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Grants for African Americans

College costs are rising and prospective students are struggling like never before to raise the necessary funds to pay for their education.

For many students, grants can be an important source of their college funding. In addition to federal and state grants, there are a plethora of private organizations and businesses offering grants, specifically for African American students.

Many of these niche grants are available for students studying at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Others support students studying in underrepresented major fields, such as engineering or nursing. Most require a minimum GPA and are highly competitive.

Following is a list of some of the many need-based grants and scholarships designed for African American students. They are divided into subcategories, which should serve as a good jumping off point for further research into other grant opportunities.

Historically Black Colleges

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), as well as various private endowments, awards several million dollars in need-based assistance to students enrolling or currently studying at one of the more than one hundred Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States. For example:

  • The Frederick Douglass Scholars Program at Howard University is for incoming, academically talented students pursuing doctoral studies and expressing an interest in college teaching. Douglass Scholars receive an annual stipend of $15,000 for five years, plus full tuition emission and a $1,000 annual research allowance.
  • The Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology (DFBSST) is an endowment fund established by a group of black technical professionals seeking to remove financial obstacles to African American students in technical and scientific fields. The DFBSST provides need-based assistance to African-American undergraduate students enrolled in relevant fields of study at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Awards are $2,000 per year, for a period of up to 4 years.

For more information about grants and scholarships for students attending HBCUs, check with the financial aid office at your college or university or see the comprehensive list on the UNCF website.

Professional Associations

From accountants to nurses, nearly every profession has an association. Many professions even have minority associations aimed at supporting current and future members in particularly underrepresented career fields.

A number of these associations offer need-based grant and scholarship assistance to minorities who are pursing undergraduate and graduate education in related fields. Some examples include:

  • The National Black Nurses Association supports the professional and educational development of African American nurses, including offering annual grants, scholarships and fellowships for continuing education. These awards range from $500-$2000 per year. Eligible applicants must be enrolled in a nursing program with at least one full year of school remaining at the time of the award.
  • The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) provides grants for minority students, including African Americans, who are pursuing either an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree in accounting or finance. Applicants must have a minimum 3.3 GPA. Grant decisions are based on both financial need and academic merit. Awards range from $1,500 – $5,000 per year.

Private Organizations

There are a number of private foundations that provide need-based grants and scholarships to promising African American students.

  • The most prominent private organization is The United Negro College Fund, which has awarded more than $105 million in need-based assistance for undergraduate and graduate African American students since 1985. With over 350 scholarships and grant programs that it administers, the UNCF is the single largest source of non-governmental assistance to African American students. The UNCF supports a wide variety of constituencies, including students at its 39 member colleges and universities, other Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and majority institutions.

The UNCF also partners with a diverse range of organizations and private companies that have endowed specific scholarships and grants administered by UNCF’s Scholarship Fund. Examples include CVS’s grant to junior and senior students of pharmacology and Lehman Brother’s award to undergraduate business majors. Deadlines and eligibility requirements vary by scholarship.

Other examples of private organizational support include:

  • The Gates Millennium Scholars Program is a one billion dollar endowment created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce financial barriers to higher education for minority students. The program partners with leading organizations, including the United Negro College Fund, to offer millions of dollars in grants and scholarships every year for promising African American students. Specific deadlines and eligibility requirements are available on the Gates Millennium Scholars website.
  • The Sachs Foundation annually provides grants to approximately 200 Colorado students in need of financial assistance to attend college. Applications are accepted from January 1 until March 1. The Sachs Foundation Board of Directors personally interviews the final candidate pool and makes official award decisions. The average undergraduate grant is $4,000.00 per year and is renewable. The Foundation selects approximately 50 new applicants each year and while there is no minimum GPA requirement, all current grantees have at least a 3.4 GPA.

Private Businesses

As a component of their corporate philanthropy commitment, many private companies, both large and small, offer need-based assistance to promising young students. Some examples include:

  • Sallie Mae is one of America’s largest education lending institutions and is also actively involved in studying and working to resolve financial barriers to education, particularly for minority students. Sallie Mae operates its own scholarship fund called the Sallie Mae Fund. The SMF has to two scholarship/grant programs designed specifically for African American students.

The SMF is also the author of Black College Dollars, the most comprehensive study to date on financial impediments and funding opportunities for African Americans pursing higher education. The Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship Program provides grants for minority students, ranging from $1,000 – $10,000, depending on a grantee’s remaining tuition balance, academic track record and other activities. Applicants must be undergraduate or graduate students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher majoring in Chemistry, Information Management, Computing & Software Systems, Material Science, Printing Management Science, Laser Optics, Physics or Engineering. Applications are due no later than September 30.

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