Scholarships for African American and black women enable members of the largest U.S. minority group to attend college and seek degrees and more lucrative employment. They’re taking advantage of these opportunities, too, as census data indicates that twice as many black women will graduate from college as their male counterparts. This has a large bearing on the median income of African Americans, with black men falling 12% from 1974 to 2004, while black women increased an impressive 75%.
Maybe you’re looking to return to college and pursue a graduate degree, or maybe you’re going after a bachelor’s diploma. In either case, there are a wide range of charitable institutes and organizations that have established scholarships to help ease your financial burden. Since more than 50% of black children are born to unmarried mothers, this monetary aid can mean the difference between attending college and being forced to work at a minimum wage position.
But just because you’re an African-American woman looking for a scholarship, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll automatically receive one. The competition can be fierce, so make sure your grades are high and your involvement in the community is equally significant.
Oprah Winfrey – The Ultimate Success Story
Most black women attend college in the hopes of increasing their earning potential. When it comes to making money, few people on the planet can rival Oprah Winfrey. Her success as a talk show host, producer and actress has been made even more impressive by the obstacles she’s overcome.
Born to an unmarried teenage mother who worked as a maid, Winfrey endured poverty throughout her early life. This included several years living with her grandmother, a time when Winfrey wore dresses made from potato sacks and endured the ridicule of other children.During her high school years, she discovered a talent for public speaking and joined the speech team. This led to her winning an oratory contest and receiving a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. A career in radio and television would follow, and Winfrey later found herself hosting a daytime talk show in Chicago. The rest, as they say, is history.
She was the richest African-American of the 20th century, and at one time was the only black billionaire in the world. Winfrey has also made her mark as a philanthropist, donating an estimated $303 million to charity by 2007.
While receiving one of the following scholarships for African American women and black women won’t guarantee similar success, you’ll never know until you try.
Young Black Women Scholar’s Program
Sponsored by the Oakland/Bay Area chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc., the Young Black Women Scholars Program provides scholarships to Bay Area students who are planning to attend a four-year university, trade school, or community college. Undergraduate and graduate students who attended high school in the Bay Area are also eligible to apply. Applications are accepted on a first come basis.
Working Women’s Scholarship
Also sponsored by the Oakland/Bay Area chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc., this scholarship program is intended for working women who are attending a four-year university or any other institute of higher learning. Applications are accepted on a first come basis, and students seeking their first degree will be given priority during the selection process.
Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund
Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1916, and her scholarship fund has been helping women from low-income households attend college since 1978. During that time, over 600 individuals have received more than $1.3 million to assist with higher learning.
To qualify for the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund, a person must meet the following qualifications:
1. Must be a female
2. Must be at least 35 years old.
3. Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
4. Must be from a low-income household. If the applicant is the sole member of the household, for example, their income cannot exceed $14,182. For a household of six, the total income cannot exceed $54,347. These figures are updated each year on November 1st.
5. Must be enrolled in or accepted to a school accredited by the ACICS (Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools).
6. Must be pursuing a first bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, or a vocational or technical education.
Each applicant will be considered on their own merit, although there are several common factors that will factor into the process. These include the applicant’s financial situation, their long-term goals, and the various challenges they may have overcome in life.
United Negro College Fund
The slogan of this philanthropic organization is “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Since it was incorporated in 1944, the United Negro College Fund has been offering scholarships for black students wanting to receive a college degree. In 2005, for example, the UNCF provided more than $113 million in scholarships and grants to support 65,000 students. Many of their scholarship recipients are the first in their family to attend an institute of higher learning.
Thurgood Marshall College Fund
Named after the first African-American to hold a position on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund is dedicated to increasing graduation rates among black students, as well as identifying and cultivating those with leadership potential. In order to accomplish their goals, they offer scholarships and grants to public universities that are historically black.
TMCF scholarships are based on merit, and the average award is $2,200 per semester. This amount is paid directly to the university and may be used for tuition, fees, books, room, and board. To be eligible, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0, must attend one of the 47 member schools of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, be a legal resident of the U.S., be recommended by someone from their current school, and demonstrate strong leadership and service experience.
Scholarships for African American women and black women provide an opportunity for deserving individuals to increase their level of education and possibly boost their overall income. This can make a major difference, whether the student is an ambitious corporate climber or a single mother living below the poverty line.
by Shane Rivers