African-Americans applying to college experience a host of unique challenges, and finding ways to pay for it may be chief among them. On the whole, postsecondary enrollment rates for all institutions dropped between 2010 to 2015. Prior to that period, college enrollment saw a steady increase of 21% from 1976 until 2010. By 2015, full-time enrollment fell by 6%. This decrease was the result of many factors, but the the recession of 2009 is the main case. Schools are still recovering from the economic disruption and looking to attract more students for enrollment. However, economic crises limit the funding available to students, especially students of color.

"African-Americans take out more loans than other populations to pay for college."

African-American students make up 14% of all enrolled college students, and as they try to navigate a rocky postsecondary landscape, there are many ways to finance their collegiate career. According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, during the 2007-2008 academic year, undergraduate students received over $60 billion in merit-based and need-based financial aid. Only 11.4% of African-American students received merit-based grants and 52.9% earned need-based aid. Moreover, a report by Demos found that African-Americans take out more loans than other populations to pay for college.

Judging by the rates of need-based aid, many of these students struggle with paying for college and accrue more debt by taking out loans. While a student may graduate with a college degree, their increased debt-load makes it difficult to buy a home or car, and keeps them in a cycle of debt. Therefore, African-American students need to prioritize grant and scholarship applications; the former is usually awarded based on need, while the latter are merit-based. Notably, however, neither of these awards need to be repaid after graduation.

Eligibility Requirements

Students applying to African-American grants for education must be African-American. Federal education grants are typically awarded based on the applicant’s financial needs, as determined initially by the FAFSA. State and privately funded African-American grants may have separate or additional requirements based on the applicant’s place of residence, level of academic achievement, or planned course of study.


General Scholarships and Grants for African-American Students

AICPA Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students

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Who Can Apply: Graduate minority students who plan to obtain their Ph.D. in accounting are eligible.

Amount: $12,000

Ford Foundation Fellowship Program

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Who Can Apply: The National Academies of the Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine award predoctoral fellowships to students who exhibit superior academic achievement.

Amount: $24,000

Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars

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Who Can Apply: Incoming freshmen at American University who demonstrate an interest in leadership development and attending graduate and/or professional school.

Amount: Full tuition

American Medical Association Underrepresented in Medicine

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Who Can Apply: This scholarship is awarded to minority physicians who plan to serve underrepresented communities.

Amount: Varies

Judith McManus Price Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: The scholarship helps minority students enrolled in an accredited planning program, and is awarded by the American Planning Association.

Amount: $2,000-5,000

APSA Minority Fellowship Program

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Who Can Apply: The scholarship is distributed by the American Political Science Association to minority students enrolled in political science doctoral programs. Competitions are held during the spring and fall each year.

Amount: $500-4,000

ASA Minority Fellowship Program

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Who Can Apply: The program is open to students pursuing a doctoral degree in sociology. Applicants must be in the advanced stages of a Ph.D. in sociology and be U.S. citizens.

Amount: $18,000

Dr. Richard Allen Williams,Genita Evangelista Johnson, AMA Foundation Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: The AMA — in partnership with the Association of Black Cardiologists — grants this scholarship to first and second year medical students pursuing cardiology.

Amount: $5,000

DCO Diversity Grants

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Who Can Apply: Funded by the American Geosciences Institute, this grant is open to geoscientists from minority communities who are doctoral students, post-doctoral researchers, or research staff.

Amount: $5,000

AIChE Minority Scholarship Award

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Who Can Apply: The AIChE awards this scholarship to minority students pursuing a baccalaureate degree in chemical engineering. Recipients of this award are eligible to receive others from the committee.

Amount: $1,000

The Surety Foundation Industry Scholarship Program

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Who Can Apply: Students from underrepresented populations are eligible to apply. You must have a 3.0 GPA, be enrolled full-time at an accredited school, and major in a business or insurance-related field. Students must also complete a paid internship.

Amount: Varies

Blacks at Microsoft

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Who Can Apply: This award is open to African-American high school seniors with a 3.3 cumulative GPA and plans to attend a four-year school to study business or technology. Students submit letters of recommendation, essays, transcripts, and a resume for consideration. This is one of the top African-American grants for STEM or business majors.

Amount: $5,000


Scholarships and Grants for African-American Women

UNCF Koch Scholars Program

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Who Can Apply: Applicants must be a graduating high school senior or college freshman with a 2.7 GPA and an interest in entrepreneurship. Recipients are expected to participate in an online forum and attend an annual summit.

Amount: $5,000

The Gates Millennium Scholarship Program

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Who Can Apply: Students of color receive financial assistance to major in any field at a college or university. The scholarship also covers certain graduate school majors, such as library science or computer technology.

Amount: Varies

Dr. Julianne Malveaux Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: African-American women entering their sophomore or junior year in college, and majoring in journalism, economics, or a related field. Candidates submit a 1,000 word essay along with their application.

Amount: Varies

Dr. Bianca Moore-Velez Woman of Substance Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: African-American female students over the age of 35 enrolled at an accredited school. Applicants submit a 500 word essay to enter the competition.

