Financial Aid for Minority Students

Historically, education has been reserved for the wealthy, who were able to afford the high prices charged by private institutions. Over time, the U.S. has made schools more accessible to students of all backgrounds. In 1851, Massachusetts became the first state to enact a compulsory education law. From 1856-1877, African American activists worked with political leaders to rewrite state constitutions, guaranteeing free public education. Chinese Americans gained access to public schooling in 1905. Additionally, Native Americans gained citizenship in 1924, allowing them to attend school. Finally, in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that segregated schools were "inherently unequal," thereby starting the slow process of nationwide integration.

Significant disparities still exist between the quality and quantity of education offered to minority students

Significant disparities still exist between the quality and quantity of education offered to minority students. However, progress marches forward, especially at the university level. In 2016, the federal government allocated $104 million toward minority-serving colleges and universities. Relatedly, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) spent a portion of its 2017 budget to help ensure equitable educational opportunities for underserved populations, including ethnic minorities and persons from low-income households. These efforts, when coupled with initiatives by individual schools and local organizations, have led to an increased number of social work scholarships for minorities. This guide compiles some of these award opportunities, providing information about application processes and additional resources.

Scholarships for African American Students

Cenie Jomo Williams Tuition Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: Hosted by the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW), applicants to this award must be African American students enrolled in a social work program accredited by the Council of Social Work Education. Applicants must also possess a minimum 2.5 GPA, demonstrate commitment to civil service, and be NABSW members. Application materials include official academic transcripts, two recommendation letters, and a 2-3 page statement of purpose. View Scholarship

The Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program $30,000

Who Can Apply: Candidates must be graduating high school seniors accepted to a four-year college or university who scored at least 1,000 on the SAT or 21 on the ACT. Applicants must also demonstrate leadership qualities and a commitment to community service. Application materials include a candidate photo, one recommendation letter, and an online application that includes four essays. View Scholarship

The Ron Brown Scholar Program $40,000

Who Can Apply: Candidates must be African American high school seniors with financial need. Applicants also need to demonstrate exceptional academic performance, leadership qualities, and community activism. Application materials consist of SAT/ACT scores, an essay response, and academic transcripts. View Scholarship

Dr. Joyce Beckett Tuition Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: This award is open to African American students enrolled full time in a master of social work program. Candidates must hold a minimum 2.5 GPA and demonstrate a commitment to working with and serving the black community. They must also serve as active members of NABSW. To apply, students should submit their current academic records, two letters of recommendation, a school registrar letter proving good academic standing, and a statement of purpose. View Scholarship

Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial MSW Scholarship $5,500

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be a master's in social work degree candidate and a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). They must also possess a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrate a commitment to health/mental health and working with and serving the African American community. Application materials include a personal essay, two letters of professional recommendation, and academic transcripts. Scholarship recipients must attend the Social Work HEALS Student Policy Summit in the District of Columbia. View Scholarship

Professional Organizations for African American Students

  • National Association of Black Social Workers The NABSW advocates for social change in African communities in the U.S. and across the globe. Members can access extensive career advice and connect with peers at national conferences and local committee meetings. The association also facilitates 10 social work scholarships for minorities that range from $250-2,500.
  • United Negro College Fund The UNCF stands as a strong organizational advocate for minority education and community engagement in the U.S. In addition to financially supporting historically Black colleges and universities, the UNCF provides scholarships and grants to African American students based on both need and merit. Most awards require applicants to hold a minimum 2.5 GPA and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Members also enjoy internship and professional development opportunities.
  • Thurgood Marshall College Fund Founded in 1987, the TMCF represents the Black college community in the U.S., supporting its constituents through financial assistance and capacity-building initiatives. Students attending one of the TMCF's member institutions can apply for four types of need- and merit-based awards. TMCF also occasionally offers scholarships to non-member students. Additional services include networking, recruitment, and professional development programs.

