A college education is more for important for Muslim women today than ever before. Employers who once required only a high school diploma now expect a college degree. Increasing numbers of graduates are competing for fewer jobs. Unfortunately, as the demand for higher education has grown the cost of getting that education has grown even faster.
The United States Department of Education (USDE) website states that enrollment in four-year public colleges grew from 12,804 students in 1980 to 20,428 students in 2009, an increase of 169 percent. Over the same time span, tuition in the same colleges grew from $2,373 to $12,804, an increase of 540 percent.
It is important to remember that these numbers only reflect tuition cost. Other expenses such as books, fees, laboratory expenses and room and board must be added to tuition to get the true cost of attending college. College has gotten so expensive that few people can pay for it without help.
Students often get help paying for college in the form of loans. Loans today are easy to get, but unfortunately they are not always as easy to pay back. In 2008, 38 percent of college students took out loans at an average amount of $7,100. Many students today graduate college with debt levels that will take years to repay.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to graduating college burdened with debt. Many students qualify for grants and scholarships. Unlike loans, grants and scholarships do not have to be paid back, but they are also more difficult to find and to obtain.
Often, students must apply and demonstrate that they have a need or meet particular requirements. Many are available only to students in certain fields of study or who meet other selective criteria. Some, however, are available to all students.
There are many sources of scholarships for Muslim men and women. There are Islamic Centers all across the country, many of which offer scholarships. Several private non-profit organizations award grants and scholarships each year. Many colleges and universities also have scholarship programs for Muslim students. The educational opportunities for Muslim women have never been greater.
Scholarships for Muslim Women
Women have in the past attended college in lower numbers than have men. Several organizations wish to help end this discrepancy while encouraging women to achieve college educations. Like general grants and scholarships, those for women only often are targeted at specific categories. There are scholarships for minority women, for women from various geographical regions, for single mothers, and for women who are returning to college, just to name a few. There is a good chance that any woman can find a scholarship for which she qualifies.
Just as there are scholarships for many other categories and groups of women, there are those which are intended for Muslim women.
Sisters in Solidarity to Educate Respond and Serve (S.I.S.T.E.R.S.)
This organization awards scholarships each year “in an effort to highlight the academic and civic achievements of young Muslim women in the DC Metropolitan area.” In 2012 three $1,000 scholarships will be awarded. One will be given to a senior in high school, one to a current undergraduate student, and one to a graduate student. The criteria which must be met are:
- Muslim female
- Accepted to or in college
- GPA of at least 3.5
- Be active in the community
- Provide a transcript, an essay, and a recommendation
The Star and Crescent Society
The Star and Crescent Society is a group of Muslimahs based in North Carolina and exists for service and improvement of their community. One of the ways they accomplish this is through their Rising Star Scholarship. Applications must be submitted before April 1 each year, and scholarships are awarded in August. Eligibility requirements include:
- Be a Muslim woman
- Maintain a 3.0 GPA
- Be active in the community
The Muslims Women’s Association (MWA)
This Washington, DC-based association strives to share Muslim culture and history with others. They also support Muslim women in achieving education through scholarships. Information on how to contact the MWA can be found on their website.
Scholarships For All Women
The Jeannette Rankin Foundation
This foundation gives scholarships “to low-income women, ages 35 and older, who have a vision of how a college education will benefit themselves, their families, and their communities.” The organization’s website, www.rankinfoundation.org, states that the foundation’s mission is to honor Jeanette Rankin, the first female member of Congress, by helping women gain college educations.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
This society both provides scholarships and encourages companies to provide their own scholarships. Funds from this organization are limited to women who are attending accredited universities and are enrolled in computer or engineering programs. More information about these scholarships can be found at the company’s website, www. societyofwomenengineers.swe.org.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW)
This association awards scholarships to women in a variety of fields and grade levels. Details about AAUW scholarships can be found on their website www.aauw.org, on the page Branch and State Local Scholarships.
Scholarships For All Muslim Men and Women
Islamic Scholarship Fund (ISF)
ISF is a charitable organization that promotes education and community involvement in young Muslims by providing financial support and facilitating internships in the community. ISF offers scholarships ranging from those open to all Muslim applicants to those attending specific universities and to those affiliated with certain Islamic Centers.
