designed to teach them Arabic. The $4,200 semester-long scholarship covers all tuition and housing. Six deadlines exist throughout the year.
Wayne State University provides this award to Arab American students enrolled in the School of Medicine. The amount varies each year and students are automatically entered into consideration when submitting their admissions application.
The Center for Arab American Philanthropy awards $5,000 to students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in engineering or business studies at Kettering University. Applications are due February 17.
A study by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that 85 percent of black students received grants, yet a Brookings Institution report by researchers from Columbia University found that these students hold nearly double the loan debt of white students after four years of schooling.
This award, which gives preference to female minority students, is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and provides up to $42,000 annually. Applications are due December 17.
The Tom Joyner Foundation provides these awards to African American male high school graduates beginning their first year of studies at an HBCU. Scholarships offer a full ride, with applications due in the spring.
The National Black MBA Association offers up to $10,000 per year to learners accepted to the University of Alabama’s MBA program. Applications are due January 31.
NCES reported that 85 percent of all American Indian and Alaska Native college students receive grants, while approximately 62 percent take out loans to help pay for their educations. Amongst six-year graduation rates for majority and minority groups, American Indian/Alaska Native students maintained the lowest rate at 41 percent.
The Indian Health Service makes available this scholarship to American Indian and Alaska Native students who plan to study a medicine-related topic at the bachelor’s level. Award amounts vary and applications are due May 15.
This award, administered by the Society of Women Engineers, is given to undergraduate and graduate females of Native American descent. Awards total $2,900 and are renewable, with applications due February 5.
The Continental Society Daughters of Indian Wars provides a $5,000 annual scholarship to enrolled tribal members who plan to work in a nation or tribe to provide education or social services. Applications are due June 15.
The American Indian Graduate Center offers up to $20,000 to undergraduate and $30,000 to graduate students completing STEM degrees who are enrolled in a federally recognized tribe. Applications are due June 1.
The Intertribal Timber Council offers this award to Native American students pursuing a degree in natural resources or a related topic. Learners may receive up to $2,500, with applications due March 15.
The Udall Foundation provides up to 50 scholarships of $7,000 each to Native American sophomores and juniors who have a demonstrated history of public service, leadership, and championing the interests and rights of American Indian nations. Applications are due March 4.
This $5,000 award exists for full-time students of American Indian or Alaska Native heritage who maintain GPAs of 2.7 or higher. Applications are due May 1.
A study by Excelencia in Education found that, of researched minority groups, Hispanic and Latino/a students received, on average, the lowest amount of financial aid. Asian students received the highest at $9,563 while Hispanic learners received $7,925. While nearly 80 percent of these students receive grants, they also rank the most likely to take out loans at 72 percent (as compared to 56 percent for white learners).
The Association of Latino Professionals for America offers scholarships to undergraduate and graduate learners working towards degrees in topics ranging from accounting and computer systems to engineering and education. Amounts vary, but applications are due June 8.
The American Meteorological Society offers this award to Hispanic students working towards a degree in meteorological studies. Awards are for $6,000 over two years. Applications must be sent by February 8.
The National Association of Hispanic Nurses, in partnership with the United Health Foundation, offers Hispanic nurses in training a renewable $5,000 award for undergraduate studies. Applications are due April 3.
The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers provided more than $250,000 in scholarships during the most recent round of awards and hopes to increase that number for next year. Applicants must be of Hispanic heritage and submit applications by June 15.
While Asian and Pacific Islander students receive the smallest percentage of grants (63 and 67 percent, respectively), the average amounts they receive are far higher than their minority and majority peers. Asian students average grants of $12,120 while Pacific Islander students receive $12,350. The next highest group, American Indian and Alaska Natives, receive an average of $9,650.
Provided via the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, this award exists for LGBTQ learners with at least 25 percent Asian/Pacific Islander heritage. Scholarship amounts vary and applications are due April 30.
The University of Hawaii offers this scholarship to Native Hawaiians who are the first in their family to attend college. Undergraduates receive $1,000 and graduate students receive $3,000. Scholarship applications are due with general admissions applications.
The U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce provides 15-20 scholarships per year of up to $5,000. Applicants must write an essay, provide proof of financial need, and ask for letters of recommendation. Applications are due March 29.
