When it comes to education, wealth inequality is a serious issue. According to a Brookings Institution report, black students rely on student loans more heavily than other racial groups. Four years after graduation, black students carry nearly $25,000 more in debt than white students, on average.
The problem can be even worse for black women. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that nearly half of all black women in college have dependent children. Of those that do, juggling education costs, work demands, and children can quickly exhaust their budgets, leading them to depend more heavily on student loans to pay for school.
Graduating with high levels of debt can be difficult to manage. Luckily, there are many grants and scholarships for black women that can reduce your education costs and limit your debt.
Why grants and scholarships are so important
Going to college is more expensive than ever. The cost for a single year at a private college is a staggering $33,480, on average. If you don’t have that money saved in your bank account, you’ll have to find another way to cover the cost of tuition and room and board.
If you take out student loans, you’ll have to pay them back with interest once you graduate. You could end up paying thousands more than you originally borrowed, making it difficult to get out of debt.
Unlike student loans, scholarships are like free money; in most cases, you don’t have to pay them back. You can combine grants and scholarships to cover your education expenses, reducing how much you have to borrow.
Where to find grants and scholarships for black women
Scholarships can come from many different organizations, from large nonprofits to private donors. If you’re in need of financial assistance for school, the following sources can be great places to start your search.
1. Your university
Many universities offer scholarships specifically designed for minorities and women. For example, Ivy-League Brown University offers scholarships just for black students.
Although your university can be a valuable source of aid, finding and applying to every available scholarship is challenging. Ask your school’s financial aid representative if there’s a specific scholarship department that handles applications and awards.
If there is a scholarship office, the representative can help identify university-offered options and even direct you to outside scholarship sources.
Even if your university might not fund its own grants for black women, it could partner with an organization that does. The Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, for example, works with 25 schools to provide grants for black women.
2. Civil rights and advocacy organizations
Civil rights and advocacy groups nationwide aim to help people better their situations through education. To do so, they might offer scholarships to offset your college costs. Here are a few examples:
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: The NAACP partners with the Poise Foundation to offer the Agnes Jones Jackson Scholarship. Valued at up to $2,000, the scholarship is a need-based award for students under the age of 25.
- United Negro College Fund: UNCF offers 200 scholarships valued at up to $5,000 each to high school seniors and college freshman. To be eligible, students must have at least a 2.7 GPA and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Students should also have a passion for entrepreneurship and innovation.
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund: The Thurgood Marshall College Fund awards nearly 500 scholarships each year to students based on merit and financial need. Scholarships range in value up to $25,000.
3. Women’s groups
Female-specific nonprofit organizations often offer scholarships for women of all races. They range in value, and some are need based while others are awarded on merit. Three women’s rights groups that offer scholarships include:
- National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs: NANBPWC has four merit-based scholarships for black women nationwide.
- National Foundation for Women Legislators: The NFWL manages the Annual Bill of Rights Essay Scholarship Contest, a $3,000 scholarship awarded to six high school juniors and seniors.
- Young Women’s Christian Association: The YWCA provides over 20,000 young women with leadership programs and scholarships each year. The organization offers four scholarships in select metro areas to students who stand out as leaders and activists working to end intolerance and discrimination.
4. Scholarship databases
There are hundreds of scholarships for African-American women offered by private companies, individual donors, and professional groups. They can range in value from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, and can be need or merit based.
You can find scholarship opportunities on databases such as Fastweb or Scholarships.com. By focusing on awards based on your specific situation, you could increase your likelihood of winning a scholarship.
You’ll have to use different tools to find need-based grants for black women. The College Grants Database is one worthwhile stop, as it lists a variety of grants for black women.
Finding financial aid
If you’re planning to attend college, researching grants and scholarships for black women now can dramatically reduce how much you need to borrow in student loans later. By reaching out to the organizations and groups listed above, you can find and apply for grants and scholarships right away.
For more ways to limit your education costs, search for state-specific grants you can use to pay for school.
Andrew Pentis contributed to this article.
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