College Resources for Diverse and Multicultural Students
Intended to help students build strong networks, national diversity organizations provide platforms and support for students of all backgrounds.
National organizations, such as Greek-letter societies, government initiative groups, scholarship foundations and honors societies, provide larger platforms for minority groups to collaborate, lead and advocate. The following resource lists are intended to help minority students build strong social networks within academia, locate scholarships and get involved as community leaders.
Why Diverse Student Populations Matter
When students attend college, they gain exposure to a slew of ideas and research efforts that expand their perceptions, global awareness and ability to work with others. Colleges serve as cultural hubs in our society, and campus administrators recognize the strong need for diverse student populations. Inclusive campuses also honor the histories of various civil rights movements in the U.S.; academic access can serve to empower and advance minority groups.
Campus diversity has grown considerably in the United States. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveals that college enrollment rates for several minority groups have risen between the years of 1976 to 2011:
- Hispanic students from 4% to 14%
- Asian and Pacific Islander students from 2% to 6%
- Black students from 10% to 15%
- Native American students from 0.7% to 0.9%
When it comes to women on campus, female post-baccalaureate student populations have outnumbered males since 1988. LGBT resource centers have skyrocketed on college campuses, with dozens included in the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals database.
Greater campus inclusion and student diversity enhance the college experience. Students who surround themselves with new and different ideas will have an easier time adjusting to the various environments they'll encounter beyond the classroom.
Student Support Resources
The resources listed below should serve as starting points in your search for minority-focused colleges, student organizations and funding opportunities. While many national organizations are described below, several of them have localized branches that serve single campuses and provide a more personalized experience. For example, several Greek-letter coalitions described below have member sororities and fraternities that have small, campus-based chapters.
National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC): Nine African American sororities and fraternities are collected within this single organization. Some member groups are over a century old, such as Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi. These social organizations provide students with the opportunity to network, volunteer in local communities, receive leadership training, access member-exclusive career boards and participate in professional training. To join these organizations, visit their respective websites and review the literature for prospective members. Student fees can range based on the Greek organization and your current enrollment year in college.
White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities: The federal government has compiled a free online database listing historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), along with relevant funding and internship opportunities. Students can also review the nomination and awards process for the HBCU All-Star Students Program, a program developed to train college students as White House Initiative ambassadors who will work to advance the quality of HBCUs throughout the U.S.
National Black Graduate Student Association (NBGSA): This nonprofit, interdisciplinary student organization is dedicated to the recognition and academic success of black graduate students. The annual membership fee for current graduate students is $25. Members gain access to a variety of benefits, including the NBGSA newsletters and article submission processes, career digests, scholarship opportunities and discounts for national conferences.
National Indian Education Association (NIEA): This group, founded in 1970, is dedicated to research, advocacy and professional advancement for Native peoples in the U.S. Students can become NIEA members and gain access to benefits such as career resources, webinars and academic publications. Student memberships cost $50 annually. Some NIEA scholarship listings can be accessed for free online.
American Indian College Fund: This organization provides funding resources to 34 accredited tribal academic institutions in the U.S., raising over $5.3 million in the 2012-2013 school year alone. In five years, this college fund has used 79% of donations to create over 6,000 annual scholarships for American Indian students. Undergraduate and graduate students attending both tribal and non-tribal colleges can apply for scholarship opportunities online at the American Indian College Fund website.
Alpha Pi Omega: This sorority has the honor of being the oldest Greek social organization dedicated to Native American interests in the nation. Alpha Pi Omega began in 1994 at the University of North Carolina and has since grown to encompass 17 chapters across the U.S. This sorority hosts annual award ceremonies to recognize the academic and civil service accomplishments of their members.
Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund: This organization has granted $90 million in scholarships to Asian and Pacific Islander students, with 58% of recipients who live in households at or below the poverty line. 56% of the recipients are also the first in their families to attend college. Students can visit the APIASF website to apply to the scholarship fund and to the Gates Millennium Scholars Program.
US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation (USPAACC): This professional nonprofit advocacy group was founded in 1984; it has since partnered with a number of government agencies and Fortune 1000 corporations to build strong in-roads for Asian American representation in business and academia. Each year, the USPAACC posts a free guide of up to 20 different scholarships.
National APIA Panhellenic Association (NAPA): This is a coalition of 14 national Asian and Pacific Islander sororities and fraternities. Every Greek social organization listed here must be at least a decade old before they can join NAPA. Student membership fees vary across member organizations.
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU): HACU is comprised of over 400 academic institutions that are focused on the academic and professional advancement of Hispanic students. The list of HACU member organizations can serve as a resource to prospective students searching for colleges. HACU also hosts its own scholarship program for students enrolled at member institutions.
Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF): HSF has distributed over $470 million in scholarships, granting 5,100 awards each year. The scholarship application period begins on January 1 every year. The awards, which range from $1,000 to $15,000, are granted in collaboration with several other organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Coca-Cola and AT&T.
National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO): This umbrella coalition oversees twenty Latino fraternities and sororities based at universities across the nation. Phi Iota Alpha is one of the oldest NALFO members, founded in 1931. Student fees vary between these Greek organizations.
International Student Organization in the USA (ISO): This is a free resource dedicated to the academic success of international students attending college in the U.S. ISO addresses demographic statistics regarding states and colleges that are the most accommodating to international students, along with American culture guides. ISO also created a scholarship directory for funding opportunities that international students qualify for.
