Financial Aid Opportunities for Students of Color
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- Learn about different financial aid opportunities for students of color.
- Discover some of the best scholarships for students of color.
- Find out more about grants for students of color and how learners can apply.
- Check out various organizations and resources supporting learners of color.
College tuition costs have risen steadily across the country over the last few decades, presenting greater challenges for many students. For many students of color, these costs may be exacerbated by above-average poverty rates, which lead to lower enrollment and educational attainment numbers. While financial support programs can help, these students also experience above-average gaps between financial need and aid received.
In an attempt to reverse these trends, schools, government agencies, and other organizations have developed an increasing number of scholarship programs aimed at helping these underserved learners of color. These programs attempt to improve diversity in schools and workplaces by providing funding opportunities for promising students.
Read on for more information about scholarship applications, helpful resources, and a list of the best scholarships for students of color.
Financial Assistance for Students of Color
As one of the most common types of financial aid for all students — including students of color — student loans can come from a variety of sources, such as government agencies and financial institutions. Prospective students should begin by filling out the FAFSA.
Scholarships for students of color typically reward academic excellence and specialized educational and career pursuits. College scholarships may come from industry organizations, government agencies, or schools.
Grants usually provide financial support for learners who demonstrate financial need. Grant opportunities may come from schools, organizations, or government programs and typically do not require repayment.
Fellowships generally target students who are enrolled in a graduate program. Students who receive these awards typically complete specialized work or research within an organization in exchange for a stipend.
Work-study programs allow learners to take a paid on-campus work assignment. These jobs often accommodate study schedules and may even provide students with relevant experience. Unlike most fellowships, work-study programs accept undergraduate students.
How to Complete the FAFSA
Completing the FAFSA should be the first step in the process when seeking financial aid. This application determines a student's eligibility for government loans and grants, and it also shares information about each student's demonstrated need with many other financial aid programs.
Eligible students may receive funding that does not need to be repaid, so all prospective learners should apply. To complete the application, students need their Social Security number and income and banking information. They also need a list of schools that they are interested in attending.
Scholarships for Students of Color
While many organizations and agencies offer scholarships for students of color, finding relevant programs can prove challenging. To help learners get started in their search, the list below provides details on some of the best scholarship programs available to students of color.
Brown and Caldwell Minority Scholarship
Eligibility: The environmental engineering firm of Brown and Caldwell -- with support from organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers -- created this scholarship expressly for students of color who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Applicants must be full-time juniors or seniors with a declared engineering or environmental sciences major and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Application Deadline: Varies
Scholarship Amount: $5,000
Actuarial Diversity Scholarship
Eligibility: Presented by The Actuarial Foundation, this scholarship is intended to foster greater diversity in the actuarial field. Applicants must be full-time students at an accredited college or university in the United States. They must also have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and be pursuing a degree with an emphasis on math or actuarial courses.
Application Deadline: April
Scholarship Amount: $1,000-$4,000
Minority Corporate Counsel Association - LMJ Scholarship
Eligibility: This program is open to law students of color who have been accepted to or are enrolled full time in an American Bar Association-accredited law school. Applicants must have earned a minimum 3.2 GPA as an undergraduate and respond to a two-part essay question.
Application Deadline: June
Scholarship Amount: $10,000
Minority Teacher Education Scholarship
Eligibility: Offered by the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers, this scholarship is awarded to junior, senior, or a graduate students who have yet to earn a bachelor's degree in education. Recipients are required to teach for at least one year in a Florida public school after graduation.
Application Deadline: August and November
Scholarship Amount: $4,000
American Bar Association Legal Opportunity Scholarship
Eligibility: Eligible applicants must be first-year law students of color. Students should also demonstrate financial need.
Application Deadline: April
Scholarship Amount: $15,000 over three years
AFCEA Diversity Scholarships
Eligibility: Requirements vary by award, but applicants must attend school full time and pursue a degree that aligns with AFCEA goals in order to qualify.
Application Deadline: March or April
Scholarship Amount: $3,000
American Geosciences Institute Scholarship for Advancing Diversity in the Geoscience Profession
Eligibility: Eligible applicants must be within two semesters of graduating with a bachelor's degree in geoscience.
