College Scholarships and Other Options for an Affordable Degree
For many parents the cost of a college degree – tuition, room and board, books and additional expenses is daunting. As summarized in OneDublin.org’s College Primer, the annual cost of a college degree at a private college can easily exceed $40,000 and at a public college surpass $10,000. Just getting accepted to college can be an expensive undertaking considering that many parents pay for extracurricular activities, SAT / ACT / AP test preparation courses, weekend tutoring, summer courses and college site road trips. For the proactive parent and student, however, there are many options available to help pay for a college degree. Parents and students are encouraged to start researching and preparing for the expense of college long before filing college applications. Below is just a subset of options that are available.
529 College Savings Plans
For families with young children the most important step to paying for college is to start saving as soon as practical after a child is born. One of many vehicles, with potential tax advantages, is a “529 college savings plan”. As per the SEC Introduction to 529 Plans, “A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future college costs. 529 plans, legally known as “qualified tuition plans,” are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.” One example used by the author for his children is the Scholars Choice College Savings Program; there are many 529 options available, however, and OneDublin.org recommends consulting with a financial advisor and performing careful research before making a decision to open and fund a 529 plan.
The California Student Aid Commission administers the Cal Grant program which offers up to $9,700 per year for college expenses at any qualifying California college, university or career / technical school in California (including both public and private institutions). There are a variety of Cal Grant awards that can be used for tuition, room / board and other education expenses. Cal Grants are not loans and do not need to be paid back. There are a variety of Cal Grant awards available with varying financial and academic critieria. A very useful summary of financial aid options is available here. There are a number of qualifying criteria including meeting the minimum GPA requirement, California residency, attending a qualifying California college, financial need based on college costs, family income below established ceilings and, of course, submission of the application form by the deadline. Additional Federal options for include the Federal Pell Grant Program and the Federal Student Aid program (FAFSA).
California Scholarship Federation (CSF / CJSF) Awards
CSF and CJSF award over $90,000 annually to deserving California students. The CSF Seymour Award recognizes 50 outstanding students from over 1000 CSF Chapters and approximately 100,000 CSF student members. The CJSF Huhn Award recognizes 25 outstanding students from 600 state Chapters. Over $90,000 in total is awarded to students receiving these awards. The application deadline is typically February. More information on CSF / CJSF is available here.
College-specific Financial Aid and Scholarships
Most colleges offer varying degrees of financial aid. 70% of students attending St. Mary’s College of California, for example, receive $21,143 in financial aid (more details available here). Stanford University has a variety of financial aid options available for qualifying students (more information available here) as do the University of California and California State University Systems. If financial constraints are a factor in applying to college, families are encouraged to research financial aid along with entrance requirements – and to start the research process early. Many grants and scholarships go unclaimed each year, in part because of the diversity of options available and time required to properly research and apply for aid. Most colleges also offer financial aid and/or scholarships based on non-financial criteria (such as academic or athletic ability). FinAid.org is a good resource for evaluating financial aid options.
Merit scholarships are also available at many private colleges and some public colleges. Note: the application deadline can be earlier than the final deadline so make sure to confirm all application dates, including merit scholarship dates, when reviewing your college choices. Dublin High School Class of 2012 graduate Sarah Finn, now attending St. Mary’s College of California, is one example of a student was awarded merit scholarships sufficient to cover the cost of attending a private college (read more…).
More Scholarships, Scholarships, Scholarships
What if financial aid or grants aren’t enough, or you don’t qualify on a financial or other basis for a college-specific scholarship or financial aid? What next? There are numerous options available – some national, some local. Below is a sampling of scholarships and awards that are available for the motivated family – and maximizing funds available for college is a family task. OneDublin.org encourages families to start the research process early and create a scholarship award plan - long before college admission applications – to ensure no attainable financial award is left on the table. Most of the options summarized here will not cover the full cost of a college degree, but will help minimize what may end up as a student loan (or parent gift) after all other options are exhausted. There are numerous online resources to help identify relevant scholarships – FastWeb.com and Scholarships.com are two examples.
A terrific example of this type of award is Dublin High School student Kristen Mengell who was a semi-finalist in the 2009-10 Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) Competition, earning a $1,000 scholarship in the process.
