Scholarships & Grants for College Students
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that nearly 1.8 million students will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in 2013, and all of them will use personal funds, student loans, work-study programs, or grants and scholarships – or some combination thereof – to get there.
About 60 percent of college students graduate with student loan debt, while about two-thirds of the nation’s full-time students pay for college with scholarships or grants. Scholarships and grants are sometimes referred to as “gift aid,” because they don’t have to be repaid. While the words “scholarship” and “grant” are often used interchangeably, they do have slightly different meanings: Scholarships are generally based on merit, while grants more often connote financial need.
Each year, an estimated $46 billion in grants and scholarship money is awarded by the U.S. Department of Education and the nation’s colleges and universities. In addition, about $3.3 billion in gift aid is awarded by private sources, including individuals, foundations, corporations, churches, nonprofit groups, civic societies, veterans groups, professional groups, service clubs, unions, chambers of commerce, associations and many other organizations.
In 2012-13, full-time undergraduates at public, four-year schools received an average of $5,750 in gift aid from all sources; full-time undergraduates at private, nonprofit schools received an average of $15,680.
As the cost of college continues to climb, it’s more important than ever for students and parents to learn the types of gift aid that are available and how to apply for scholarships and grants.
College Costs Have Soared
In 2012, undergraduate enrollment at all American public, private, four-year and two-year institutions of higher learning was approximately 17.5 million students; 11 million attended the country’s 2,474 four-year schools, and 6.5 million attended its 1,666 two-year institutions.
Over the past two decades, costs at these colleges and universities have increased at more than twice the rate of inflation. Between 2008 and 2010, the average tuition at a four-year public university rose by 15 percent. The increase from 2011 to 2012, alone, was 4.8 percent.
According to the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center’s Trends in College Pricing, average tuition and fees for out-of-state students at four-year public schools during the 2012-13 school year, was $21,706; total charges, including room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and other expenses, averaged $30,911. Average published tuition and fees at private, nonprofit four-year institutions were $29,056 in 2012-13, while total charges averaged $39,518. Yearly costs at the country’s most expensive private institutions are reaching $60,000 per year.
As the price of a college education in America has soared over the past several years, the ability to pay for it has diminished: As a result of the Great Recession, income has declined every year between 2007 and 2011 for 80 percent of U.S. families. Thus, scholarships and grants have become an increasingly important way to pay for college.