Scholarships and Grants
What are Government Scholarships and Grants?
Government scholarships and grants offer students the ability to pay for college without a requirement to repay the money. Government scholarship programs often come in the form of awards for education in a certain field. Some are in exchange for a commitment to provide service in the field of study for a given number of years after graduation. The government also awards scholarships to children of military veterans. Grants, on the other hand, usually have no such strings attached. Grants are just awards of money given based on need in most cases. Scholarships and grants available in the private sectors usually have different criteria attached.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Scholarships
Scholarships offer many advantages. One major one is the fact that the funds from the scholarship are free to the student. There is no financial obligation to pay them back at any time. If the student meets the scholarship's eligibility requirements and the scholarship goes to that student, the money is theirs to spend towards their academic pursuits. In this way, scholarships and grants are almost completely alike. Students with a scholarship have a financial burden relieved or at least alleviated. This frees them up to focus on their academic studies. This major advantage is why scholarships are a very popular option for helping fund higher education.
Some might consider the following factors disadvantages in a scholarship. Most scholarships require students to meet and continue certain academic requirements. A minimum GPA is often a minimum requirement. The idea is that the scholarship rewards those students who work to achieve a certain academic excellence and keeps rewarding them with more scholarship money as they finish their education. If the student falters in their academic pursuits, they have the opportunity of losing the scholarship in certain circumstances.
These programs also require students to enroll full time in many cases. Full time enrollment can be a challenge for some students. For those who are trying to attend school while raising a family or working, a full time academic career is often too much to handle. Many scholarships require a full time attendance in order to keep getting money for each semester. Some scholarships provide a lower award amount for students only enrolled part time. However, the full time clause is a challenge for some who want to get an advanced degree. If a student has to take a semester or two away due to personal considerations or obligations, there is a good chance of losing the scholarship monies.
Most scholarship opportunities provide funds for specific areas of education and are not available to those in other academic pursuits. An example of this is the Nursing Scholarship Program offered by the Health Resources and Services Administration. The goal of the program is to educate nurses in certain specialties to provide services in hospitals that have a nursing shortage. This program is only open to those who are pursuing an RN degree. The preferences are for those attending a program full time at the undergraduate level. That preference will make getting the funding difficult for those at the graduate level.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Grants
One of the major advantages to grants is that many of the major government education grants require no academic performance criteria. As long as the student enrolls at least part time and does not flunk out of school, the only criteria the financial aid office considers is financial need. It is good thing for families who have a tight financial situation, but still want their children in college. Grants provide critical funding for higher education without the requirement to pay the funds back. That makes the definitely superior to student loans.
Another advantage to grants that they share with scholarships is there is no need to pay the funds back. It is essentially free money for the student to pursue their higher education. For students focused on gaining their education, a grant can be a real gift. It provides funding to cover their education needs such as tuition, fees, room/board, living expenses, etc. There is no need to dread the upcoming loan payments when a student graduates. These grants provide students with the freedom they need to pursue their academic dreams.
One additional advantage to some of the bigger grant programs is they usually have no requirement for the student to major in a particular subject. The Pell grant is a great example of this. As long as the student meets the financial guidelines, the grant can fund their education in any area of interest. So a history major can have funding alongside the engineering major. There are exceptions to that of course. The TEACH Grant goes towards those who teach in specific subject. The National SMART Grant is for those majoring in specific scientific, mathematical, or technological fields.
When looking for disadvantages to grants, it is difficult to find any when you look at college grants in general. It is essentially free money if you qualify. However, you can find a disadvantage to one particular grant program offered by the federal government. In exchange for the TEACH Grant, students agree to teach in a low-income school for four years after graduation. If they fail to meet that commitment, the grant will automatically convert into an interest-bearing loan. The student who fails to meet their commitment will have the disadvantage of needing to repay the money they already spent. And the interest on the loan will be accumulative from the time of the original grant disbursement.
When looking at the advantages and disadvantages of scholarships and grants, the major thing they share is the essentially free money they offer. While many of them have requirements that a student must meet, that money is available to put towards their academic pursuits if they qualify. It requires no repayment at a future date. That provides the student with fewer worries about funding their higher education.
If you want more information on scholarships and grants available through the federal government, check out these websites:
Grant Application Guides and Resources
It is always free to apply for government grants. However the process may be very complex depending on the funding opportunity you are applying for. Below are some of the published guides that have been helpful to past recipients: