A minority is a group of people who differ racially or politically from the larger group which they are a part of. When it comes to education, a minority has long been considered as any student (or group) who is non-white. African Americans had a particularly difficult struggle with higher education. They were even given their own colleges and universities (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). These institutions were entrusted by the government to help tie the loose ends of higher education for African American students. In today’s society, these schools are no different than any other accredited college or university in the United States.

In the past, African Americans were largely considered minorities in the college scene. However, today’s African American student is just as competitive and successful as their white classmates. Currently, the biggest minority group in higher education are Hispanic students. Few Hispanic students make it to college and there are even less who have the financial means and support to graduate college.

Minorities can vary from location to location, and "minority" status does not always have to pertain to one’s ethnic background. Native Americans face a unique set of educational, financial and cultural challenges at the college level, and, in certain situations, Asian students do as well. In certain higher education programs, women are considered minorities.  Other minorities can be disabled students.  Those with physical disabilities can face an entirely different set of obstacles at a post-secondary level.

Where to find aid?

  • Identify which groups you can apply for. Remember, there are ethnic minorities as well as non-ethnic minorities.
  • Federal aid can be awarded by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). ¡Forma en español disponibles, así!
  • Pursue federal grants in the field of study you plan on choosing. There are federal grant programs available for fields like nursing, healthcare and education.
  • Check out your state government. Depending on the prevalence of certain minorities in particular states, educational grants may be available. For example, Florida offers educational grants to Hispanic students.
  • Your school’s financial aid office may offer minority financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships.
  • Professional organizations, such as the American Association of Hispanic CPAs and the National Black Nurses Association may provide grants and scholarships to minority students. Also, consider student membership to these organizations.
  • Check out local businesses and organizations.
  • Try non-government organizations including the American Indian College Fund, Bureau of Indian Affairs or the United Negro College Fund.
  • Remember to be persistent. Not as many students as you think apply for these grants and scholarships.
  • Apply for as many grants and scholarships as you qualify for.

What are STEM studies?

STEM subjects are science, technology, engineering and math. These subjects have long been dominated by white males. If you are a minority, whether by gender or ethnicity, these fields may come along with a variety of financial assistance. Many large companies and government agencies are looking to diversify their organizations. They will often provide grants and scholarships to minorities looking to break into STEM studies.

Female Minorities

In terms of higher education, women have come a long way. In fact, statistics show more women finish their undergraduate degrees than men. However, many in higher education will argue that women as a whole are largely underrepresented in particular fields. If you are a female considering college here are some things to consider:

  • Women’s Colleges. They promote diversity and often offer generous financial aid packages. Women’s colleges engage women on points of interest integral to females that may not always be present at coeducational institutions. These colleges include activities and interests that apply to a wide range of women. Such institutions are funded by private donations and make it possible for students of all economic backgrounds to attend. Not only do low income families qualify for grants, but many middle class families do as well.
  • Underrepresented Fields. Many public and private organizations provide grants for women who are interested in fields such as math, science, engineering, technology, law, business and medicine.  Professional associations and organizations are eager to have women actively involved in these fields. Grants are also available for women who are pursuing post graduate studies and to those retraining after raising a family.
  • Economically Disadvantaged and Non-Traditional Women Students. Many women face obstacles when it comes to pursuing higher education. Grants are available for women from disadvantaged backgrounds, victims of violence and for single mothers.
  • Single Mothers and Battered Women. The welfare system can often place even more of a disadvantage on single mothers. In some welfare systems, student aid is considered income, which can make a women ineligible to receive welfare benefits. Women who are trying to pursue education in order to change their situation are often unable to. Many organizations offer grants for women who otherwise may not have the option of attending college.

African American Minorities-

Years ago, African Americans were the most common minority. However, thanks to federal, state, and private supporters, they have more options available than ever before. Here are some to consider:

  • United Negro College Fund. This organization is the oldest in the United States that is solely devoted to the educational advancement of African Americans. This organization provides a wide variety of grants, scholarships and fellowships to African American students on all educational levels.
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities. There are 39 historically black colleges in the United States which provide strong support for the education and social advancement of African American students. Many scholarships and grants are provided through these institutions.
  • Public and Private Organizations. Public and private organizations offer specialized grant funds for African American students pursuing general college degrees as well as for those with specific goals, including athletics or a specific career.