Steps to Finding & Getting Scholarships and Grants
Locating, applying for, and securing scholarship money can be the difference between defraying the total cost of college and thousands of dollars in student debt. There are scholarships available specifically for minority students, but many do not apply because they are not aware of what is available to them. Below is a step-by-step guide that provides information on how minority students can find, apply, and maintain scholarships.
1. Get Organized
Finding and applying for scholarships is a lengthy process that has several working parts. Being organized is the first step of that process and the steps below outline how to prepare for the scholarship search.
Conduct a personal inventory
Students should create a personal inventory that outlines information about their race and ethnic background, academic interests, extracurricular activities, career interests, disabilities, parent(s) employers, area of academic study, and religion. This personal profile can help guide the search process as students can align categories from this profile with potential scholarship opportunities.
Create an organizational file
Financial aid officers recommend students maintain a binder or digital folder to keep track of all of their scholarship and application files in a single location. Example information includes a scholarship calendar of deadlines, test scores, FAFSA® information, letters of recommendations, scholarship essays, and award letters.
Create an email account specifically for scholarship applications
Because students may apply for multiple scholarships, having a single email account to manage correspondence can help keep everything organized and in one easy-to-find location.
Gather test scores and transcripts
Award-granting organizations may ask for scores from tests such as the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. Transcripts are also typically required with each application. Students can download unofficial transcripts that can then be uploaded when they apply for a scholarship. Official transcripts are generally not requested until a student is officially selected for an award.
Make a list of reliable contacts for letters of recommendation
Letters of recommendation are a vital part of scholarship applications, but the process of asking for and receiving them can take a long time. Contact potential targets (e.g. teachers, coaches, community leaders, and clergy) well in advance of applying for scholarships to secure their participation. Some scholarships allow for general letters of recommendation, while others may require an individualized recommendation. In turn, students may need to ask their referrers for multiple letters throughout the scholarship application process.
2. Develop a List of Targeted Scholarships
Once a student is organized, has collected their basic information, and has an understanding of the types of scholarships to pursue, they can start the search process.
Students should start their search in the local area, beginning with their high school. High school counselors and advisors know the community scholarships to apply for and can help guide your choices in the ones that are a good fit.
Research professional organizations
Students should look into organizations in their field of academic or professional interest. Often, students can join these associations for free and then apply for the scholarships offered to members.
Contact the college
Students and their parents can consult with the financial aid office of their selected institution and ask for scholarship recommendations offered by the college, as well as local-, state-, and national-based opportunities.
Use the Student Search Service
Students who take the SAT, PSAT, NMSQT, AP, SAT Subject Tests, or PSSS can opt-in to the Student Search Service. Through this service, students can learn about financial aid and postsecondary opportunities directly from colleges and scholarship granting organizations.
There are numerous online sources where students can locate potential scholarships. Students should complete their local searches before moving into a broader, national search via the Internet. Example scholarship websites include Finaid.org, Collegeboard.com, Fastweb.com, and Scholarships.com.
Search by personal heritage
Using their personal inventory, students should also conduct individual searches based on their personal background and heritage. For example, some scholarship providers, such as the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, offer scholarships specifically to students of Hispanic/Latino heritage. There are scholarships available to several groups including Asians, Pacific Islanders, African Americans, and more.
Create an application list
As students search, they should develop a list of target scholarships. A spreadsheet or binder can be used to track information. This information will be reused each year, so there is no sense starting over when the process starts again. For each scholarship, students should detail the scholarship name, provider, the provider’s website, all website login information and passwords, deadline(s), scholarship award amount, eligibility requirements (e.g. age, race, ethnicity, income), and application requirements (e.g. essay, transcripts, required letters of recommendation, financial statements).
Create a timeline
After developing a scholarship calendar, students should create an application timeline that outlines when students should start the application process for each scholarship. Remember, the peak season for scholarships is between October and March for scholarships awarded the following school year.
3. Prepare Scholarship Application Packets
After the research is finished and a list of scholarship targets is created, students can begin the application process.
Start applications early
Students should start the application process at least two to three weeks before the deadline to make sure they have enough time to gather and prepare all required documentation.
Double check the eligibility requirements
Before applying, students should ensure they meet all scholarship criteria. For example, does the student meet the minimum grade point average? Does the student meet minimum test score requirements? Does the student meet racial or ethnic requirements? Does the student meet income requirements? Is the student pursuing a field for which the scholarship is intended?