Application Deadline: February
Scholarship Amount: $5,000
American Institute of Chemical Engineers Minority Scholarship Awards
Eligibility: Eligible applicants must be pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and have a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Application Deadline: July
Scholarship Amount: $1,000 per year (renewable)
American Institute of CPAs Minority Scholarship
Eligibility: Eligible applicants must attend an accounting-related program full time and possess a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Application Deadline: March
Scholarship Amount: Up to $5,000
American Marketing Association Diversity Leadership Scholarship
Eligibility: Applicants must be full-time undergraduate students and AMA members. They must also demonstrate leadership qualities and possess a minimum GPA of 3.25.
Application Deadline: February
Scholarship Amount: Varies
Scholarships By Demographic Groups
Grants for Students of Color
Much like scholarships, grants for students of color help improve access to education for underrepresented groups. They also attempt to increase diversity in educational settings and the workforce. However, this type of aid differs from scholarships in that grants usually focus more on helping students with financial need.
Additionally, eligible applicants may need to demonstrate community involvement or commitment to education. Grants do not require repayment and may come from independent organizations or a government agency.
Financial Aid Resources for Students of Color
Professional associations can be great places to look for financial aid for students of color. These organizations often offer their own programs, and they may provide additional information on external resources for diverse student groups.
American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education: AAHHE aims to improve education opportunities for the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the U.S. by offering members professional development, leadership, and scholarship opportunities.
American Indian College Fund: Serving Native American students, this college fund not only provides students with connections to Tribal colleges, but it also offers scholarships, internships, and other resources.
APIA Scholars: APIA Scholars works to help Asian and Pacific Islander students access higher education by providing scholarships, mentoring, and leadership training opportunities.
Asian Pacific Fund: This nonprofit seeks to uplift Asian and Pacific Islander students in the Bay Area by providing grants, scholarships, and leadership opportunities for AAPI undergraduate and graduate students.
First in the Family: Serving first-generation college students, this nonprofit organization offers books, checklists, advice, and other online resources to help students achieve educational success.
HBCU Connect: HBCU Connect serves students attending HBCUs across the country, offering them access to career support, school information and resources, and scholarship opportunities.
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities: HACU represents the hundreds of institutions dedicated to Hispanic education. The association advocates for more support and recognition and offers internships and scholarships to promising students.
National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering: NACME improves diversity within the engineering field by providing scholarships for students of color. The council also offers access to professional development opportunities and resources.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: The NAACP fights for equal rights by providing information on racial inequalities and injustices and removing barriers that hinder people of color.
National Association of Black Accountants, Inc.: NABA aims to increase the number of Black accountants by offering professional support programs, networking opportunities, and access to scholarships.
National Black Graduate Student Association: NBGSA addresses the needs of Black graduate students, advocates for more inclusion in the academic community, and encourages Black students to pursue graduate degrees.
National Black MBA Association: NBMBAA promotes advanced business education for Black students while fighting to reduce the barriers they face. The association offers access to training programs, events, and scholarships for students of color.
National Black Student Alliance: The NBSA works to improve diversity and inclusion on college campuses and provides Black students with a community and network of their own.
Native American Rights Fund: NARF promotes human rights for Native Americans and offers financial and professional opportunities to Native American law students, including fellowships, scholarships, and internships.
United Negro College Fund: UNCF raises money to fund financial aid for students of color and provide support to various HBCUs. In addition to offering scholarships, the organization fights for the rights of Black students.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is considered a student of color?
A student of color is a degree-seeker who self-identifies as nonwhite, such as Asian American, Native American, Black, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander students. Some programs and organizations may classify these learners as "minority students."
What percentage of college students are students of color?
According to the American Council on Education, approximately 48% of the total undergraduate population in 2015-2016 consisted of students of color. For comparison, in 1995-1996, that number was about 30%.
What kinds of scholarships are available for students of color?
Many organizations offer scholarships for students of color. Programs vary in terms of their size, type, and requirements. Some programs target specific population groups, whereas others are available to all applicants of color.
Where do you find scholarships for students of color?
You can find scholarships for students of color on online databases, government agency pages, school websites, and through organizations and associations. Prospective students may find it helpful to start by looking for local scholarship opportunities at their school and then expand their search.
How do I qualify for scholarships that target students of color?
Requirements for these scholarships vary considerably, but most programs require applicants to possess strong grades -- often a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some may require community involvement, whereas others may require membership with an organization and/or specific educational and career pursuits.