There has been an increase in career-specific grants in an effort to fill high-demand positions such as teaching and nursing. For more information on career-specific grants, contact your local student assistance commission or your college’s financial aid office. If you are undecided, and open to any major, consider majors in high-demand fields. High-demand areas of study include foreign language, special education, math, and science. For information about other scholarships and grants, conduct a free scholarship search. Fill out a profile on scholarships.com to find scholarships that are specific to you. If you are interested in high-demand fields, check out our examples of how your career choice can help pay for school.
Federal grant amounts are decided by the results of your Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA. Federal grants are need-based. For less popular grants, check for additional requirements, such as a minimum GPA. Also check for retention requirements such as enrollment status, accumulative GPA, and post-graduation service.
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is a federal program that awards prospective teachers grants of up to $4,000 to work in low-income, high-need school districts. Students who receive the grant and choose not to teach, the TEACH Grant becomes a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan.
For students staying in-state to study a high-demand field, check out the career-specific grants offered by your state. For example, students who live and want to teach in Illinois are eligible for The Illinois Future Teacher Corps (IFTC) Program. This program is for juniors and above who want to be teachers in Illinois, especially in districts with high teacher turnover rates.
For students interested in nursing, look at the Nursing Scholarship Program through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This program covers tuition and fees for prospective nurses in exchange for two years of work in a healthcare facility with a nursing shortage. The program also includes an additional monthly stipend.
If you know exactly what you are doing after college, look for schools that specialize in that fields. Investigate the career-specific grant opportunities at the college. Most schools, including community and technical colleges, have grants by specific departments, or alumni funding for specific fields of study. For example, The University of Minnesota's Women's Center has grants for students, faculty, and staff interested in women’s studies and improving the campus climate for women through special projects.
If you’re getting an advanced degree, look for research grants and/or fellowships. Grants for advanced degrees often fund your education, and help pay for internships, career-advancement opportunities and research positions to boost your resume. Santa Clara University’s School of Law has Social Justice Grants for students and alumni who do work in the public interest for little or no pay.
Outside organizations also offer career-specific grants and scholarships. Research organizations that are in your field of interest, and see what they have. Some organizations require post-graduation employment, and others only require that you get a degree in that field. For example, The Institute of Museum and Library Services department of The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities has a number of grant opportunities for supporting the nation’s library systems and recruiting and educating the next generation of library science students. The National Association of Black Journalists has grants for black students studying journalism who are members of their professional organization. If you have particular interests, join local organizations that provide funding for college.
If you want an advanced degree and are already working, contact your employer. Large corporations often have college funding opportunities. Most companies require you to stay with the company for a certain number of years after you get an advanced degree, because they want to keep employees with high education and work experience. If you plan to stay with your company, look for opportunities to get an advanced degree on their dime.
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by Susan DutcaPhoto credit: Erin Hooley / The Chicago Tribune
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