Posted on July 30, 2015 in Financial Aid
The purpose of a college grant is to provide educational funding to financially needy students to help with the high cost of a college education. Grants are different than scholarships and student loans. Unlike a student loan, a grant does not need to be repaid. Also, grants are most often need-based as opposed to scholarships which are often based on merit, activity or organization affiliation.
One of the biggest sources of educational grant funding is the U.S federal government. The government is working to allocate more and more money to needy students through initiatives such as the No Child Left Behind Act. Federal grants and measures make sure that schools are held accountable for making sure students receive the education they deserve, without prejudices. More students are given the opportunities to attend colleges and universities when federal funding is available and as we move to a society that relies on a highly skilled workforce, expect to see federal grant funding increase.
There are several federal grant programs that have helped hundreds of thousands of students fund their education:
- The Pell Grant: started in 1972, the Pell Grant is one of the cornerstones of federal grant funding for low-income students. The Pell Grant is allocated via the government and is subject to budgetary constraints at the federal level. It is one of the top sources of educational funding for impoverished students.
- The Academic Competitiveness Grant: the AC Grant is available to college freshman and sophomores and is primarily merit-based. Students that have top grade-point averages and have demostrated exceptional leadership and service can qualify. Candidates for the AC Grant must also meet Pell Grant requirements.
- The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant: The S.M.A.R.T Grant is similar to the AC Grant, however is given to junior and senior students that are pursuing degrees in computer science, math, engineering and other sciences. The grants are typically $4,000 and also require Pell Grant requirements be satisfied.
Several states also distribute grants to local students. These grants are based on merit, financial need and sometimes area of study. These grants vary widely from state to state, so it would be best to consult with your guidance counselor or the financial aid office of your college to get information specific to your state. Some examples of state grants are:
- Florida's Office of Student Financial Assistance provides a large selection of state grants for students that are disabled, disadvantaged, minorities and those that excel academic-wise.
- Oklahoma has need-based state grants.
- Michigan provides grants for the academically talented, low-income and adults returning to school.
One of the largest recipients of college grants are minority students. Over the last decade, minority enrollment in college has increased dramatically and grant funding has been allocated to help these students complete their education without accruing enormous amounts of student loan debt.
There are dozens of classifications of minority grants. As always, consulting a guidance counselor or financial aid officer is usually the best resource for grants that you qualify. We have also profiled some of the top college grants below:
African American Grants
African americans are often one of the most disadvantaged set of students. African american women are often the largest groups awarded grant funding specifically those with extreme circumstances - broken homes, single parents, incarcerated family members, etc. Many grants specifically target african americans pursuing certain degrees of study, such as the physical sciences, arts, and political science. Certain colleges also cater to the needs of African american minorities, such as Spelman College, which is the only college in the US devoted to helping black women.
Hispanics are often labeled - quite sadly - as 'under educated.' Although they have overtaken African Americans in numbers, they are far less likely to pursue a college degree and will often go straight to the workforce or pursue a vocational/trade degree instead. Most of the western states offer grants to hispanics, specifically California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona.
Native American Grants
Representing the smallest minority group, Native Americans often come from the most disadvantaged backgrounds of all. Until recently, Native Americans have been isolated to small reservations and rural environments, with many depending on indian casinos and gaming to support their families. Often times, tribes will distribute grants and aid to members internally so if you belong to one, consult members of your tribal council.
Asians represent the fastest growing ethnic population in the US. Because of this, Asian organizations are becoming increasingly active with their role in grant funding. While not as prevelant as African american or Hispanic grants, if you are of Asian descent, specifically first generation Asian American, we recommend seeking out local ethnic organizations about grant funding.
Grants for Women
For most of the last century, women were second-class on most college campuses. With the equalization of womens rights and equality, women have enjoyed the same education and resources as men on college campuses.
Many grants exist for women interested in pursuing science, math and business, areas traditionally reserved for their male counterparts. Big corporations and organizations often administer these grants to reward women studying in underrepresented sectors. The American Association of University Women, one of the most recognized organizations for women, provides a good deal of grants to minority and disadvantaged women. Additionally, women's only college often provide large grant and financial aid packages to women attending their campuses.