Teaching is an honorable profession, one that attracts many talented men and women. But becoming a teacher isn’t easy, nor is it cheap. Gone are the days when people could attend normal school for a year or two and be qualified to teach youngsters. Gone are the days when college graduates could get jobs as teachers with just a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Students now must usually have at least five years of college to meet minimum qualifications. Many states also require teachers to have master’s degrees, though some will accept bachelor’s degrees if the teacher promises to get a master’s degree within a specified time.
Acquiring this education adds up to big bucks for a student, making financial assistance a must for future teachers. The good news is that scholarships for aspiring teachers are plentiful. There are probably more scholarships for studies leading to a teaching degree than for any other occupation. While education scholarships are plentiful, most scholarships continue to be those that do not require a specific major.
The bad news is that the number of scholarships for women only are not that plentiful. Because of laws against sex discrimination, few scholarships are tagged for women only today. Even scholarships offered by women’s groups usually state that applications from men will be accepted, though preference is given to women applicants. Many scholarships that used to be reserved for single moms now say they are for single parents. Scholarships for older women who want to begin college or return after dropping out to raise a family are still available, but these are not restricted just to education majors.
All is not lost, however, as women can apply for scholarships that are open to both genders. The good news is that since the majority of teachers are women, female students have excellent shots at scholarships and grants that are open to both sexes. Women also should not confine their scholarship search to just those for education majors, but should apply for general scholarships, too. The rule when searching for scholarship opportunities is to leave no stone unturned.
Starting the Scholarship Search
Early on in the scholarship search, women should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly known as FAFSA. This application pulls together financial information on the student, if she is relying on her own income to pay for college or her parents. Colleges and private organizations that provide scholarships require FAFSA when scholarships are based on financial need.
If the student is still in high school, she should next check with her school’s guidance counselor for information on scholarships. The counselor’s office will have information on local scholarships, which may be only a few hundred dollars, but when it comes to paying for a college education, every dollar helps. The counselor’s office also is a good place for information on state, regional and national scholarships.
Colleges remain the best source for scholarship information and scholarships. Women should check with the school’s financial assistance office for information on scholarships and applications. Women should also check with the institution’s education department for scholarships that are awarded to education majors. Many colleges have centers for women’s education or studies. This does not necessarily mean women have to be pursuing women’s studies, but rather such centers are a clearinghouse for programs and scholarships geared to women.
Many colleges do not require women to apply individually for every scholarship they are interested in. Instead, it is the one-application-fits-all or almost-all concept. One application for financial assistance submits the woman’s application to all scholarships for which she qualifies. However, some scholarships offered by private individuals and groups may require a separate application, perhaps because they require an essay or have special eligibility requirements.
Scholarships and Grants for Education Majors
Federal Government Assistance
The US government, through the Department of Education, has grant and loan programs that are attractive to female students. Undergraduate students can borrow up to $5,500 per year, for a total of $27,500, at an interest rate of 5% under the Perkins Loan program. Loans are made through the college the woman attends. If a woman agrees to teach for five years at a low-income school, a portion of the loan will be forgiven, (i.e. not have to be repaid).
Women also can apply for a Pell Grant, which does not have to be repaid. Women who are working on their first degree can apply for up to $5,550 per year, though the amount awarded depends on several factors, including the cost of the school and whether the woman is attending college full-time. The grants, based on financial need, are open to all majors.
The federal government also sponsors the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant, known as TEACH, which is open to women. The program gives grants of up to $4,000 annually to students who agree to teach in schools where the majority of students are from low-income families. Students must agree to teach in a low-income school for at least four of the eight years following college graduation. Students who fail to do this will be required to pay the grant back. Students must also agree to teach in a high-needs field, such as mathematics, science, foreign languages or special education.
State Government Assistance
Many states also offer financial incentives to women who want to teach that are similar to the federal TEACH grant. In return for this financial assistance, women agree to teach in specific subjects or low-income schools for a specified time, which is usually one year of teaching for each year assistance is received. Women should check with their state’s Department of Education for scholarships and grant opportunities.
Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program
The Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program is one example of state assistance that is available to education majors. Only for Illinois residents, the program waives tuition for students who agree to teach special education at public, private and faith-based elementary and high schools in Illinois. Students must attend an Illinois public college. Students who receive the waiver but do not go on to teach special education or teach in Illinois will have to repay the waiver.