Amount: Varies

Dr. Arnita Young Boswell Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: The scholarship is open to high school seniors involved in their communities. Students must complete at least 200 hours of community service and submit a 500 word essay.

Amount: $1,000

Dr. Wynetta A. Frazier Sister-to-Sister Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: Applicants should be at least 35 years old and currently enrolled in a bachelor’s program.

Amount: $500

The Three Sisters Foundation Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: This scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors in Illinois and New Jersey.

Amount: Varies

Hallie Q. Brown Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs awards this scholarship to high school graduates who demonstrate financial need.

Amount: Varies

Corporate Partner Scholarships

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Who Can Apply: Members of the National Association of Black Accountants attending a four-year school are eligible for this award. Students should major in an accounting or business-related field and have a 3.5 cumulative GPA.

Amount: $1,000-5,000

Allison E. Fisher Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: Black students majoring in broadcast journalism — and who are members of the National Association of Black Journalists — may apply. Candidates submit a resume and five work samples for review.

Amount: $2,500

The Phyllis J. Meekins Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: The scholarship assists graduating high school females that intend to play collegiate golf at an accredited institution.

Amount: $1,250

Jack and Jill Foundation of America 2018

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Who Can Apply: African-American students with a 3.0 or higher GPA and 60 hours of active community service are eligible. To qualify, students submit an essay and the FAFSA.

Amount: $2,500


Scholarships and Grants for African-American Men

Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology

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Who Can Apply: African-American students who major in a STEM discipline such as engineering or science. Students must currently attend — or plan to attend — an HBCU and demonstrate financial need.

Amount: $3,000

NASCAR Wendell Scott Senior Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: African-American students attending a four year college or university and majoring in Communications, Public Relations, Engineering, IT, or another business-related major. Students must have a 3.0 GPA and submit a video for consideration.

Amount: up to $10,000

The H.O.P.E Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: AAfrican-American students with financial hardships. Students must attend an HBCU.

Amount: $1,000

American Bus Association Diversity Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: The ABA presents this scholarship to minority students majoring in a field related to transportation, travel, or tourism. Students with a 3.0 submit an essay that gets reviewed by the Council.

Amount: $5,000

The Actuarial Diversity Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: Minority students enrolled at an accredited higher education institution and majoring in actuarial science. To apply, students must submit a transcript showing a 3.0 GPA and exceptional SAT/ACT scores.

Amount: $1,000-4,000

Panda Cares UNCF Scholarship Program

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Who Can Apply: Graduating high school seniors who plan to attend a four-year institution and meet the initial eligibility requirements. To receive further consideration, student must take the UNCF’s online learning modules.

Amount: $2,500

Bill Bernbach Diversity Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: Open to graduating high school seniors and select college students. Applicants must pursue an undergraduate degree in advertising and submit a creative portfolio.

Amount: Varies

Ellis Industry Law Diversity Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: The Ellis Law Corporation awards this scholarship to ethnically diverse undergraduate or graduate law students. Students submit a transcript showing a 3.0 or higher GPA and enrollment at an accredited college/university or law school.

Amount: $1,000

George A. Strait Minority Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: This scholarship is open to minority students pursuing a law librarian degree.

Amount: Varies

Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: JRF scholars receive mentorships, internship opportunities, and access to webinars and on-site workshops. The foundation awards the scholarship to graduating high school seniors who demonstrate leadership abilities.

Amount: up to $30,000

The American Association of Blacks in Energy Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: State chapters of the AABE select local students and send their applications to the national committee. The scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors with a 3.0 GPA, and who plan to major in a STEM field.

Amount: $3,000-5,000

AMS Minority Scholarship

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Who Can Apply: Sponsored by the American Meteorological Society, this scholarship is open to graduating high school students. Applicants submit a letter of recommendation, high school transcripts, and copies of their SAT/ACT scores.

Amount: $6,000


Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Historically black universities and colleges — also known as HBCUs — were established after the Civil War to serve the black community. Despite post-war legislation that gave blacks equal rights, many were prohibited from attending predominantly white institutions. The government encouraged the creation of HBCUs by passing the second Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1890, which mandated that states establish colleges specifically for African-American students. At first, these schools trained students to be teachers and clergymen. Over time, however, schools expanded to include scholarship in physics, biology, math, and astronomy.

In the early days of HBCUs, access to funding was limited. Although college tuition was much lower than it is now, students struggled to obtain the funds to go to school, as states prioritized funding other schools. However, the Higher Education Act of 1965 gave schools more federal funding to distribute to students, and covered both PWIs and HBCUs. Now, more schools create outreach programs to attract students and distribute scholarships and loans. As shown by the following table, the number of black enrollees reached its peak in 2011 but dropped slightly in 2014.

Despite the range of school options available today, HBCUs continue to attract the majority of black students, and many award African-American grants and minority grants. Today, the scholarship at HBCUs outpaces many other schools. According to the National Science Foundation, HBCUs represent eight of the top 10 institutions graduating black STEM majors.