Asian Minorities-

Asians are one of the fastest growing minority groups in the United States. There are grant options to consider to make it easier and more affordable for Asian students to attend college:

  • Asian American Journalist Association. The AAJA offers different grants to qualified individuals. These grants help to defray the cost of transportation and living for those interning in radio, TV, at online or print new organizations, broadcast stations or newspapers.
  • Asian Cultural Council. This Council offers grant money to Asian students in the visual or performing arts. Students must be conducting research, studying, participating in specialized training or participating in observation tours in the United States. There is also funding for American students wishing to do the same in Asia.
  • Southeast Asian Studies Regional Exchange Program Grants. These grants are available for those who wish to study a language other than their own, pursue post graduate education, assist those working on research and those attending seminars and workshops.

Hispanic Minorities-

The Hispanic population in the United State now outnumbers the African American population. The Hispanic population is often the least likely ethnic group to attend or finish college. Hispanics are considered undereducated due to significant socioeconomic anomalies, and they generally receive less scholarship and grant money than any other group. Here are some facts to consider:

  • Cultural Challenges. One of the most significant obstacles facing would-be Hispanic college students is a lack of financial resources. Coupled with this is a lack of support from family and society as a whole. In order to change this stigma, Sallie Mae and the Hispanic College Fund have developed the “First in My Family” scholarship fund. This scholarship is available to Hispanic students from disadvantaged backgrounds and from families with no history of higher education.
  • Federal, State and Private Grants. Pell Grants should be a number one priority for Hispanic students from low income households. Hispanic students considering healthcare professions should explore the Hispanic Nurses Association grant and scholarships, the March of Dimes, Nursing Education Loan Repayment and the Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Health Professions, which provide generous funds for minorities seeking healthcare careers. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund Institute provides grants for students to return to college, for those already in college and for students in two-year programs as incentives to continue on into a bachelor’s program.
  • Corporate Benefits. Many large corporations are actively supporting the higher education of minorities, such as Xerox and AT&T.
  • Hispanic Colleges and Universities. The federal government gave out $15 million dollars for new grants at Hispanic colleges and added $70 million to increase existing grant programs in 2002. Hispanic-serving colleges are comprised of at least a 25% Hispanic student population. Many of these universities can be found in California, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, New York and New Jersey.
  • Requirements. The U.S. Department of Education has made grants available to Hispanic students targeted to their specific needs. Requirements generally include: heritage, citizenship, full-time enrollment and maintaining an above-average GPA.

Native American Minorities-

Many forms of financial aid are available for Native American students. Most of this aid comes in the form of scholarships or grants from private or nonprofit organizations. You must be able to prove your ethnicity with a Certificate of Indian Blood and belong to a federally-recognized tribe. Here are some options to consider:

  • Canadian Native American Identification. If you are Canadian born with at least half Native American blood, you are eligible for benefits. Your school’s financial aid office will assist you with your FAFSA, but you will need to be able to provide your eligibility with a signed affidavits from a tribal official and birth records.
  • Funding. The American Indian College Fund, Indian Health Service and the US Bureau of Indian Affairs will all provide assistance for graduate and undergraduate scholarships and grants for Native American Students.

Additional Resources

Below are various databases specialized for minority students.

Minority On-Line Information Service
This service provides information about minority institutions and includes a database of scholarship and fellowship opportunities for minority students.

Graduate Fellowship Notebook
A large searchable database of graduate fellowships (provided by Cornell), including those specifically for women and minorities.

Fellowship Listing at Yale University
Primarily geared toward students in computer science, specifically women and minorities.

African Studies Grants and Fellowships
Must major in African Studies. Provided by the University of Pennsylvania.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Inc.
For Hispanic students.

Minority Fellowships
Provided by University of Chicago.

Latino College Dollars
Latino Scholarships and Grants.

Award Programs

Gates Millennium Scholars
The Gates Millennium Scholars program (founded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) was created to increase the number of African-Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asian Pacific Americans and Hispanic Americans enrolling in undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Consortium for Graduate Study in Management
Full-tuition, merit-based fellowships for African American, Hispanic American and Native American students (US citizens) for graduate study leading to a Master's degree in Business (MBA).

Graduate Education for Minorities
Minority fellowship programs sponsored by the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science. Provided by the University of Notre Dame.

Hearst Minority Fellowship
For minority individuals pursuing a Master of Public Affairs in nonprofit management or a Master of Arts in philanthropic studies at Indiana University.

NACME, Inc.
Scholarships for minority engineering students. NACME scholarships are available to African American, Latino and Native American students.

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