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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

National Study Shows Private Scholarships Play Key Role in College Access

May 5, 2005

To kick off National Scholarship Month, the first-ever comprehensive study of private scholarship aid in the United States was released on May 4. Private Scholarships Count: Access to Higher Education and the Critical Role of the Private Sector was prepared by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Higher Education Policy in collaboration with the National Scholarship Providers Association and Scholarship America. The report offers findings collected from an original survey of private scholarship providers conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy; data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS); and interviews with private scholarship providers.   

The study concludes that total private scholarship aid was between $3.1 billion and $3.3 billion in 2003-04, and approximately 7 percent of undergraduates received private scholarships with an average award of close to $2,000.  According to the report, private scholarship aid is typically awarded to traditional undergraduate students between the ages of 15 and 25 from middle-income backgrounds who are dependents and attend four-year institutions on a full-time basis. Interestingly, the study projects that at least 30 percent--to as high as 50 percent--of private scholarship recipients are students of color and more women than men are awarded private scholarships.

Though private scholarship aid appears to be a small piece in the financial aid puzzle, the report suggests that private scholarships and the private sector play a pivotal role in providing access and increased college choices to many diverse college-going groups. Due to their targeted and more personal nature, private scholarships may assist students overlooked by larger financial aid programs.

The report can be downloaded for from the Institute for Higher Education Policy's Web site.