Low-income and disadvantaged students qualify for general need-based aid in most states that offer it, but specific funding is also set aside for students whose access to education is severely limited by social and financial conditions. Exceptional hardship is calculated differently in each state, but the students whose circumstances present the greatest educational obstacles are the first to be considered for state grants.
The American school system, like the healthcare system, is also experiencing a critical shortage of qualified professionals. Teachers are in great demand, particularly in historically under-served communities. Grants for educators are available from a variety of sources, including professional teaching associations, private endowments, and state governments. Many of these programs, particularly those supported by state governments, are award-for-service programs. Recipients will be required to sign a contract agreeing to a term of service teaching at a high need school, or in an under-served community.
Grants for college students fall across two broad categories, depending on what eligibility requirements are attached to the funds. Need-based grants are issued to students exhibiting the greatest levels of financial hardship in paying for college. On the other hand, merit-based grants are tied to performance-like good grades and other personal achievements.
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University offers fellowships grants for working journalists who are returning to college to expand their education in various journalistic fields. Programs include the Reynolds Fellowship in Community Journalism and the Arts & Culture Reporting Fellowship. Award amounts vary depending of course of study.
Some college grant programs are open to all students regardless of background or field of study. These are considered General Grants, and typically are decided according to financial need and academic performance. A great number of college grants, however, are designed to target specific portions of the population or students pursuing particular degrees or career paths. These can be broken down into the following categories.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants sponsors a variety of grants and scholarships for minority students pursuing a career in accounting. The AICPA Minority Doctoral Fellowship awards $12,000 to minority students completing their doctoral program in accounting. The fellowship is open to African-American, Native-American and Hispanic students.
Many grants dedicated to specific career paths are, in fact, award-for-service programs. These programs perform two functions; they give much needed financial aid to talented students pursuing careers in high need fields, and they help to secure and retain talented professionals in communities that are experiencing critical manpower shortages. Students entering into a grant-for-service program should understand that they are agreeing to a binding contract, and will be obligated to fulfill all the of the particulars of that contract. Students who fail to meet their award-for-service obligations will find that their grants will revert to standard student loans, and they will be expected to repay all monies received plus interest.
While military sponsored grant programs offer valuable financial assistance, it should be noted that they are only available to enlisted members of the armed services. Serving one’s country in a military capacity is a noble and honorable choice, but it should not be made lightly. Students considering military sponsored financial aid for college should be certain that they fully understand their obligations as enlisted personnel in the U.S. Armed Forces.
State-funded grants for minorities promote educational diversity and increase access to college for traditionally under-represented groups. Grants for ethnic minorities—African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American students—target specific groups needing college cash. For example, Wisconsin’s Minority Undergraduate Retention Grant disburses funds to second, third and fourth-year minority students pursuing college degrees or vocational training.
Still, the potential payoff of applying for financial aid makes it worth it. It can make a world of difference if you put in the time and effort to understand the process and how to get the full financial aid you’re entitled. For some students, it’s the only reason they can complete a degree rather than dropping out of college. For others, financial aid helps them leave school with some student loans — but limits the debt to a manageable amount.
Students ineligible for federal aid but who meet state financial aid program and residency requirements should complete the Washington Application for State Financial Aid at readysetgrad.org/wasfa instead of the FAFSA form. Contact the Washington Student Achievement Council (readysetgrad.org/wasfa) or your financial aid administrator for more information.