Social Work grants, scholarships, and loans are all ways you can pay for an undergraduate and graduate degree in Social Work. A Social Work degree is a worthy investment for altruistic students wishing to give back to their communities in this helping profession.
After all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that social work jobs are growing faster than average by 9 percent through 2031.
Types of Financial Aid
The only problem is that college tuition is also increasing. Becoming a social worker requires investing in at least four years of post-secondary education. Then, professionals need two more years of graduate school for a Master of Social Work (MSW) to work in clinical practice. The average total cost for a master’s degree is around $40,000. That’s disconcerting for many, considering the mean annual wage for social workers is only $45,900. Luckily, the following types of financial aid are available to cover your tuition burden.
Grants are not available to all students. However, other financial assistance programs like student loans from the federal government and scholarships are available. Factors that affect all types of aid are financial need, full or part-time student status, and the total attendance cost.
Students should carefully consider each grant’s requirements before they apply. Local, state, and federal assistance comes from organizations that focus on social work. But, there is also financial aid from organizations unrelated to social work.
Where Can You Find Financial Aid?
Social Work grants and scholarships come from several sources. Other types of aid for social workers include graduate assistantships, teaching assistantships, and work-study programs.
- Federal programs
- State programs
- Professional organizations related to Social Work
- Private organizations also fund specific types of social work majors
- Colleges and universities
- Nontraditional students have grants and scholarships
- Military personnel and their families
- Church-affiliated scholarships for Social Work
- Community service organizations like the Elks, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Policemen
Student loans are one of the primary methods used to pay for social work degrees. After filing a FAFSA form, you could earn federal government assistance.
Federal Perkins, Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, and Graduate PLUS loans are the most common. In addition, US citizens with valid social security numbers can qualify for federal student loans.
Students must also enroll at least half-time at accredited colleges. Federal loans are typically capped at $9,500 to $12,500 per academic year. Loans will give instant funding to cover tuition costs, but you’ll need to repay them with accrued interest. So be cautious with your borrowing to avoid being strapped with debt. In 2015, college graduates had an oppressive average loan debt of $35,051.
Private Social Work Loans
An excellent financial aid alternative to federal loans is private, no-interest loans. For example, the Bill Raskob Foundation offers interest-free loans to financially needy college, and post-graduate students enrolled at accredited US colleges. The average BRF loan amount is currently $5,000. Students are given 12 months after graduation before having to begin repayment.
The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) grants a $7,000 interest-free loan to students under 24 who are children of active, retired, or fallen military personnel. For this financial assistance, MOAA applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and meet unmet needs. There are also local programs like the Massachusetts No-Interest Loan and Dallas Hebrew Free Loan.
Loan Forgiveness Programs
When loans start stacking up, you can turn to loan forgiveness programs to wipe away your debt. Social work majors are often eligible for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program (LRP). After graduation, this provides up to $50,000 to excuse loans for mental and behavioral health clinicians. In exchange, you must sign a two-year contract with any Corps-approved agency with an HPSA score from 26 to 14.
There is also the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). After making 120 monthly payments, the PSLF can erase the rest. Social work graduates who work at least 30 hours per week at a government or nonprofit, a tax-exempt organization may qualify.
The Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP) is a national program for students who accept jobs as faculty members. If they work full-time for 2 years at an approved health profession institution, they can receive up to $40,000 in loan repayment.
Grants & Fellowships
Grants are sources of gift aid that you won’t need to repay. They provide money to pursue a specific degree and are available to undergraduate and graduate students. Fellowships offer financial support for a scholar to grow as a professional in their field. A fellowship is usually awarded to a graduate student. For example, the HEALS Fellowship is for social workers working on dissertation research in a doctoral degree program.
Additionally, grants for social workers come from several sources. Many awards are for minority students, students in financial need, or underserved populations. In addition, there are also specific grants for focus areas, like a grant for students in child and family social work programs. Or grants for masters in social work students.
Professional Associations with Social Work Grants
Most social work grants are given to fund students undertaking special projects. For instance, the Amy Adina Schulman Memorial Grant is available for US or Canadian students who volunteer full-time for 30 or more hours with a justice program. Activities that advocate for civil rights, peace, economic equality, and environmental sustainability would meet the criteria.
American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABECSW)
In addition, the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABECSW) offers the Judith Holm Memorial Award for $2,000 to MSW students who write a paper about interventions from their final-year field placements.
