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.

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Scholarships for African American Social Work Students

Scholarships for African American Students

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 and Latino Social Work Students

Scholarships for Hispanic Students

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 Social Work Students

Scholarships for Native American Students

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 Social Work Students

Scholarships for Asian and Pacific Islander Students

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 Social Work Students

Scholarships for Undocumented Students

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

ScholarshipsScholarships 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.
GrantsLike 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 StudyAlso 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 LoansUnlike 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 LoansPrivate 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.

Scholarship Application Tips:

Adpional Scholarship Resources for Social Work Students

  • 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.