What are Higher Education Grants?

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  • Written By: Michelle Burton
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 20 January 2019
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Higher education grants are monetary awards for students who are in the process of or planning to pursue a degree in any given discipline. Higher education grants are provided by foundations, corporate entities, and federal governments. Unlike student loans, higher education grants do not have to be repaid.

There are hundreds of higher education grants available, including arts education grants, music education grants, and youth education grants, but they all fall under the umbrella of higher education grants. Currently, the largest provider of education grants in the United States is the federal government and state, county, and city governments, followed by corporations and foundations. With more than 900 federal grant programs in existence in the US today, offered by 26 federal grant-making agencies, the federal government hands out more money to students than the 14,260 foundations that award educational grants.

The US government currently awards more than $100 billion US Dollars (USD) in higher education grants each year in form of merit-based and need-based grants. Some examples of these grants are Pell grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity (FSEOG) Grants, National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART) Grants, and Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG). Federal higher education grants are usually awarded to undergraduate students, but it is not uncommon for graduate students to receive these awards well.


Merit-based education grants carry some level of prestige, and they are based mainly on merit and achievement. Some merit-based grants have an income ceiling, but many offered by organizations and companies do not. It is important to note that non-federal merit-based grants are often more competitive then need-based grants, and the application process is often lengthier.

Foundation education grants currently award more than $5 billion USD each year to students. The largest foundations that award the most educational grants are also part of some of the world’s largest corporations. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Wal-Mart Foundation are among those foundations that award higher education grants each year.

To be eligible for federal, foundation, or corporate education grants, students must meet certain basic eligibility requirements. In addition, each grant has its own specific requirements, such as a specific grade point average, status in school, or certain academic achievements. Basic eligibility requirements may include legal status in the country in which the student will be attending school, and enrollment at an accredited college or university.



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