Disability Scholarships and Disabled Student Financial Aid Programs
Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2020/01/06
Synopsis: Information and list of disability scholarships for applicants including financial aid for the disabled and grant money for students with disabilities. Free scholarships exist for many minority groups, and having a disability is no different. Many institutions and organizations today offer financial aid for students with disabilities in the form of scholarships, opening the way for better educational opportunities.
What are Disability Scholarships?
A scholarship is defined as an award of financial aid for a student to further his or her education. The terms "scholarship" and "grant" are often used interchangeably, but there are usually differences between these two forms of aid.
Most scholarships are merit based. This means that they are awarded to students with certain qualities, such as proven academic or athletic ability. Many scholarships have rules, maintaining a certain GPA, for example, that you have to follow to continue receiving aid.
Scholarships exist for many minority groups, and having a disability is no different. There are thousands, of different scholarships available to those who suffer from all types of mental and/or physical disabilities. There are even scholarships designed for families with a parent(s) on disability allowance.
Students with disabilities can apply for awards and scholarships intended for disabled students in general, or in relation to a specific disability. Most grants are need based. This means that they are usually awarded based on your or your family's financial situation.
Additionally, many private organizations award scholarship money to ensure students with disabilities are able to achieve their college goals, despite learning issues, environmental challenges, or medical bills. These scholarships, loans, and grant programs help thousands of disabled people pay for school and college tuition every year.
Some scholarships cover full costs of education, including tuition, books, and living costs; some match financial need; and other scholarships are local, small, and intended to support students in making education or institution choices. Unlike college loans which must be reimbursed, disability scholarships, like all scholarships, should never cost the student (or his or her parents) any money and do not need to be paid back.
While federal governments provide money solely for those with some sort of physical or mental disability, which is estimated to be about forty million Americans, private organizations are where most of the scholarships for people with disabilities come from.
Many institutions and organizations today offer financial aid for students with disabilities in the form of scholarships, opening the way for better educational opportunities.
A woman wearing a graduation cap smiling and looking up at the sky.
A bursary is a monetary award made by an institution to individuals or groups of people who cannot afford to pay full fees. In return for the bursary the individual is usually obligated to be employed at the institution for the same duration as the bursary.
There are two types of bursary awarded by institutions:
- A means-tested bursary which is available for all students whose parents earn under a threshold value per annum. It is often given out using a sliding scale, with people at the lowest end of the scale receiving a full bursary and the monetary award decreasing in value with proportion to the parental earnings.
- The second type of bursary, also known as a "scholarship" or "prize", is one based on performance. These awards are generally given for good performance in the exams preceding university or college entrance in which the student achieves grades above the standard entry. These can be awarded by the university or, sometimes, by companies.
The financial aid office at the school you plan to attend is a good place to begin your search for financial aid information. An administrator there can tell you about student aid available from your state, the school itself, and other sources.
- U.S. Federal Student Aid Programs: Not all schools participate in all federal student aid programs. Check with your high school guidance counselor or the financial aid officer at a postsecondary institution to make sure your destination school participates in the federal program(s) you are interested in.
- Campus-Based Programs: Administered by participating schools.
- Federal Pell Grants: Available to undergraduate students only and they do not have to be repaid.
- Federal Stafford Loans: Based on financial need, are available to both undergraduate and graduate students, vary in maximum value each year of study, and must be repaid. The interest rate is variable. If you qualify (based on need) for a subsidized Stafford loan, the government will pay the interest on your loan while you are in school, during grace periods, and during any deferment periods.
- Federal PLUS Loans: Unsubsidized loans made to parents. If you are independent or your parents cannot get a PLUS loan, you are eligible to borrow additional Stafford Loan funds. The interest rate is variable.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are grants available for undergraduates only and range in value.
- Federal Work Study provides jobs to undergraduate and graduate students, allowing them to earn money to pay education expenses.
- Perkins Loans are low-interest loans; the maximum annual loan amount is greater for graduate students than for undergraduate students.
Scholarships for persons with disabilities that help subsidize education expenses come in various types including:
- Autism Scholarships
- Wheelchair User Scholarships
- Learning Disability Scholarships
- Veteran and Military Scholarships
- Scholarships for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired
- General Scholarships for People with Disabilities
- Blind, Low Vision, Visually Impaired Scholarships
(The above list will be expanded as we receive further disability scholarship submissions from institutions, schools, colleges, and private educational organizations)
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
A law was passed in the United States in 1975 called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The main intent was to make sure that over 40 million Americans would have more accessibility and mobility in the US. This law was amended to include other benefits which allowed other organizations to provide grants and free disability scholarship awards through (IDEA). A good example of this is the National Federation for the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf who both award scholarship and grant money for the disabled through (IDEA). After (IDEA) made the act of segregation of disabled students an illegal one a number of universities and colleges have stepped up and made education funding available for the disabled.
Searching Online for Disability Scholarships
If you have any sort of disability, you should look and see if you can get a grant, scholarship, or free money. You want to do an online search for "scholarships for (Your disability or condition)". Even if you feel it is something minor, there is always a possibility there may be some financial offers out there you will want to explore further.
If you are looking for information regarding a particular University or College in the United States our List of Universities and Colleges may be of assistance.
Disability Schooling Statistics
An astonishing 75% of children with a physical disability can't go to college or vocational school due to the financial burden of their disability. The results of this are alarming:
- 4 out of every 5 working-age Americans with a disability are unemployed.
- 28% of working-age Americans with a disability live below poverty level, compared to 9% of their non-disabled peers.
- On average, the household income of working-age Americans with a disability is 53% lower than that of their non-disabled peers.
- Of the 53.9 million school-age children 5 to 17, about 2.8 million were reported as having a disability in 2010.
- Across the states, the percentage of metro area children with disabilities who were enrolled in public schools ranged from 76.5 percent to nearly 100 percent.
- About 89.4 percent of school-age children with a disability living in metro areas were enrolled in public schools, 7.3 percent were enrolled in private schools and 3.3 percent were not enrolled in school.
- Rates of disability among school-age children for metropolitan statistical areas ranged from 1.2 to 13.0 percent, while the disability rates for those enrolled in public schools ranged from 1.4 percent to 14.6 percent.
- Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio and the District of Columbia had public school enrollment rates for children with a disability that was less than the national estimate, while Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming had enrollment rates above the national estimate.
Also see: How do I Know if I Qualify for a Disability Scholarship?
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