Bay Area / Local Scholarships
Below are just some of the local options available – note the diversity of choice for motivated and organized families to offset college costs.
- Dublin High School Alumni Awards: For several years the Dublin High School Alumni Association offers several thousand dollars in awards to students that apply (deadline typically mid-May) and are awarded by a selection committee.
- Dublin High School’s PFSO offers multiple $500 scholarships. Applications can be picked up at the Dublin High School Student Activities office.
- DSRSD James B. Kohnen Scholarship – up to $2,000 for a qualifying high school senior attending high school in the Dublin San Ramon Services District service area
- Dublin High School Irish Guard Music Boosters offer a scholarship each year.
- Nordstrom Scholarship Program – 40 scholarships of $10,000 each are awarded every year and Dublin High School students are eligible since we are in a Nordstrom region. Applications are typically due mid-May.
- The Bay-area Jewish Community Federation offers a wide variety of scholarships
- The San Francisco chapter of the Association of Environmental Professionals annually offers up to $2,000 in scholarship awards to deserving applicants
- The Bay Area Gardner Scholarship Fund focuses on scholarships to low income applicants
- Bay area students are eligible to apply for Ronald McDonald House scholarships (typically up to $1,000)
- The National AIDS Memorial Grove (located in San Francisco) offers a Youth College Scholarship Program
- College JumpStart Scholarship – founded in 2009 by Susan Lark of the San Francisco Bay Area
- Schwartz Scholarship Fund – open to California residents
There are even more options available nationally, although the competition for these scholarships is likely greater than local options. Many companies provide college scholarships as part of their charitable activities – and tend to align those awards with an element tied to their business.
- US News & World Report – 7 Prestigious Ungrad Scholarships – national scholarship options that are highly competitive – but also potentially very lucrative
- Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Scholarships - $2,296,000 is awarded to 500 students nationally
- Tylenol Scholarship Program – in 2011 $250,000 will be award to 40 students seeking a healthcare related education
- Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation – 50 scholarships of $20,000 and 200 scholarships of $10,000 awarded annually
- Burger King Scholars – $2,000,000+ awarded annual to both employees and non-employees of Burger King
- Google Academic Scholarships – Google supports a diverse set of scholarships
- The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards – Over $250,000 in scholarships are awarded annually
- Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) – in partnership with Intel, the Science Talent Search (STS) is a research competition for high school seniors. Participants compete for $1.25M in awards.
- The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Scholarships – $470,000 in scholarships is awarded annually
- IEEE Scholarships and Awards
- Hispanic Scholarship Fund – a wide range of scholarship opportunities are listed
- For students interested in pursuing majors related to journalism, a wide variety of scholarship opportunities are summarized here
- American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Program – The American Legion’s “constitutional speech contest” results in $138,000 in awards to students
- Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest – $20,000 top prize for the national winner (with prizes awarded at the local and regional levels)
- and many more…
Scholarships for Just About Anything
Corporations (and non-profits) use scholarships as a marketing tool – a win-win for both the organization (positive publicity) and the student. A fun example is the “Stuck at Prom Duck Brand Duct Tape College Scholarship Contest” – $3,000 top prize for the best prom dress made out of duct tape.
To strange to believe? This is just one of the many examples of scholarships awarded for very unique skills. More unusual scholarships are listed on this article.
Community College Transfer Programs
Another path for many students, primarily to address cost concerns, is starting a 4-year college degree at a community college (such as Las Positas College in Livermore). Community college transfer programs are arrangements between community colleges and 4-year degree colleges and universities to seamlessly transfer stduents into their junior year of college after starting their post secondary life in a 2-year community college program. OneDublin.org recently profiled Las Positas College’s transfer program and interviewed Las Positas College’s transfer counselor. Full article available here.
Dublin High School Annual Senior Awards Night
Every year, Dublin High School seniors are recognized for academic performance and scholarship awards. Looking at the scholarships that have been awarded to Dublin High School students is another useful resource for finding scholarships that will work for you or your students.
- At the 2012 Dublin High School Senior Awards night over $1,800,000 in scholarships and awards were announced. Read more…
- At the 2011 Dublin High School Senior Awards night over $1,800,000 in scholarships and awards were announced. Read more…
- At the 2010 Dublin High School Senior Awards night over $450,000 in scholarships and awards were announced. Read more…