Someone has rightly said, “Mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Inability to pursue education due to socioeconomic constraints has been one of the greatest causes for disparity in the world as regards educational attainment. In recent years, both governmental and private agencies have stepped forward to make generous contributions toward providing education for the marginalized sections of the society so that they can compete with the majority of people in terms of obtaining higher education and better equipping themselves for the job market. The scholarships and grants provided to the minority communities are for the most part ‘free’, meaning they do not need to be repaid and these programs benefit communities belonging to all the fifty states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Puerto Rico as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands. A few of the important scholarship programs are listed below:
Gates Millennium Scholars Program
Established in 1999, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMS) aims to offer financial assistance to outstanding minority students in order to provide them opportunity to reach their highest educational and career potential. The beneficiaries may include African American, Hispanic American, American Indian/Alaska Native and Asian Pacific Islander students. Besides offering financial assistance to cover the cost of education, the GMS program also provides renewable awards for the Gates Millennium Scholars who are maintaining a particular level of academic excellence. Graduate school funding is also provided to Gates Millennium Scholars in the areas of computer science, engineering, education, library science, mathematics and public health.
THE UNCF/MERCK Science INITIATIVE
The UNCF, the Merck Research Laboratories and The Merck Institute for Science Education have come together to offer 37 annual awards to outstanding African American students and postdoctoral researchers. The organization provides millions of dollars as scholarships and fellowships and these go toward funding tuition, board and lodging as well as institutional support and research grants. The following is a list of scholarships offered by the UNCF-MERCK.
Undergraduate scholarships – these are intended to help African American undergraduate students further their science education and pursue science careers. The association of UNCF and Merck provides tuition support and research support in a state-of-the-art research facility.
Graduate dissertation fellowships UNCF – these fellowships have been instituted to help African American graduate students complete coursework, conduct research, and prepare the dissertation required for a doctoral degree in life or physical sciences.
Postdoctoral research fellowships – these are intended to provide financial assistance to African American post-graduate students to obtain postdoctoral training and to pursue a career in biomedical research.
United Negro College Fund
Established to narrow the educational attainment gap between African Americans and the majority population, the UNCF has been playing an active role in assisting nearly 60,000 students each year to obtain a college degree and pursue a well-paying career. The UNCF provides operating funds for its 39 member colleges making it possible for these institutions to offer their students the latest academic courses at less than half the average tuition fee of other private colleges.
Regarded as one of the largest private funding agencies that provide scholarships for African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men in engineering, NACME has provided support to over 15 percent of all minority engineering graduates since 1974. Many of the beneficiaries have gone on to become leaders in the government, industry, and academia.