Scholarships for Hispanic Students

League of United Latin American Citizens National Scholastic Achievement Award $2,000

Who Can Apply: Candidates must possess a minimum 3.5 GPA. Entering college freshman should also submit ACT or SAT results with scores of at least 29 or 1350, respectively. This award is open to high school seniors, full-time undergraduate students, and part-time or full-time graduate students. View Scholarship

Hispanic Heritage Foundation Youth Awards $1,000-$3,500

Who Can Apply: Candidates must be of Hispanic heritage and a permanent U.S. resident, citizen, or DACA recipient. Applicants also need to be high school seniors with a minimum 3.0 GPA who plan to attend an accredited higher education institution. This is a one-time award. Winners must attend regional awards ceremonies. View Scholarship

El Café Del Futuro Scholarship $5,000

Who Can Apply: The award is open to full-time college students who attend a four-year institution with membership in the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Candidates must be of Latino descent and a legal resident of a U.S. state or Puerto Rico. Applicants must submit an essay answering a prompt related to their Latino heritage and intention to give back to their communities. View Scholarship

Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial MSW Scholarship $4,000

Who Can Apply: This award is open to master of social work degree candidates who hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must be members in good standing of NASW and demonstrate a commitment to working with community organizations and serving Hispanic/Latino populations. Application materials consist of a bibliographical essay, a statement of merit and financial need, two letters of support from professional references, and official academic transcripts. View Scholarship

Hispanic Scholarship Fund $500-$5,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be of Hispanic heritage and enrolled in a four-year undergraduate or graduate degree program. High school candidates must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA, while college students need to hold a GPA of 2.5 or higher. If applicable, applicants need to complete the FAFSA. View Scholarship

Professional Organizations for Hispanic and Latino Students

  • Latino Social Workers Organization Focused on the recruitment and retention of Latino social workers, the LSWO provides mentorship opportunities for students and professionals through national conferences and ethical and organizational workshops. Participants also benefit from continuing education programs and a career center that posts up-to-date job listings. Additionally, the LSWO facilitates internship placements and hands out academic awards.
  • National Association of Puerto Rican and Hispanic Social Workers Founded in 1983, the NAPRHSW helps recruits Hispanic social workers and advocates for the professional and community interests of Latinos at all levels of government. Students who attend a member university may apply for the association’s social work scholarships for minorities. The NAPRHSW also sponsors conferences and networking opportunities.
  • Association of Latino Professionals for America Established in 1972, the ALPFA stands as the largest organization of its kind in the U.S., supporting more than 81,000 professional and student members. The ALPFA provides leadership training programs, paid summer internships, and a career center that connects candidates with prospective employers. The association also helps students find scholarships and grants.

Scholarships for Native American Students

Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship & Financial Assistance Graduate Fund $5,000-$10,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be Navajo Nation members pursuing a master’s degree, doctoral degree, or education terminal degree. Application materials include official academic transcripts and a graduation checklist for financial assistance. Recipients must maintain good academic standing to continue receiving funds. View Scholarship

Navajo Generating Station Navajo Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Candidates must be official members of the Navajo Nation and full-time college students in their junior year. Applicants must also hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Application materials include a personal letter, a resume, two recommendation letters, academic records, and a certificate of Indian Blood. View Scholarship

The Chief Manuelito Scholarship $7,000

Who Can Apply: This award is open to Navajo high school or undergraduate college students. High school applicants must possess an adequate GPA and SAT/ACT scores; for example, a student with 3.0 GPA needs a score of 29 or higher on the ACT. Recipients must also complete required Navajo language and Navajo government courses during high school. College applicants should hold at least 24 college-level credits earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The award is not automatically renewed; recipients must reapply for continued consideration. View Scholarship

Indian Health Service Health Professions Scholarship Full Tuition

Who Can Apply: Candidates must be U.S. citizens and members of an American Indian tribe or Alaskan Native group. They should also possess a minimum 2.0 GPA and intend to serve the health/mental health needs of Native people. The program awards funds based on an applicant’s essay, academic achievements, and recommendations from their employers and teachers. View Scholarship