Request letters of recommendation
You should have already discussed receiving letters of recommendation from those you’ll be asking months ago, but now is the time to get the letter. When requesting a letter of recommendation, discuss the application with those who will be submitting information on your behalf. Make sure they understand the submission process, the accepted letter format, application deadlines, and the purpose of the scholarship program. Make copies of each letter of recommendation, unless your recommender is required to send the letter directly to the scholarship provider.
Write personal essay or statement of interest
Most scholarship applications require students to write an essay or statement of interest. This is the candidate’s opportunity to showcase their personality and why they deserve the scholarship, but it’s important to directly include anything specifically asked for in the essay requirement. Essay length and requirements vary by scholarship provider and students should confirm those requirements prior to starting the essay. Always save copies of each essay for future reference.
Assemble requested information
Review the requested information listed in the application requirements, such as financial statements, transcripts, essays, etc. Assemble documents in order (if a paper submission) and save required documents in the proper format (e.g. .pdf, .doc, .txt) for online submission.
Review application information
Before mailing, submitting or uploading, students should carefully review each element of the application. This includes proofreading the submission–especially the essay–for spelling or grammatical errors, ensuring the required number of recommendations is included, documents are signed properly, and that every required component of the application is included. It’s wise to ask a trusted proofreader to look it over as well.
4. Submit Your Application
Once all information has been prepared and carefully reviewed, the student is finally ready to submit the application packet. Today, most scholarship providers either recommend or require that applications be submitted online.
Submit the application
It is a smart move to submit online applications at least 24 hours before the due date to protect against any technological issues. The sooner you can submit, the better.
Make copies of applications
Make a copy of each finished application and keep them in your folder. This can be especially beneficial for local foundations that invite scholarship winners to award dinners and want to discuss the student’s application.
The scholarship process is lengthy and students may have to wait a month or longer to hear if they were an award recipient. Once applications are submitted, students should be patient during the review period.
5. What to Do After Receiving a Scholarship
Accept and celebrate
When a scholarship is awarded, students typically need to file an acceptance letter or notification with the granting organization. The organization may also want a photo or other information from the recipient. In the scholarship spreadsheet or binder, keep track of all scholarship awards received. Then, most importantly, celebrate.
Write a letter of appreciation
After receiving an award, students should submit a thank you letter or card that states how important the funding is to their future and how much they appreciate the organization’s kindness and support. Remember, you will be applying each year for these awards and a thank you letter can set the stage for a scholarship renewal.
Maintain good grades
Scholarships are awarded on different types of selection criteria and maintaining a good GPA can help students remain competitive. Also, once awarded the scholarship, students should know the required GPA and enrollment status (e.g. full- or part-time) required to keep the reward. Students are recommended to get a solid understanding of the scholarship after getting all of their awards.
Types of Financial Aid for Minority Students
As the cost of attaining a college degree continues to rise each year, finding ways of offsetting these costs becomes ever more critical for individuals looking to avoid substantial student loan debt. In addition to the scholarships highlighted earlier in this guide, review this section to learn about grants, awards, fellowships, and other types of financial aid.
Outside Scholarships, Grants, & Awards
Outside scholarships are scholarships awarded by non-government institutions, such as foundations/charities, private sector businesses, or philanthropists. Although these scholarships can be used for tuition, books and other educational expenses, colleges and universities are required by federal regulations to reduce financial aid packages to students with outside scholarships. Each postsecondary institution has its own rules as to how outside scholarships are applied to a student’s financial package. Below are some examples of opportunities provided by outside sources.
The Microsoft Scholarship Program awards a majority of its scholarships to students of color, women, and students with disabilities. These scholarships cover either part- or full-tuition for one year of academic study for students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in computer science, computer engineering, or related technical fields.
Through its Generation Google Scholarship Program, Google supports underrepresented high school and college students that are planning to or currently enrolled in computer science, engineering, or related technical fields of study. Students receive a $10,000 scholarship and high school students have the opportunity to attend Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute.
Oracle supports technology education for minority students through a selection of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) scholarships. By partnering with organizations throughout the United States (e.g. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund), Oracle awards numerous scholarships to minority students each year.
Offered by Koch Industries in conjunction with the Charles Koch Foundation and UNCF, $5,000 scholarships are are offered to African American high school seniors and college freshman who are interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. Scholarship recipients receive scholarship support, online learning, and networking opportunities to yield a comprehensive student experience.