Golden Apple Scholars
Golden Apple Scholars is another financial assistance program that is funded by the State of Illinois. Students can apply for the program as early as their junior year; college sophomores also are eligible to apply for the program, which includes mentoring by experienced teachers. Fifty-three private and public colleges in Illinois participate in the program. In return for four years of financial assistance, students agree to teach for five years in a school that Illinois identifies as a school of need.
Minority Teaching Assistance
Several states also offer financial assistance to minority students who want to become teachers. For example, the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation offers the Minority Teaching Fellows Program for minority residents of Tennessee who are US citizens. The grant is for $5,000 a year for up to four years. Students must major in education at a Tennessee college.
The application process requires a 250-word essay on why a student wants to be a teacher. Women who accept this award must agree to teach full-time for one year for each year of assistance received or the money will have to be repaid.
Scholarships by Colleges
The Opal T. and Theresa W. Bondurant Scholarship Fund is offered at the University of Kentucky’s College of Education for women who want to become teachers. This is one of the few scholarships left that specifically states it is for women only.
Central Washington University
Central Washington University’s education department has two scholarships that are for women. The Ena Harris Berger Scholarship is for unmarried women, with preference given to Native American applicants. The Jeannette M. Hart Scholarship is for Washington residents who are at least sophomores at the university. Preference for the scholarship is given to women, with second preference going to students who need financial assistance.
Local Scholarships for Education Majors
It pays to check out local scholarship opportunities, as many sponsors require applicants to be residents of specific cities, counties or states. This narrows down the applicant pool considerably and increases a woman’s chance of snagging a scholarship.
Christa McAuliffe Teacher Incentive Program
The Delaware Department of Education sponsors the Christa McAuliffe Teacher Incentive Program for Delaware residents who want to become teachers. The program is named in honor of Ms. McAuliffe, the first teacher selected to be an astronaut, who was killed shortly after the Challenger space shuttle took off.
This is a loan program but the state forgives the loan if the student teaches one year in a Delaware school for every year she received financial assistance. Preference is given to applicants who plan to teach in critical-needs areas, such as science, math, reading, English and foreign languages. Tennessee is another state that also honors Ms. McAuliffe in this way.
Community foundations are a good source for scholarships. In many instances, they serve as a clearinghouse for local scholarships established by businesses and individuals, with applicants required to be from a specific area. Sometimes an applicant only needs to make one application to be considered for all the scholarships a community foundation offers. Other foundations require individual applications for each scholarship.
For example, more than 90 scholarships are awarded to West Virginia residents through the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation. Most of the scholarships are for $1,000, though some are larger. Women may apply for more than one scholarship, but they will only receive one award. Only students from certain high schools may apply for some of the scholarships; some scholarships also are limited by major area of study.
Another organization that awards a significant number of scholarships is the Grand Rapids Community Foundation; most of their scholarships are for Kent County residents. The Audrey L. Wright Scholarship is for a student who has lived for at least three years in Kent County who plans to study education or foreign languages in college. Another scholarship example is the John T. & Frances J. Maghielse Scholarship. Applicants must be graduates of Grand Rapids Public High School with plans to major in education at any college in Michigan.
Scholarships by Teaching Field
Some scholarships require a woman to teach in a specific area or to a specific type of student.
Ralph Dillman Memorial Scholarship
The American Foundation for the Blind offers the Ralph Dillman Memorial Scholarships, which range from $1,000 to $2,400 for students who want careers as teachers of the blind. Women who apply for this scholarship must submit certification that they are legally blind. Applicants also are required to write an essay on how their blindness has impacted their lives.
Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program
The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program is geared to students who want to teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in kindergarten through 12th grade. Women who receive financial assistance through this program are required to teach two years in high-need schools for each year they receive assistance. The program’s website lists opportunities on a state-by-state basis. For example, the University of Southern Maine hosts the Maine program. It is intended for students who want to teach chemistry, physics, math, and earth and biological sciences.
Journalism Education Association
The Journalism Education Association sponsors three $1,000 scholarships for students who want to teach journalism to high school students. Women who apply for this scholarship must be either upper-division or master’s level students; they also could be currently teaching and want to improve their skills in teaching journalism to their students.
UMW Mary Baker Emerick Art Scholarships
The University of Montana Western awards the Mary Baker Emerick Art Scholarships to students who are seeking a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. They must be planning to major in art if they are seeking a Bachelor of Science degree or Visual Arts for a Bachelor of Arts degree. Women who receive this award must take at least one arts class each semester. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $3,800 annually.