National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
Since 1987, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has awarded the Ruth Fizdale Grant Program to two graduate-level students for $3,000 each. Eligible MSW candidates must be piloting research projects that address policy issues related to people with disabilities.
Similarly, the NASW funds the Social Work HEALS Grant program to support policy fellowships for PhD or DSW students who work in health policy practice in Washington, DC. Awards provide up to $65,000 directly to recipients’ universities.
National Association of Black Social Workers
The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) awards grants and scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students in the African American community. Awards cover tuition and books.
American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society awards doctoral training grants in oncology social work. These grants are two-year grants offering a stipend of $20,000 a year. In addition, the grant may be renewed for a two-year renewal. Each gift is awarded to doctoral-level students in an accredited school of social work with a research interest.
The American Cancer Society also offers a Master’s Training Grant in Clinical Oncology Social Work. This $12,000 award is for master’s-level students. And candidates must provide psycho-social services to individuals battling cancer.
American Association of University Women
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers a career development grant for social work students.
Gerontological Society of America
This organization offers fellowships to doctoral students in geriatric social work.
Federal Grants for Social Work Students
Most social work grants are for graduate students. However, undergraduates may look to federal sources. The Federal Pell Grant, FSEOG Grant, or Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant are viable options.
Federal Pell Grant
Pell Grants are for undergraduate students with exceptional financial needs. Applicants must not have a bachelor’s degree.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program (FSEOG)
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program is for students with exceptional financial needs who already receive the PELL grant.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The National Institutes of Health is a federal grant provider. Their Social Work grants are for undergraduates in a four-year accredited institution. A student’s GPA must be 3.5 or higher, or he or she must be in the top 5% of the class.
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant (IASG)
The IASG is a military grant for students with a parent or guardian who died in military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11/2000. Applicants must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).
State-Supported Grants for Social Work Students
Many states have financial assistance for college students focusing on public service careers. These grants are often in areas with a critical shortage where the state needs more qualified professionals. For example, there may be awards for welfare policy, mental health, substance abuse, or child and family programs.
Grant programs vary from state to state. Each state’s Department of Higher Education has information on available grant programs.
- Maryland’s Workforce Shortage Student Assistance Grant
- New York’s Licensed Social Worker Loan Forgiveness Program
By far, the most significant source of no-cost financial aid for social work majors is scholarships. There are both merit- and need-based scholarships awarded by various community organizations.
Social Work Scholarships for Undergraduate Students
For example, the Davis-Putter Scholarship (here) is a $10,000 scholarship awarded to degree-seeking social work students at accredited higher learning institutions. Qualified recipients must participate in social activism to fight racism, sexism, LGBT discrimination, and other oppression.
American Indian Education Program offers scholarships for students pursuing a degree in a health-related profession. The Indian Health Services Health Professionals Program scholarship (more) is for students from a federally recognized tribe with at least a 2.0 GPA.
|National Institutes of Health Scholarships||$20,000|
|Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund||$15,000|
|Patty Gibbs-Wahlberg Scholarships||$3000|
|Indian Health Services Program||varies|
|Toby Brown Award||$1,500|
|Carl A. Scott Memorial Fund||$500|
|The Emerson-Hoopes Scholarship||varies|
|A Place for Mom Senior Wisdom Scholarship||$2,000|
|American Addiction Centers Scholarship||$2,500|
|Zeta Phi Beta HBCU Scholarship||$1,000|
Graduate Scholarships for Social Work
Graduates with a bachelor’s degree have many entry-level opportunities. However, most professional positions require a master’s or doctoral degree.
The Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship (here) is a $4,333 grant for MSW students who serve African American populations. Applicants must attend a CSWE-accredited program and have an NASW membership in good standing. The Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial MSW Scholarship is another choice for graduate-level students.
|George E. Meares Memorial Scholarship||$5,000|
|Mildred Carter Bradham Social Work Scholarship||$1,000|
|Pi Gamma Mu Scholarships||$2,000|
|Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship||$4,000|
|Ima Hogg Scholarships||$5,000|
|John F. Steinman Fellowship Fund||$2,000|
|Verne LaMarr Lyons Scholarship||$4,333|
|Edith M. Baker Integrated Healthcare Fellowship||$2,000|
|CSWE’s Minority Fellowship Program (MFP)||$5,000|
|Eileen Blackey Doctoral Fellowship||$6,500|
|Jane B. Aron Doctoral Fellowship||$6,000|
|National Institute of Justice Graduate Research||$32,000|
Minority Social Work Scholarships
Minority social work majors can gain access to scholarship opportunities. For example, the Dr. Joyce Beckett Tuition Scholarship is $2,000 for two African American students. The required documents include an application, letters of recommendation, and a two-page letter of purpose to the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW).