Professional associations (also known as professional societies) are organizations that advocate for the growth and advancement of the individuals within that profession. Areas of interests span just about every field. Professional associations are a great avenue for minority students to explore as they can pursue scholarships from groups aligned with their current or future academic and career goals.
The American Bar Association sponsors the Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund, a fund that provides 20 scholarships of $15,000 each to diverse law students to support their legal education for three years of law school.
The American Physical Therapy Association offers three scholarships through its Minority Scholarship Fund. These scholarships are designed for students who are in their final year of study as well as faculty members completing a doctoral degree.
Through its Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship Program, the Government Finance Officers Association provides funding support to students enrolled in a program of study (e.g. public administration, economics, accounting) to prepare for a career in local, state, or government finance.
The Maureen L. & Howard Blitman Scholarship to Promote Diversity in Engineering is awarded annually to African American, Hispanic American, or Native American students who have been accepted to an ABET-accredited four-year institution.
Private Organizations, Foundations, and Nonprofits
At the grassroots, local level, foundations, charities, and other nonprofits support all minority groups through myriad programs, such as social services, counseling, and college education scholarships. Organizations are both national and local in scope, ranging from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to Teach for America, Quality Education for Minorities Network, to the RGK Foundation. These groups have long made differences in the lives of minority students. For example, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program has awarded nearly $850 million in scholarships between 2000 and 2014, while the Hispanic Scholarship Fund has granted more than $470 million to minority students.
The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation sponsors the Hyatt Hotels Fund for Minority Lodging Management Students. This scholarship provides $2,000 to students with junior standing, who are enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in hospitality management. The scholarship application is open to minority students, including: Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, African American, or Native American/Alaskan.
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund sponsors an extensive array of scholarship programs for students of Hispanic heritage. Examples include a scholarship for graduating high school seniors. This program is designed for students that meet GPA requirements and plan to enroll fRonald McDonald House Charities
The Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarship Program offers a series of scholarships to students who are actively involved in their communities and are high academic achievers. Programs include the RMCH Asia Scholarship, the African American Future Achievers Scholarship, and the HACER scholarship for students with at least one parent of Latino or Hispanic heritage.
Established in 1998, the Lagrant Foundation has awarded nearly $2 million in scholarship funding to ethnic minority students, including an annual $2,500 scholarship to African American, Asian American/Pacific Island, Hispanic/Latino, or Native American/Alaska Native students majoring in marketing, public relations, or advertising.
Career- or Industry-Specific Scholarships
The final funding group deals with career- and industry-specific scholarships. These opportunities are usually offered by companies and organizations for very specific purposes, such as increasing the number of women engineers or increasing racial diversity in STEM careers.
This scholarship aims to promote diversity in the actuary careers and is open to Black/African American, Hispanic, Native North American, and Pacific Islander students. The scholarship rewards the academic achievements of full-time undergraduate students pursuing a degree that could lead to a career in the actuarial profession.
The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) has provided more than $124 million in scholarship funding to minority students. It distributes more than $4 million in grants per year to partner institutions to advance minority student academic success in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions.
The $2,500 NABJ Scholarship is awarded to either undergraduate or graduate African American students majoring in a communications-related field, meets minimum GPA requirements, and has a record of community service.
The SWE Scholarship Program awards hundreds of scholarships to female undergraduate and graduate students preparing for careers in computer science, engineering technology and engineering. Awards, including fellowships, range from $1,000 to $20,000.
Scholarships, Grants, & Awards from the School
In addition to funding sources provided by the government, corporations, and private foundations that do not need to be repaid, the majority of colleges and universities throughout the United States also provide a number of scholarships, grants, and other monetary awards.
Scholarships and grants at these institutions can typically be found in multiple forms. A presidential scholarship typically exists for high-achieving, all-around learners who excelled in high school, can demonstrate leadership and community service, and bring a superb GPA and ACT/SAT score. These scholarships may cover the entire cost of college at most, or a significant part at least.
Other merit scholarships exist for students who set themselves apart from others by continually posting good grades. These may be given strictly based on merit, or they may exist in specific departments. The other common type of scholarship or grant focuses on financial need. Applicants to these scholarships must show that their family could be greatly assisted by receiving a scholarship or grant. To maintain these, students must update their financial information yearly by filling out the FAFSA.
At the graduate level, many schools provide student assistantships and fellowships that allow them to forego tuition in exchange for working as a teaching assistant or research fellow.
