Grant Opportunities for Women
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Women have come a long way, but in the realm of higher education and industry-specific careers, women as a whole still remain largely underrepresented.
Statistics show that more women finish undergraduate degrees than do their male counterparts, but many educators still argue that educational institutions fail to entirely engage their female students on all levels and fail, too, to support and nurture non-traditional roles and interests.
The equation becomes even more imbalanced when applied to the interests of minority women.
Because coeducational colleges and universities still fail to engage many women on points of interest integral to females, private women's colleges continue to thrive. Not only do women's campuses now include activities and interests that appeal across the board to all women, but most institutions are heavily funded by private donations and feature financial aid packages that make it possible for even the most economically challenged student to attend.
Women's Colleges Promote Diversity and Offer Generous Grants
Women's colleges deliver a full-range of opportunity from a quiet academic environment to top-notch competitive athletics. Most colleges vigorously promote diversity of all kinds and offer generous need-based and merit-based grants and scholarships:
- Spelman College in Atlanta is the only institution that has historically served the interests and education of African American women. The college regularly extends scholarships and grants to incoming students based on merit, need or major course of study.
- Agnes Scott College in Atlanta not only features scholarships and grants based on merit, but their Goizueta Foundation Scholarship is outstanding in its intent to offer Hispanic women students a fully funded tuition. The Goizueta Scholarship honors Hispanic students who have a deep economic need for tuition assistance, but also have exhibited high academic standards and an aptitude for leadership.
Statistics show that over 40% of students attending private women's colleges receive significant financial aid packages that include grant funds directly from the college. These are not just reserved for low-income students, but many middle-income students qualify as well. In order to continue to successfully guide the future careers of young women, colleges maintain healthy alumnae associations that work to stockpile impressive educational funds:
- Wellesley College in Massachusetts makes no grant or scholarship directly available based on merit. In fact the college takes diversity seriously and expects that most of its student body is receiving some sort of aid. The college spends millions of dollars each academic year to shore up the educational needs of incoming students from all backgrounds. The Davis Program at Wellesley is also unique in that it provides non-traditional students a program to pursue a Bachelors degree or graduate work.
- Barnard College in New York awards grants based on need as well, but encourages supplementing federal student loans and college grants with outside scholarships and grants. The Office of the Dean at Barnard publishes a regularly updated list of valuable private scholarships available through the college, but not funded by.
Grants for Women Pursuing Programs in Underrepresented Fields
Some of the more plentiful grant programs for women originate with public and private organizations that support the interests of a specific industry or field of study. For example, female students with an interest in math, science, engineering, technology, law, business and medicine will find that many professional associations and organizations are energetically nurturing the interests of women. Up until recently these fields have been dominated by white males, regardless of any interest on the part of women, who often fail to find support for non-traditional career tracks that would have been typically pursued by males in the past.
- The Barry Goldwater Scholarship Grant is available to sophomores and juniors pursuing majors in the sciences or mathematics. Above average GPA is expected and preference is given to those expecting to continue on into graduate programs in a related field.
- The Ford Foundation's Pre-doctoral Fellowship for Minorities promotes the interests of graduate students pursuing careers in science, math or engineering with particular emphasis on encouraging the interests of women and minorities.
- The National Black Nurses Association was established to provide professional and educational support to African American nurses, those that are working and those pursuing a nursing degree. Nearly a dozen grants and scholarships are available that assist undergraduate nurses who are actively enrolled in a four-year nursing program. Awards are between $500 and $2,000 per academic year.
- The National Physical Science Consortium sponsors Fellowships in the Physical Sciences designed to diversify the field. Those women and minority students studying at accepted institutions and enrolled in pre-doctoral programs may be eligible. Other criteria include GPA of at least 3.0 and expectations that the candidate will pursue a career in computer science, geology, astronomy, chemistry, or math.
- Women in Engineering and Computer and Information Science Awards are made available through the National Science Foundation. These graduate fellowships are provided for women studying in a program in math, science, engineering, or computer science.
- The Regent's Healthcare Scholarship for Medicine and Dentistry gives resident students of New York State the opportunity to receive grant money for medical and dental school. The scholarship is designed for underrepresented populations, such as minorities and women. Candidates must be applying to enroll in New York State programs and must agree to serve professionally within a medically underserved New York State health care facility for a certain amount of time upon graduation.
Up until recently women working in the business and corporate arena were relegated to low-level positions and largely ignored as far as leadership roles were concerned. To those ends, more and more professional business associations have become active in supporting the professional education of women, realizing the value of women among all levels of their ranks. In such instances many women are falling into the non-traditional educational category, meaning they are outside the traditional college age range. Professional women are returning to college for career advancement and to retrain following family roles. Business environments have been impermeable when it comes to minority women, especially. This is another tide that is slowly but surely turning:
- The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is one of the most active organizations promoting the ongoing academic and professional progress of women, especially minority women. Special preference for the grants is given to the most economically disadvantaged, and those returning to college after pursuing careers or family.
- The Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting provides grants for women pursuing a two-year, four-year or masters degree in finance or accounting. Grants are awarded based both on need and merit.
- The American Society of Women Accountants sponsors grants and scholarships that also fund degrees at two-year, four-year and graduate programs as long as the student is working toward finance or accounting degrees. Small grants are also available to cover costs incurred for industry certifications and travel.
- The Davis Program at Wellesley College is a non-traditional college degree program designed for women beyond college age. Working women, those who are returning to the work force and those who have never pursued college may do so on one of the most respected women's campuses in the United States.
Grants for Economically Disadvantaged Women and Non-traditional
Besides just being female, large segments of the female population face other obstacles when it comes to education and career goals. Women from disadvantaged backgrounds, those that have been victims of violence and single mothers all face tough challenges. In instances such as these most women are not only lacking in critical financial support, but they also lack family and social support that often makes a big difference in success versus failure:
- The Business and Professional Women's Association pays strict attention to the monetary needs of disadvantaged and minority women who would otherwise fail to thrive. Women beyond college age, reentering a career or those who wish to pursue education toward career advancement are the target audience for assistance.
- The Jeanette Rankin Foundation provides college grants to women over the age of 35, those considered non-traditional, who are active in pursuing technical or professional programs, two-year degrees or Bachelors degrees. Candidates must show dire economic need.
Grants for Single Mothers and Battered Women
An ongoing argument between politicians and educators is that single moms continue to be disadvantaged based on outdated and poorly considered welfare regulations. Some states continue to define student aid as income, which can make a single mother ineligible to receive welfare. In these cases, single mothers can not afford to attend college, even public institutions if they lose their welfare benefits. This unfortunate catch-22 means women in these situations have no option to pursue an education and career that would otherwise allow them the opportunity to escape their economic situations:
- Raise the Nation is a not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to the interests of single mothers. The organization extends a continuing education grant that is awarded based on financial need. Their loan repayment program is awarded to women who have student loans and little means to repay. However, qualified applicants must have a proven record of community service or volunteerism in order to receive aid.
- The Women's Independence Scholarship program sponsored by the Sunshine Lady Foundation is uniquely designed to offer educational grants to women who have been victims of a partner's abuse. These women not only face gender inequality, but also economic and emotional challenges.