Likewise, the National Association of Puerto Rican-Hispanic Social Workers (NAPRHSW) offers $2,500 to Latino/a students entering an accredited graduate program for social work. Selection is based on academic merit and commitment to social justice in Hispanic communities. In addition, American Indian or Alaska Native students pursuing an MSW with a minimum 2.0 GPA could also earn the IHS Health Professionals Scholarship.
Other Social Work Scholarships
Those active in Greek life could unlock added scholarships. Since 1975, the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority has provided the $1,000 Mildred Carter Bradham Social Work Scholarship. This renewable award is for ZPB members pursuing a graduate degree full-time at a CSWE-accredited institution.
For males, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity awards the George E. Meares Memorial Scholarship each May for $5,000. Full-time graduate students must study social work, criminal justice, or sociology to be eligible. There are also eleven Pi Gamma Mu Scholarships for $1,000 to $2,000. Pledged members in the social sciences who are in the first or second year of graduate study may apply.
Financial Aid from Colleges and Universities
Many colleges and universities with Social Work degree programs have grants, scholarships, and fellowships for students majoring in social services or a related field. These vary from school to school, so students should contact their financial aid office to find out about available programs. Below are a few school-supported financial aid programs for social work students.
University of Utah
Utah’s College of Social Work has a variety of scholarships and grants for its undergraduate and graduate Social Work students.
- Native-American and Alaska Native Scholarship in Social Work
- Penny Williams Memorial Scholarship
- Milton G. Thackery Scholarship
University of Nevada
The University of Nevada School of Social Work offers several scholarship and grant programs to students enrolled in the social work program. Prospective students can find application information for these scholarship programs on the university website.
- John and Louise Semenza Family Scholarship
- Alicia Smalley Scholarship
- Kris Tower Scholarship
- Heather Morsberger Memorial Scholarship
- School of Social Work Diversity Scholarship
- Waverlee Scholarship
Case Western Reserve University
Case Western Reserve University awards the Louis Stokes National Merit Scholarship to qualified students interested in community development. It provides full tuition plus a stipend. Eligible individuals can find the information needed to obtain an application at the Case Western Reserve University website.
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan offers many scholarship and grant programs for students in the school of social work. Application materials for each scholarship are online.
- Derrick L. Anderson Memorial MSW Scholarship
- Ara Cary Fellowship
- Child Welfare Scholarship Program
- Katherine Reebel Scholarship Fund
- Eleanor Sabo Scholarship
The School of Social Work at Boston College offers graduate students Presidential Tuition Scholarship.
Western Michigan University
Western Michigan University BSW Scholarships are for students enrolled in a bachelor’s in a social work program at WMU.
Wayne State University
The school of Social Work at Wayne State has grants and scholarships for undergrad students and fellowships for graduate students. The Elizabeth N. Brehler Scholars Program is a writing competition that awards $3,000 to one student for educational expenses.
Work Study Programs
Otherwise, campus employment could help. Federal Work-Study (FWS) and graduate assistantships are great ways to earn partial to full tuition waivers. In addition, anyone who served in the US Armed Forces with an honorable discharge can earn VA benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program. Finally, if you’re still in high school, open a 529 College Savings Plan to pinch your pennies for a future social work degree.
Finding Your Funding
Maybe your social work education is just beginning in an undergraduate program. Or you may already be working on graduate studies. Regardless of where you are on your journey, eligible candidates can find resources to pay for tuition and living expenses. In addition, social work aid may be a focus area. So if you work in human services, family services, psychosocial services, or child abuse protection, there may be a specific program for you.
It’s possible that these three financial aid resources may not be enough. You may have to dig deeper with your research. Look for private aid gifted by religious, cultural, corporate, or service organizations. If you’re already working full-time, take advantage of any employer tuition assistance programs offered.
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