Record Number of International Students Attend U.S. Colleges: This NPR article describes the significant growth of international populations in U.S. institutions of higher education. The U.S. State Department findings describe how a majority of international students are visiting from China, South Korea or India. NPR also notes that the recent influx of international students has accounted for a $24 billion boost to the U.S. economy.
National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA): While this professional association was created with educators in mind, prospective college students can also use the NAFSA website as a resource for possible funding opportunities. This organization has compiled a list of possible funding sources for undergraduate international students. They have also created an extensive guide for student who want to pursue collegiate studies in the U.S.
Students with Disabilities
Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: The U.S. Department of Education has created a comprehensive guide regarding the rights of students with disabilities. This resource covers disability disclosures, a student's rights to academic adjustments and examples of adjustments that can be requested (such as sign language interpreters, screen-reading tools and other assistive technologies). This guide also addresses the resources all colleges must have on hand for students with disabilities.
BestColleges.com's Resources for Students with Disabilities: Our own guide further examines the laws protecting college students with disabilities, along with legislative limitations. This resource delves into the applications and enrollment process step-by-step, so students with disabilities can become better acquainted with the services they need before classes begin. A resource list at the end of the guide addresses assistive apps, websites and software for various types of disabilities.
Disability.gov Scholarships: U.S. citizens with disabilities can use this online federal government resource to learn more about benefit opportunities, education pathways, health regulations and academic opportunities. Its scholarship list features dozens of funding sources for students with disabilities, including Learning Ally, AmeriCorps and the Jan La Belle Scholarship Program.
Campus Pride: The Campus Pride Index ranks U.S. colleges based on how LGBT friendly they are. They score each college based on eight LGBT factors: policy inclusion, campus safety, student life, academic life, counseling and health, recruitment and retention, institutional commitment and housing. The Campus Pride college database can be an instrumental resource for prospective students searching for LGBT-friendly campuses.
Point Foundation: This advocacy organization offers multiple free benefits to LGBTQ communities, including mentorship opportunities, scholarship awards, civil service training and leadership development. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to become Point Scholars and earn academic funding. Awards are granted after an exhaustive five-step process, which includes two application rounds, a supplemental material section, a telephone interview and a committee interview.
Lavender Graduation: Dozens of campuses across the U.S. celebrate Lavender Graduation ceremonies, which are held to honor LGBTQIA students as they graduate from college. Students can check the Lavender Graduation college listings to see if their institution participates in this tradition. Lavender Graduation ceremonies are held one week before a college's general graduation commencement.
BestColleges.com's Scholarships and Resources for Women: Women searching for scholarship opportunities based on their field of study, demographics or organization can find dozens of resources in our own dynamic list of funding opportunities. Each scholarship listing is accompanied with important details, such as award amount, eligibility requirements and application links. Students can also consult this guide for career counseling resources, which are aimed at helping women succeed professionally after graduation.
American Association of University Women (AAUW): This national student organization coalition is dedicated to women's legal advocacy, academic opportunities and representation in STEM fields. Students attending AAUW partner universities and colleges can gain free membership, while students at non-partner schools pay $17 to $49 annually based on their student status. Members gain access to AAUW networking events, leadership training and exclusive publications.
Women's College Coalition (WCC): Dozens of colleges have become institutional members of WCC by demonstrating their dedication to admissions advocacy, women-led research projects and intercollegiate efforts. The WCC college database can be an excellent resource for prospective students who wish to apply to schools with a strong history of prioritizing women's rights and leadership opportunities for young women.
DREAM Educational Empowerment Program (DEEP): The DEEP program is run by United We Dream, a national advocacy organization that represents immigrant youth in 26 states. Its tuition equity map can help immigrant students quickly learn about their tuition rights on a state-by-state basis. DEEP also provides educators and parents with extensive guides about financial aid and tuition management.
Golden Door Scholars: This nonprofit organization empowers undocumented students with scholarship opportunities for undergraduate study. Golden Door also collaborates with tech corporations to train TechWorks scholars in web development, with programs that may become full-time jobs. The organization actively encourages institutions to waive application fees and reduce tuition for Golden Door Scholars.
BestColleges.com's College Guide for Undocumented Students: This very site has a well-researched, extensive resource on the options and restrictions undocumented students face. The goal of the guide is to educate those with an undocumented status; it's also intended to inform teachers, family members or friends of undocumented students about the struggles these students face and the support they so badly need.
Hillel: Hillel distinguishes itself as the largest Jewish student organization, partnering with over 550 academic institutions around the world to provide scholars with networking opportunities, Birthright trips and community events. This student organization is completely free to join. Hillel hosts an extensive Jewish college database to aid prospective students in the application process.
Muslim Students Association (MSA National): MSA National is a nonprofit that provides outreach events, strategic planning, school funding and student scholarships across the U.S. and Canada. College students can apply to two funding awards: the Ilyas Ba-Yunus Memorial Scholarship and the M. Nazirudding Ali Award for Excellence. Scholarship awards range from $1,000 to $2,000.
United Council of Christian Fraternities and Sororities (UCCFS): Learn more about Christian Greek-letter organizations at UCCFS, a coalition of national Christian sororities and fraternities. Delta Phi Epsilon, Alpha Nu Omega and Zeta Phi Zeta are a few of the Greek member societies of UCCFS. Student membership fees vary among these organizations.