The Value of a UNCF Scholarship

A UNCF scholarship is a game-changer. As the nation’s largest private scholarship provider to students of color, UNCF awards more than $100 million in scholarships to more than 12,000 students at more than 1,100 schools each year. In the past 80 years, we’ve raised a whopping $5 billion-plus to help more than half a million students earn college degrees.

Scholarships like these are increasingly vital, especially for African American students. The average cost of college is steadily increasing, yet federal investments supporting lower-income students continue to decrease. In 2011-2012, the U.S. Department of Education reported that the average unmet need for financially needy students ranged from $7,578 at public four-year institutions, and $13,520 at private four-year institutions. As a result, students graduate hefting unmanageable loads of debt, or choose not to pursue a degree at all. Choosing to skip higher education leads to a lower level of American competitiveness and economic power.

This is why UNCF believes so strongly in the power of a scholarship. We provide students with need-based and merit-based scholarships and help students acquire scholarships and grants through the federal government. UNCF scholarships impact many lives through important programs like these:

  • UNCF General Scholarship Awards, which are competitive and noncompetitive scholarships for students seeking merit-based or need-based aid. In 2016-2017, UNCF awarded 3,422 scholarships to 2,471 students, totaling $11,314,659. Preceding the scholarship, unmet need among recipients was $13,421. The average award, $4,508, covered about 34% of unmet need.
  • The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, a 20-year, $1.6 billion collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provides financial assistance to 5,000 high-achieving, low-income students annually. In 2016-2017, the program distributed awards to 5,425 students, totaling over $97 million. Thirty-seven percent of recipients were black or African American.
  • Emergency Student Aid, which enables UNCF-member HBCU students who encounter unexpected financial emergencies to complete their degrees. Since the initiative’s beginning in 2009, $26,899,846 have been provided to more than 12,000 students. In 2016-2017, $1.425 million was distributed to 700 students who attended one of UNCF’s 37 member institutions, averaging $2,036 per recipient and meeting about 32% of previously unmet financial aid.

Without our scholarship programs, many students would not be able to pursue and complete a degree. In fact, UNCF scholarship recipients have a 70% six-year graduation rate, which is significantly higher than the 41% rate for all African American college students nationwide. A $5,000 scholarship from UNCF increases the likelihood of graduation by 7%.

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The full impact of a UNCF scholarship, however, goes far beyond a dollar amount. We help our students through the process of finding, applying for and earning a scholarship from beginning to end. We post scholarship opportunities on our website, push them through social media and provide in-person guidance through experts appearing at our multi-city road show, the UNCF Empower Me Tour. Students interested in receiving scholarship information via text, can text “FUNDS” to 48421.

We support students looking to build their resumés through internships and work opportunities. The UNCF Student Professional Development Programs department, for example, collaborates with corporations and organizations seeking to diversify their workforce, helping talented students earn experience through internships, scholarships, professional and leadership training, online curricula and mentorships. In 2015-2016, UNCF engaged 215 students in different programs that offered a paid summer internship. Altogether, $166,400 was awarded in stipends and $342,000 in scholarships. By helping students to find access to safe, affordable housing and to support for travel, UNCF makes getting work experience and preparing for success after college more doable.

The results prove the efficacy of the UNCF model. When we say, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in,”® we take this call for investment seriously. When it comes to graduating and retaining first-generation, low-income African American college students and preparing them to thrive in their future careers, a UNCF scholarship is one of your best bets for success. For thousands of students every year, a UNCF scholarship truly redefines what is possible.