ISF scholarships give amounts from $1,000 to $10,000. All scholarships require meeting the following general criteria:
- Enrolled in a U.S. four-year university
- A Humanities, Law, Social Science or Liberal Arts major
- Have GPA of at least 3.4
- U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- A junior or senior undergraduate student or a graduate student
One of the goals of ISF is to promote and encourage community involvement. Toward this end, scholarship students may be required to engage in community activities in the form of community service or internships.
Students can apply for these scholarships online at the ISF website Scholarships page. Applications are accepted from January through March each year. Applications are reviewed over the next three months. In July, finalists are interviewed, and scholarship recipients are informed in August.
Scholarships Open to All Muslim Students
ISF offers the National Scholarship Program scholarship and the ISF Dollar-a-Day Scholarship, in partnership with the Dollar-a-Day Scholarship fund to all Muslim students who meet the general eligibility criteria.
Islamic Center Partnership Scholarships
Students who are members of or affiliated with the following Islamic Centers may apply for these scholarships:
- The Islamic Center of Northern California
- Muslim Community Association of the Bay Area
- Yaseen Foundation Community
- South Bay Islamic Association
- Muslim Community Center of East Bay
Field-of-study Specific Scholarships
Students who have majors in the following areas may apply for these scholarship programs:
- Aslan Media, for journalism and media students
- Council on American-Islamic Relations, for law and public policy majors
- Illume Magazine, for students studying journalism and media
- Muslim Public Service Network, for public policy, law and media, and communications majors
- Unity Production Foundation, for students of film and media
Scholarships Sponsored by the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and Alumni Associations
Scholarships are available to Muslim students who attend the specified universities or are members of the specified organizations:
- University of California at Berkeley
- Zaytuna College
- MSA West
- UCLA MSA Academic Mentorship Program
The Fadel Educational Foundation
The not-for-profit organization Fadel Educational Foundation awards up to $3,500 each year to selected Muslim students. Students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents to apply for these scholarships.
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
The ISNA awards the $1,000 Dr. Abdulmunim A. Shakir Scholarship each year to 20 students who meet the following criteria:
- A GPA of at least 3.0
- Ready to enter the first year of college
- There is no restriction on the student’s major
- Two letters of recommendation
Applications for this scholarship are taken in January and February, and awards are given at the end of July.
United Muslim Foundation (UMF)
The motto of the United Muslim Foundation is “Promoting Unity, Education, and Charity.” This educational and charitable organization awarded three scholarships last year for $4,000 each. Applicants were members of the UMF, accumulated volunteer hours, demonstrated financial need, and had good GPAs.
Islamic Center of Minnesota (ICM)
The Islamic Center of Minnesota will award 12 scholarships for the 2011-2012 school year. The mission of the ICM scholarship program is to “encourage pursuit of higher education, recognize community service and reward academic excellence by members of our youth.” Students must demonstrate financial need, academic excellence, and community service.
Applications must be made before July 31. Information can be found on the ICM website.
Many Islamic Centers offer a limited number of scholarships to students who are members of the Center and active in their community. A short list of these includes:
- Islamic Center of New England (ICNE), www.icne.net
- Islamic Center of Boston, www.icbwayland.org
- Al-Inshirah Islamic Center, www.alinshirah.net
Universities Offering Muslim Scholarships
American Islamic College
This private college in Chicago, Illinois offers 20 scholarships each year. Amounts vary from $400 to $3,000, and are available to students who have a financial need and maintain a 2.5 GPA. More information about the American Islamic College and its scholarships can be found at their website.
This Islamic college located in San Francisco is committed to providing the community with scholars and leaders who are grounded in Islamic scholarship and cultural traditions. The college offers scholarships in partnership with the ISF. More information is available at their website.
Grants and Scholarships For All Students
The Pell Grant is available to any U.S. student that meets certain criteria. According to the USDE website, the Pell Grant program “provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain postbaccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education.” Only students who are below a specified income level are eligible for this grant.
Other Federal Grants
The website grants.gov gives information on other grants that may be available from the U.S. government.