Wells Fargo Scholarship for Undergraduates $5,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be undergraduate students with a minimum 2.7 GPA who belong to of a federally/state-recognized American Indian tribe or an Alaskan Native group. Candidates who can prove that they possess at least one-fourth American Indian blood may also apply. Application materials include two references, unofficial academic transcripts, and answers to scholarship questions. View Scholarship

Professional Organizations for Native American Students

  • American Indian College Fund Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund works to recruit and retain Native American college students through financial and organizational support. In addition to providing scholarship programs, this organization offers guidance to help students prepare for college academics and life after graduation. Additional resources include internship and mentorship programs, career resources, and access to employment opportunities.
  • Bureau of Indian Education As part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the BIE provides resources and services to help Native American students access educational opportunities, such as academic scholarships and grants. The BIE also offers tuition waivers, internships, and fellowship programs, including opportunities for students to work in the national government.
  • Indian Health Service Dedicated to improving the physical, mental, and emotional health of Native Americans, IHS connects patients with affordable care programs in their area and trains health professionals to serve the distinct needs of Native American communities. Social work students can access career guidance, internship and ambassadorship opportunities, and job placement. IHS also offers financial support through scholarships, grants, and loan repayment programs.

Scholarships for Asian and Pacific Islander Students

Korean American Scholarship Foundation Awards $500-$5,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants can be either Korean American or Korean foreign students, as long as they attend a U.S. high school or college degree program full time. Individuals must also hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. KASF confers scholarships through six regional chapters; each chapter may use additional and/or differing scholarship requirements. View Scholarship

Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund Scholarships $250-$2,000

Who Can Apply: This award is open to graduating high school seniors who plans to pursue post-secondary education. Candidates (or at least one of their parents) must have been born in Cambodia, Laos, or Vietnam. Applicants must demonstrate strong academic achievement and financial need. Application materials include academic transcripts, two reference letters, and a personal essay. View Scholarship

Gay Asian Pacific Alliance Foundation Scholarship Fund $1,000-$5,000

Who Can Apply: Candidates should demonstrate a strong history of LGBTQA+ activism and/or community service with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities. All high school seniors and college students (including those attending community colleges and trade/vocational schools) may apply. Regardless of their nationality, any student attending a U.S. higher education institution can apply. View Scholarship

Gold Mountain Scholarship $2,000

Who Can Apply: This award is open to high school seniors of Asian American or Pacific Islander descent who represent the first individuals in their immediate family to attend college. Candidates must demonstrate strong academic achievement, although no specific GPA minimum is required. Application materials consist of three short essays, academic records, and two recommendation letters. View Scholarship

Hsiao Memorial Social Sciences Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: This award program prefers candidates with Asian heritage. Applicants must be graduate students pursuing a degree in the social sciences with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They also need to focus on research that benefits the social or economic needs of Asian and Asian American communities. The scholarship committee confers greater preference to candidates whose life story mirrors that of Dr. Liang-Lin Hsiao, who struggled with financial uncertainty but maintained a commitment to serving his community. View Scholarship

Professional Organizations for Asian and Pacific Islander Students

  • Asian/Pacific Islander Social Work Council Although originally comprised of social work professionals and students from Northern California, APISWC now welcomes members from all over the U.S. Students can take advantage of mentorship programs, career guidance, and opportunities to connect with prospective employers. In addition to social work scholarships for minorities, APISWC sponsors continuing education and training seminars.
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals Established in 1983, NAAAP empowers Asian American communities in the U.S. through professional development and community engagement initiatives. The association operates a national magazine, online webinars, and a comprehensive leadership academy. Members also enjoy a career center that helps them search for employers and post resumes. Additionally, NAAAP provides specific resources for women and families.
  • Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Foundation Founded in 2003, APIASF has provided more than $100 million in highly competitive academic scholarships. The foundation promotes academic success and career preparedness through mentorship programs and networking events, such as an annual higher education summit. Students also benefit from leadership seminars and partnership with the Gates Millennium Scholars Program.

