College grants are an excellent tool when figuring out how to pay for college as a women working toward an online degree, many of whom are also balancing the needs of work and family.
College financial aid typically comes in the form of grants, scholarships and loans. According to the U.S. Department of Education, while grants are typically need-based, scholarships are often merit-based. Loans must be repaid over time, but grants and scholarships do not. College grants and scholarships are available from both public and private institutions.
Government Grants for All Students
Government financial aid for students can come in the form of national and state-based grants. These aren't gender based, but they're still worth investigating. Examples of government education aid include the Pell Grant (for low-income undergraduate students and certain post-baccalaureate students) and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (for undergraduate students with severe financial need).
To find state government financial aid for college, start by going to the website of your state's Department of Education or Student Aid Commission, where you can generally find lists of grants, along with their eligibility requirements. State grant agencies can be found on the U.S. Department of Education's website.
Private Grants for Women
In addition to government grants, some private associations and companies offer grants specifically for college-bound women. Here are five examples of such organizations include:
1. American Association of University Women
This organization offers financial aid for women in different fields of study and at different points in their careers. Check out their Career Development Grants for individuals with a bachelor's degree who wish to further their education for career purposes. The AAUW also offers Selected Professions Fellowships which aim to encourage more women to enter male-dominated professions by providing education-related money to women who want to receive training in medicine, law, architecture, engineering, and more.
2. Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O)
This women's organization, founded in 1869, offers several educational need-based grants to advance the careers of women of different ages and educational levels. The Sisterhood's Program for Continuing Education provides grants specifically to support women who want to return to school (after at least a 2-year absence) in order to continue with their education so they can better support themselves. The maximum one-time grant amount is $3,000 and grants may be used for academic, technical or online courses offered by educational institutions in the United States or Canada. Applicants must be a citizen of either the United States or Canada.
3. The Stephen Bufton Memorial Educational Fund (SBMEF)
For over 50 years, this grant has helped women pursue degrees in the field of business. The trustees who oversee the administration of the funds are on the board of the American Business Women's Association (ABWA). Their goal is to help women become, "Roll models, mentors and leaders of the future." Every year, their Outright Grant Program offers women assistance for tuition, books and fees up to a maximum amount of $1,500. An eligible ABWA chapter or Network must submit the applicant.
4. AARP Foundation Women's Scholarship Program
This need-based funding source is for women over the age of 50 who are seeking the opportunity to go back to school. The program funds education, training and skills upgrades to help women 50-plus achieve financial stability through a college degree. In addition to age, eligibility requirements state that applicants must be under 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (family size and income are taken into account.) Priority is given to women who have been unemployed for more than one year or in low-paying jobs with no career development opportunities, women veterans, and women raising the children of another family member.
5. The Jeanette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund (JRF)
The Jeanette Rankin Foundation, named after the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress, offers funding for women in need who wish to pursue higher education. Applicants must be 35 or older and considered low-income, based off of income guidelines from the Department of Labor's Lower Living Standard. That means if you are in a family of four, your net household income cannot exceed over $41,250. Applicants will be expected to present their goals, their plan for reaching their goals, and how they will use their education to give back to their community.
The organizations listed above only scratch the surface. There are many associations, societies and corporations that offer grants especially for women.
How to Find More Online College Grants
The key to finding college financial aid opportunities is to do plenty of research (see How to Get Grants for College). Once you do a little digging, you'll discover that college grants are actually quite abundant; the challenge often is qualifying for them, and competing for them amongst the millions of other people applying for such financial aid.
One strategy to find more grants for women is to check out local associations, foundations or societies that serve certain minority groups. For example, if you are Asian American, African American, Latino American, or another ethnic minority, look up associations and foundations in your area and nationwide that specifically serve your ethnic community. Similarly, if you plan to major in a particular area in college, look for grants that fund students in your field of study. Additionally, if you engage in community service, explore grants that are geared specifically toward community-minded individuals.
Once you have found a list of grants that fit your general qualifications, check out their application requirements. Many grants require an essay, and some require recommendations or proof of community service. If you are applying for need-based aid from the federal government or your state's government, you'll need to fill out the FAFSA as well as any other relevant application materials.
It's important to stay organized and to apply for numerous grants. Larger grants tend to be more competitive; you are able to win several smaller grants, you'll still be able to offset the costs of your education.
1. "About P.E.O.," peointernational.org, P.E.O. Sisterhood, http://www.peointernational.org/sites/www.peointernational.org/files/content/pce-info-card-updates.2014-03-13_web.pdf
2. "AARP Foundation Women's Scholarship Program" AARP Foundation, http://www.aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/womens-scholarship-program/how-to-apply.html
3. "Eligibility," The Jeanette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund, http://www.rankinfoundation.org/students/eligibility/
4. "Federal Student Aid," studentaid.ed.gov, U.S. Department of Education, http://studentaid.ed.gov/
5. "Organizations By Type: State Grant Agency," wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov, U.S. Department of Education, http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list.cfm?category_cd=SGT
6. "Scholarships, Financial Aid and Student Internships," state.gov, U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c21963.htm
7. "Stephen Bufton Memorial Educational Fund," Stephen Bufton Memorial Educational Fund, http://sbmef.org/Site/
8. "What We Do: AAUW Empowers Women," aauw.org, American Association of University Women, http://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/