Federal Financial Aid
According to a study by the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2015-2016 full-time undergraduates received an average of $4,679 in federal grants and an average of $6,988 in student loans. All eligible students, including minorities, can take advantage of federal financial assistance for their college education. According to the U.S. Department of Education, financial aid from the federal government can be used to pay a range of college expenses, including tuition, room and board, fees, and books and supplies. Some forms of aid can also be used to defray the costs of education-related expenses such as computer equipment or child/dependent care.
Understanding Your Options
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Education, 13.2 million college students attending more than 6,000 colleges and universities received approximately $125.7 billion in total federal student aid during the 2016 fiscal year. Federal student aid falls into three different categories of funding:
This type of financial aid does not need to be repaid and is often referred to as gift aid. Typically, grant programs are based on the student’s financial need and can be used to pay educational costs such as tuition, books, room and board, and other academic fees. Below is an at-a-glance comparison of the different types of federal grants available to all students, including minorities.
Federal Pell Grant
Provided to every eligible undergraduate student
Undergraduate students who have not earned a degree and can demonstrate financial need. They cannot already hold a bachelor’s degree.
For the 2018-2019 funding year, the maximum about is $6,095.
Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grants
Limited number of grants distributed directly by college institution
Low-income undergraduate students that demonstrate exceptional financial need and qualifies for a Pell Grant. School must participate in the program.
Between $100 and $4,000. Based on financial need and availability of school funding
Teacher Education Assistance for College Education and Higher Education Grant
Undergraduate and graduate students must sign a TEACH Grant Agreement, committing to teaching in a high-demand field, at a school or educational agency that serves low-income students.Must teach for four years within an eight-year period of completing a program of study.
In addition to basic federal financial aid criteria, must be enrolled at a school that participates in the TEACH Grant program, meet minimum academic requirements, participate in TEACH Grant counseling, and sign a TEACH Grant Agreement.
Up to $4,000 per year
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
Dependents of U.S. Armed Forces service members
Must have a parent or guardian who died during service in the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11, and was enrolled in an accredited college at least part-time and under the age of 24 when the parent or guardian died.
Up to the maximum Federal Pell Grant amount ($6,095 for the 2018-2019 academic year)
Issued through the Department of Education, federal student loans must be repaid with interest. There is one type of federal student loan: the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan. The Federal Perkins Loan Program ended in September 2017.
William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan
Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, students may be eligible for either a direct subsidized, direct unsubsidized loan, or direct PLUS loan. These loans can be used to pay for the cost of a college education at community colleges, four-year universities, and trade and career schools.
DIRECT SUBSIDIZED LOAN
DIRECT UNSUBSIDIZED LOAN
DIRECT PLUS LOAN
Available to undergraduate students enrolled at least half-time and demonstrate financial need
Available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree students who are enrolled at least half-time
Available to graduate and professional degree students enrolled at least half time and parents with a dependent enrolled as an undergraduate. Applicant must not have adverse credit history
Varies – Loans issued between July 1, 2018 and before July 1, 2019 will have a 5.05% interest rate.
Varies – Loans issued between July 1, 2018 and before July 1, 2019 will have a 5.05% interest rate for undergraduate students and 6.6% for graduate students.
Varies – Loans issued between July 1, 2018 and before July 1, 2019 will have a 7.6% interest rate.
Loans issued between October 1, 2018 and before October 1, 2019 will have a 1.068% loan fee.
Loans issued between October 1, 2018 and before October 1, 2019 will have a 1.062% loan fee.
Loans issued between October 1, 2015 and before October 1, 2016 will have a 4.248% loan fee.
Schools determine the final amount. First-year dependent students cannot exceed $3,500 in subsidized loans. Second-year max out at $4,500 while third and fourth-year students can receive $5,500 per year.
Between $3,500 and $20,500 annually, depending on dependent’s status, parents’ eligibility for Direct PLUS Loans, and the education level of the student.
Loan amounts are capped at the max cost of attendance as determined by the school after other financial assistance is subtracted.
6 months after graduation, leaving school, or when enrollment is less than half-time
6 months after graduation, leaving school, or when enrollment is less than half-time
Starts when loan is fully disbursed. Students can defer loans for an additional 6 months when enrolled at least half-time. Parent borrowers can request deferment for 6 months after the dependent is no longer enrolled in school.
The Federal Work Study (FWS) program provides funds to approximately 3,400 postsecondary institutions, allowing them to offer part-time student employment to offset the costs of a college education. Jobs vary from office, laboratory, and clerical support to tutoring. Some positions exist on-campus, while others require learners to venture out into the community. The program is administered by postsecondary institutions that participate in the Federal Work-Study Program.
Undergraduate and graduate students, along with those seeking professional degrees, who enroll on a part- or full-time status and demonstrate financial need.
Types of Jobs
Whenever possible, program administrators try to match students with work-study positions related to their plan of study. In general, all work-study jobs emphasize civic education. Positions on campus may include work in labs, residence halls, sports complexes, or administrative offices, while off-campus positions usually focus on supporting a local nonprofit or agency that serves the public interest. Work hours are based on total amount of award, as well as the student’s academic schedule and progress.
Both on- and off-campus.
Students earn at least the current federal minimum wage, but may earn more depending on the specific position. Total work-study awards depend on the student’s financial need, the school’s funding levels, and when the student applies.
Schools must pay students at least once per month. Undergraduate learners receive an hourly wage, while graduate and professional students may receive an hourly wage or a salary, depending on the position.
Overview of FAFSA®
FAFSA® stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The U.S. Department of Education uses this form to determine how much a student’s family will be expected to contribute, and how federal grant, loan, and work-study programs can bridge the gap between what parents/students can pay and what the college or university charges. The Department of Education bases the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) off factors such as income and tax returns to assess each family’s financial situation.
After processing the application, results are sent to financial aid offices of the universities and colleges listed on the student’s application. Nearly every postsecondary institution’s financial aid office uses the FAFSA® form to determine a student’s eligibility for federal, state, and institutional financial aid.
Students must file a FAFSA® each year they are in school to ensure they remain eligible to receive federal student aid. There is no cost to submit the FAFSA®. Students and their families can submit the form online via www.fafsa.gov or by mail. Pay close attention to submission deadlines in order to qualify for federal, state, and college-based aid.
Basic Eligibility Requirements
Eligibility for federal funding varies by program. It is important to note that race, age, or program of study do not impact eligibility for federal student aid, but income does. To receive federal funding, applicants must agree to apply all aid towards educational uses, certify they have not defaulted on any previous student loan, and demonstrate that they have no outstanding refund due on a federal grant. Students can use this checklist to confirm their basic eligibility for federal financial aid.
Demonstrate financial need
Be a U.S. Citizen or be an eligible noncitizen. This includes designations such as refugee, asylum granted, Cuban-Haitian entrant, victim of human trafficking, or parolee
Possess a valid Social Security number
Register with selective service if you are between the ages of 18-25 and male
Enroll or show proof of enrollment as a regular student in an approved program
Enroll at least half-time (for Direct Loans)
Make satisfactory academic process
Important Financial Aid Dates to Remember
Federal student aid
For the 2019-2020 school year, students can apply between October 1, 2018 and June 30, 2020.
State student aid
Application deadlines vary but can be found on www.fafsa.gov.
Deadlines vary by institution, so students should contact their school’s financial aid office to get an understanding of specific deadlines (typically February and March of each year).
Founded in 2004, the American Association of Hispanics in Education works to prepare Hispanic students for careers in higher education, fosters public discourse about societal issues pertaining to the growing Hispanic population, and hosts a series of programs and awards, such as an Outstanding Thesis and Outstanding Dissertation programs. These events exist to support and recognize the scholarship of doctoral Hispanic students. Individuals can take part in an annual conference and browse relevant job postings.
Launched in 1989, the American Indian College Fund provides financial and programmatic support to students attending one of the nation’s 34 accredited tribal universities and colleges. Because only 14 percent of all American Indians hold a college degree, AICF is on a mission to increase this number. The fund has provided more than $201 million in the form of 131,000 scholarships as of 2018.
Created in 1985, Washington D.C.-based Arab American Institute works to represent the interests of the Arab American community and advocate for policies that support them. In addition to work with campaigns, elections, policy creation, and research, AAI also maintains an education arm that includes research publications, advocacy on college campuses, lists of schools that provide Arab American Studies degrees, educator resources, and scholarships.
A nonprofit organization located in Washington D.C., the Asian & Pacific Islanders American Scholarship Fund supports the postsecondary education of Asian American and Pacific Islanders through scholarships, mentorship programs, and community partnerships.
