Take a cursory glance at studies on college student grants, and you might be tempted to throw your hands up in surrender. Only 47 percent of students in the lowest income bracket received any state aid, and those who did received an average of $1,590 in 2008-09, according to a College Board study.
But to get a clearer, more positive view of the situation, it’s helpful to look at different kinds of aid.
That same College Board study revealed that the average full-time student received $5,041 in grants or scholarships — money that they will not have to pay back in the future. College grants and scholarships are a diverse category, and that’s an important concept to grasp. There’s no one agency that gives most of the cash, but rather a number of sectors to target.
“Every little bit counts. Try to find out as much about local groups as possible: local business associations, Lion’s clubs, religious groups,” says Bill Roberts, director of financial aid at Michigan Technological University. “There is usually less competition, and these groups have a vested interest in the students.”
And the data seems to show that. While federal and state grants have remained roughly the same over the last 20 years, grants from private organizations have been climbing.
“Many students overlook their particular talents,” says Roberts. “That’s where these [private] groups come into play — drawing, music, architecture, you name it.”