Scholarships for Undocumented Students

TheDream.US National Scholarship $14,500

Who Can Apply: This award is open to high school seniors and community college students who possess GPAs of at least 2.5 and 3.0, respectively. Candidates need to hold DACA or TPS status or meet designated immigration eligibility criteria. Applicants must also plan to enroll in a partner college or university. The award can be renewed as long as the student attends school full time and maintains a minimum 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund $10,000

Who Can Apply: Candidates must demonstrate a history of and commitment to progressive movements related to social and economic justice in the U.S. with plans to continue working for these causes after graduation. Although applicants need to be U.S. citizens, they must plan to enroll in a college or university in the country. Application materials include financial information, recommendation letters, academic transcripts, and a personal statement. The award is renewable. View Scholarship

Que Llueva Café Scholarship Program $500

Who Can Apply: This award is open to undocumented and DACA students who plan to enroll in an accredited college or university in the U.S. or Puerto Rico for the first time. Candidates must also demonstrate financial need and academic potential. To apply, students must submit a personal statement, one recommendation letter, and their high school transcripts. View Scholarship

First In The Family Freedom From Religion Foundation Catherine Fahringer Memorial Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: This award is open to students of color who identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist, and/or secular. Preference is given to students of color and individuals students who would be the first in their families to go to college. Undocumented students can also apply. Applicants must be attending a two- or four-year higher education institution. Application materials include a recommendation letter, record of school- or community-based service, and a three-paragraph response essay. View Scholarship

Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans $25,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must either possess active DACA status, be awaiting renewal, or had their status rescinded by the federal government. Additionally, they must be under 30 years old and enrolled in a bachelor’s or graduate program. The program judges applications based on their creativity, originality, and initiative. Fellows must attend the organization’s annual fall conference in New York City and maintain good academic standing with their college or university. View Scholarship

Professional Organizations for Undocumented Students

  • Educators for Fair Consideration E4FC helps undocumented students achieve their professional and academic goals through legal assistance and community education. Students also benefit from financial support, including E4FC’s national scholars program. Additionally, the organization provides tools to help undocumented persons succeed after graduation, including guidance on how to earn a living and build a business through entrepreneurship.
  • Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund Founded in 1968, MALDEF stands as a leading U.S. Latino civil rights organization, providing resources and support that bolster voting rights and employment opportunities. Through its Parent School Partnership Program, MALDEF trains parents and community leaders to advocate for students’ rights. MALDEF also operates education initiatives that defend undocumented students and connects them with scholarships and leadership programs.
  • United We Dream A youth-led community, UWD provides immigrant students with leadership training, networking opportunities, and legal assistance. UWD also advocates for the education rights of LGBT and undocumented students, working to defend the latter from deportation. Students can take advantage of webinars, community meetings, summer campaigns, and career opportunities.