Percentage of Total Enrollment by Ethnicity of U.S. Residents
Year White Black Hispanic Asian / Pacific Islander American Indian / Alaska Native
Source: NCES
1976 84.3% 9.6% 3.6% 1.8% 0.7%
1980 83.5% 9.4% 4% 2.4% 0.7%
1990 79.9% 9.3% 5.8% 4.3% 0.8%
2000 70.8% 11.7% 9.9% 6.6% 1%
2005 68% 13.1% 11.1% 6.7% 1%
2009 64.5% 14.7% 12.9% 6.8% 1%
2010 62.6% 15% 13.5% 6.3% 1%
2011 61.2% 15.2% 14.3% 6.3% 0.9%
2012 60.3% 14.9% 15% 6.3% 0.9%
2013 59.3% 14.7% 15.8% 6.4% 0.8%
2014 58.3% 14.5% 16.5% 6.6% 0.8%

 

The Reward for Investing in Education

Attending college as a dramatic impact on a person’s lifetime earning potential and chances of finding employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates people with a high school diploma have the highest unemployment rates, nearing 8% in 2017. For workers with a high school diploma, the unemployment rate sits at 5.3%. Those who attended college but did not graduate have an unemployment rate of slightly lower, at 3.8%. College graduates, however, boast the lowest unemployment rate of 2.5%. These statistics prove that a college degree makes it easier for workers to get — and keep — job opportunities. For African-American students, a college degree allows them to climb the corporate ladder and advance economically.

According to the Brookings Institution, college students earn up to $570,000 more than high school graduates over their lifetime. The income gap increases as students earn advanced degrees and gain more experience in their field. In fact, the same research by the Brookings Institution indicates college degrees yield higher returns than stocks, bonds, and gold. It’s clear that investing in one’s education results in greater economic stability. For students of color, scholarships and grants developed specifically for their communities help them complete higher education without accruing crippling amounts of debt.

Additional Ways to Save in College

While college students should apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible to pay for their education, they should also explore several alternative sources of funding. For example, graduate students can apply for fellowships that distribute stipends to cover expenses while they perform research on a special project. Students can also look into federal work-study programs, which pay students to earn money for working on-campus jobs. Furthermore, the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 helps students specifically studying online locate government and/or private funding for school.

Employer Tuition Assistance

Some people join the workforce immediately after graduating high school, and choose to attend college later in life. In many cases, these individuals must juggle a full-time career and family/home responsibilities, all while paying for school. Some employers try to alleviate these concerns by offering employee tuition-assistance programs. The government also offers tax breaks to students using employer-sponsored tuition assistance. Workers can receive a $5,250 income-based tax exclusion for all education-related expenses, which includes tuition, books, and fees. To verify the amount, employers will ask for copies of receipts and bills. Another benefit is the working condition fringe benefit, which allows employees to exclude more than the $5,250 limit, provided they prove their expenses can be considered a business expense by the organization.

For employees that already work at a college or university, employers offer tuition waivers or reductions. With a waiver, the school covers the entire cost of an employee’s tuition or dramatically reduces tuition fees. For those interested in employer-based gift aid — such as grants or scholarships — they should contact their employer’s human resources department. Many organizations also distribute scholarships and grants to the public, and their employees usually qualify, as long as they meet basic requirements. Employers benefit from the skills and knowledge you gain during a degree, and tuition assistance is usually available if students major in a field that relates to their current industry. They may also ask employees to work at the organization for a certain amount of time after earning their degree. African-American students should look into whether their employer awards specific African-American or minority grants.

Try Online Learning

Online courses are an alternative for students that want to keep education costs down. Due to the advancements in technology, a student can enroll in a university anywhere in the country without ever leaving their home. They can access course lectures — and their peers — through video-conferencing tools, and online students usually pay discounted tuition rates. Paying less for for tuition and fees means more long-term savings.

When students pursue their degree online, they save on residential and commuter costs. For instance, online students don’t pay for room and board or for commuter parking passes. Students also save by purchasing e-books, which often cost less than paperback editions. Another benefit of online degrees is their flexibility. Schools deliver online programs synchronously or asynchronously: the former places students in cohort groups to complete class assignments, while the latter allows students work at their own pace. Some schools will also offer either fully online coursework, or a combination of in-person and online courses. Be sure to check whether online programs have any in-person classes or components to complete.

Additional Resources

  • Talent Development Secondary: This program works with middle and high school children from low-income neighborhoods to teach the necessary skills for college and entering the career world.
  • Federal Student Aid FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is required for any student seeking post-secondary education. The government uses the FAFSA to distribute need and merit-based aid to students.
  • Common App for Black Colleges: Students applying to HBCUs can use the Common App to streamline the process. After completing the application and uploading transcripts and test scores, students can send it to all 53 HBCUs.
  • National College Resources Foundation: This organization created programs like the Movement Enrichment program to help students of color — or from low-income neighborhoods — navigate the college landscape.
  • New York Black College Expo Tour: Held in New York at Medgar Evers College, the thour gives high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to interview with HBCUs.