Established in 1975, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund has awarded more than $500 million in scholarships to Hispanic Americans pursuing a college education. The fund partners with corporate sponsors to help increase scholarship amounts each year.
The Human Rights Campaign was founded in 1980 and is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to furthering the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Americans. It maintains a database of grants, fellowships, and scholarships available to both undergraduate and graduate LGBTQ+ and allied students.
A national coalition of multiracial school districts, the Minority Student Achievement Network addresses policy issues regarding academic achievement gaps in districts throughout the country and connects students to financial aid resources – including scholarship opportunities.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People endeavors to eliminate race-based discrimination and advocates for the success of minority students through its annual scholarship program.
Established in 1973, the Jackie Robinson Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that supports underserved student populations through higher education scholarships, leadership and mentoring programs, community service, internship placement, networking, and international travel opportunities.
Established in 1971, the Native American Rights Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance to Indian tribes and organizations in areas such as tribal sovereignty, natural resource protection, education, and treaty rights.
NACME has provided more than $150 million in scholarships since its founding and currently operates as the largest provider of funding for minority students working towards STEM degrees. The organization offers scholarships directly to students and to universities for disbursement.
Since 1994, NHEC has worked to improve education efforts for Native Hawaiians and encourage universities to create inclusive and empowering policies and programs for this population of students. Individuals interested in learning more about the state of education for Native Hawaiians can review data provided by the council.
Launched in 1985, the Pride Foundation is a regional community foundation that supports equality efforts for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals in the Northwest. Since 1993, the foundation has awarded more than $5 million in scholarships to nearly 1,800 students.
The United Negro College Fund is dedicated to supporting the educational efforts of minority students through a variety of programs, including scholarships. Since 1944, the UNCF has awarded more than $3 billion in funding to students and has helped more than 500,000 students earn their degrees.
Advice from a Financial Aid Program Officer
Dr. Nicki Washington is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Winthrop University. She previously spent nine years at Howard University as the first Black female faculty member in the Department of Computer Science. She is the author of Unapologetically Dope: Lessons for Black Women and Girls on Surviving and Thriving in the Tech Field. She has also authored Prepped for Success: What Every Parent Should Know About the College Application Process and Stay Prepped: 10 Steps to Succeeding in College (and Having a Ball Doing It).
Q: What are the biggest mistakes minority students make when it comes to financial aid and scholarships?
A: The biggest mistake minority students make is not exhausting the financial aid search. Most will perform a basic search during their senior year, without giving it the effort it requires to be successful. Once they arrive at the university, they don’t take advantage of the resources available to current undergraduates that aren’t available to prospective students. This includes department-specific opportunities, which may include working with faculty.
Q: Are there unknown resources or underutilized funding sources for minority students?
A: Some majors have more funding available, because there are less minorities in these areas. These will typically be science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related disciplines. Students should ask department chairs and faculty about opportunities, even as incoming accepted students. There may be book scholarships or other awards available (which is why it’s important to also have a resume prepared).
Students should always look into institutional and departmental scholarships, as these funds often go unused. As an example, I had a research grant to fund five undergraduates for two years (junior and senior years) to conduct research with me. It included a $10K scholarship plus an $8k stipend (paid directly to them). I couldn’t get students to apply to this opportunity. Many students don’t want to take the time to complete the application, which often includes completing a personal statement. This goes for high-school students as well
Q: What advice do you have for prospective minority students starting the financial aid process?
A: I strongly urge students to create three generic essays during the college admissions process. These serve as blueprints to edit for any future applications. Because all admissions and scholarship applications have this requirement, it’s good to have three well-written essays (that were edited by English teachers and a few others) to be able to tweak, as appropriate. I note this in my books.
Every state has a higher education web page with resources for college-bound or current students who are residents of the state. This should always be searched. Every sorority/fraternity has scholarship opportunities available as well that do not require a parent to be affiliated with the organization. Check each local chapter’s website. In addition, credit unions and different companies have scholarships related to their discipline. Tech students can find scholarships from Google, Microsoft, AnitaB.org, for example. Students interested in law can find scholarship opportunities through the National Bar Association, and the same goes for accounting, journalism, and other majors. Professional societies are great avenues. Lastly, most local alumni chapters provide some scholarships. Check the local chapter in your area to find out this information as well.
More Guides for Minority Students
After reviewing the scholarship opportunities offered in this guide, check out additional funding sources below as well as information about finding a diverse and multicultural campus.