Types of Funding Available for Social Work Students

Scholarships Scholarships are one of the best forms of financial aid because they do not need to be paid back. These funds vary in their specifics, from one-time lump sums to installments to renewable awards. Criteria also vary but usually require a certain level of academic achievement, leadership qualities, and/or commitment to serving the community. Social work scholarships for minorities generally require applicants to major in a related field and/or pursue a social work career. Some awards may also require recipients to fulfill specific duties, such as work-service projects, internships, or research assignments. Most social work scholarships require an essay as part of the application materials.
Grants Like social work scholarships for minorities, grants do not need to be repaid. Unlike scholarships, grants usually go to individuals who demonstrate financial need, although exceptions can be found (e.g., SMART grants for science and math students). Two main categories of grants exist: non-ethnic and ethnic. The former represent aid accessible to students regardless of their background, while the latter reflect awards reserved specifically for ethnic minorities, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. Grants for non-ethnic minorities also exist, such as aid for female students and individuals with disabilities. Since the biggest college grants come from the federal government, students should fill out the FAFSA to access these opportunities.
Work Study Also available through the FAFSA, federal work-study programs enable undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to access funds based on financial need through part-time employment. They may work for their school, a nonprofit organization, or a government agency. The program emphasizes employment in areas related to a student’s major and/or the public good. Work-study students make at least their state’s minimum wage, although many positions offer more, and an individual’s workload is based on their yearly award amount. Colleges and universities must pay students at least once a month. Note that although the work-study program grants access to funds, it does not automatically provide job placement. Students must seek out positions on their own or with help from their school’s financial aid office.
Federal Student Loans Unlike scholarships and grants, loans must be paid back. The ED operates Direct Loan and Federal Perkins Loan programs. The ED stands as the lender for direct loans and colleges and universities lend Perkins loans. Four different types of direct loans exist, including subsidized and unsubsidized amounts. Only undergraduate students can access direct subsidized loans, which do not accrue interest while a student attends school, for six months after graduation, and/or during deferment periods (such as participation in AmeriCorps). Both undergraduate and graduate students may borrow direct unsubsidized loans. However, individuals who take on unsubsidized loans must pay interest as soon as they accept funds. Federal student loans cannot exceed the amount of financial need determined by the FAFSA.
Private Loans Private loans work similarly to federal loans in that recipients must pay back the amount borrowed. These funds come from private lenders -- primarily banks and credit unions. Private loans tend to be easier to access and students may borrow as much as their (or their parents’) credit score allows. However, private loans should only be used when all other funding options have been exhausted because they tend to come with significant drawbacks, including variable interest rates (sometimes exceeding 18%) and a lack of subsidization, meaning borrowers must foot all interest payments. Additionally, private lenders rarely offer forgiveness or cancellation programs, which is a practice used by the ED.

Filing the FAFSA

The Office of Federal Student Aid is under the ED's umbrella. It helps prospective, current, and continuing college students apply for scholarships, grants, and loans. In general, the amount of need-based aid a student receives is determined by the cost of attendance at their school minus the expected family contribution. Their school then uses this number to calculate additional awards. Although filling out the FAFSA is not mandatory, most colleges strongly encourage students to apply as part of the admission process. To be considered for the 2018-2019 aid year, candidates must submit their application by June 30, 2019. The next cycle begins on Oct. 1, 2019. Individual states may enact their own deadlines.

Students may file the FAFSA in English or Spanish, and hearing-impaired persons who use TTY can call 1-800-730-8913 for additional assistance. To qualify, candidates must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent and be enrolled in a valid degree or certificate program. Because the FAFSA requires a Social Security or Alien Registration number, only U.S. citizens and documented non-citizens may apply for aid from this office. Before filling out the FAFSA, students should make sure to have relevant federal tax returns, W-2s, and other financial records handy. Applicants will also need to acquire an FSA ID beforehand.

  • National Association of Social Workers Foundation This foundation was created in 2001 as the charitable arm of NASW -- one of the largest professional organizations in the field with over 120,000 members. Social workers can find project grants for practice-based research and student scholarships to help pay for schooling at all degree levels. NASWF also provides awards for continuing education and certification programs, enabling professionals to stay up-to-date on emerging tools and methods.
  • Association of Oncology Social Work AOSW is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting people with cancer and their families. The association also supports social workers through academic scholarships and professional awards, which it usually confers at an annual conference. Students of all background may apply for financial assistance, although they must maintain membership with AOSW to qualify.
  • Council on Social Work Education CSWE was established in 1951 and stands as the premier special accreditation body for social work degree programs in the U.S. In addition to networking events and career guidance, members enjoy financial assistance in the form of academic scholarships and research project grants. Opportunities include the Hispanic Study Abroad Award and other social work scholarships for minorities.
  • College Board A nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting educational equity, College Board boasts over 6,000 institutional members, many of which rank among the best colleges and universities in the world. Students benefit from college search guidance, standardized testing preparation, and career assistance. They can also access fiscal assistance and a catalog of up-to-date scholarship and grant opportunities.
  • Office of Federal Student Aid As an arm of the ED, the Office of Federal Student Aid provides students, educators, and parents with in-depth information about different types of financial aid and the FAFSA process. The office operates separate pages for individual award programs, including those reserved for teachers and military personnel. Students may also access a user-friendly search tool to look for social work scholarships for minorities.