Financial Aid for African-American Students

Damon Brown

September 03, 2008

Paying for college is tough. Luckily, many schools and organizations want to encourage access to higher education for African Americans and other minority students. Examples of some of the good financial resources available for African-American students are listed below.

Organizational Scholarships

Several national African-American organizations have established scholarships specifically to help students finance their college educations. The dollar amounts of the scholarships vary, and some require applicants to have specific majors and career goals.

United Negro College Fund (UNCF)

The UNCF offers a number of scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students. Most of these scholarships require applicants to:

  • Have a minimum GPA of 2.5.
  • Have unmet financial need as verified by the financial aid director at their school.
  • Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and send the subsequent Student Analysis Report (SAR) to the university's financial aid office.

Although most students cannot receive more than one UNCF scholarship in a given time, nearly all UNCF scholarships may be renewed annually as long as the student meets the above criteria.

Check the United Negro College Fund Web site to get more information.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

In 2003, the NAACP awarded 62 scholarships. To receive a scholarship packet with applications and instructions student must mail a written request to:

United Negro College Fund Scholarships & Grants Administration 8260 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive Fairfax, VA 22031 You can also contact your local NAACP branch for more information.

Corporate/Association Scholarships and Grants

Many corporations offer scholarships, fellowships and grants to encourage minority participation in their specialized field. Visit company Web sites or contact industry leaders in the field you plan to work in to get more information on their funding opportunities. Some corporations ask for a post-graduate work commitment, so be sure to review all requirements before getting involved.

Some corporations that sponsor minority-focused scholarships include:

  • General Motors funds and sponsors a range of scholarship programs from the Cheverolet Excellence in Education Award to awards for summer interns enrolled in engineering, manufacturing or business programs.
  • Merck and Pfizer have scholarships for biochemistry studies in undergraduate and graduate, respectively.

Black Icon Scholarships

Annual scholarships have been established to commemorate important African-American figures. Funds are established by family and friends, and the award amounts are frequently substantial. Below are two of the more established "icon" scholarships:

  • Thurgood Marshall Fund - Awards merit scholarships to students attending a fund member schools. Awards are restricted to payment of tuition, room, board, books and fees. Check the Web site for eligibility criteria and a list of additional scholarships offered.
  • Jackie Robinson Foundation - Awards four-year college scholarships of up to $7,000 a year in financial aid to academically-gifted minority high school students. The foundation also offers mentoring programs and career counseling.

Membership organizations

Networking is a great way to find money for college. Getting involved with organizations that represent your field will expose you to important people, and make scholarships and grants available to you.

Here are a few organizations that may be a good resource for scholarship and grant information:

  • National Society of Black Engineers
  • National Association of Black Journalists
  • National Black Nurses Association
  • National Organization of Minority Architects
  • National Bar Association
  • National Medical Association
  • National Black MBA Association

Contact the organizations to find out if they offer scholarships, grants and fellowships. If not, they may be able to point you in the right direction.

Non-profit assistance groups

Lots of non-profit organizations have been established to help African-American students with college costs. All the examples listed below are national. However, there are many regional and state organizations, so be sure to look for some in your area.

National organizations include:

  • Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology
  • National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering

There is a lot of African-American financial support available, much of which can be discovered on the Internet. The main challenge is finding them all. Do your research and you may find ways to bring down the cost of your college education.

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