Scholarship money can reduce tuition, including out of pocket costs and any debt that students might have to repay. Behind family income, in fact, a Fannie Mae poll showed that families in 2009 relied on scholarships and grants as a means of helping to pay for a college or university education. The benefits of college and university scholarships, however, extend beyond finances.
In addition to colleges and universities that provide scholarships to students who plan to study with them, large organizations, non-profit foundations, professional associations and community and civic groups make scholarships available. Scholarships also come in different varieties, such as merit-based scholarships that might be based on academic achievements or other skills or talents and needs-based scholarships that are provided to individuals with specific financial limitations. While scholarships typically don't have to be repaid, conditional scholarships might require that students perform some type of a service in exchange for tuition assistance.
These different types of scholarships have been shown to have different benefits. In some instances, scholarships have contributed to academic success on the part of students or encouraged them to consider different types of college and university programs than they otherwise might. In other instances, they helped fill needs in certain fields or provided assistance where assistance has been needed.
A 2009 report on the Social Science Research Network suggested that low-income students provided lower-cost access to colleges and universities were not only provided a means of access to college but were also persistent with regard to their studies. In 2006 in New Orleans, the early findings from a study on an enhanced scholarship program for low-income parents attending school at least half-time and earning a minimum C average noted that these students were more likely to enroll in college full-time, pass more courses and earn more course credits. The New Orleans program also involved enhanced counseling for scholarship recipients.
Conditional scholarships, on the other hand, have been provided as a means of educating health workers who can provide healthcare services in areas where needed, a 2009 report on the website for BMC Health Services Research shows. The report cited studies showing that healthcare workers benefiting from financial incentive programs were more likely than their counterparts to work in underserved areas after they were initially placed in service, even if they didn't continue working in the original underserved locale. Conditional scholarships were one of the financial incentive programs that the report evaluated.
Some scholarships combine several eligibility factors, and these too, have been shown to have positive results. Gates Millennium Scholarships, for example, are designed for Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Asian Pacific Islander Americans and American Indian or Alaska natives with cumulative high school grade point average minimums of 3.3. To be eligible for Gates Millennium Scholarships, students must also be eligible for the federal government's Pell grants, which are based on financial needs.
Students can renew their Gates Scholarships in instances where they maintain academic progress. Students can also receive graduate school Gates Millennium Scholarships in instances where their study pursuits involve education, science, computer science, math, engineering, library science or public health. The result, according to a March-April 2010 report in the Journal of College Student Development: Gates Millennium recipients were more likely to attend four-year, rather than two-year, colleges and universities. By opting for four-year institutions, students were more greatly encouraged to take an interest, not only in their studies, but also in social activities, the report showed.
When it comes to scholarships for college, the immediate thought might be saving money. If scholarships help motivate students to continue working toward their degrees, and possibly to pursue more advanced degrees than they otherwise might, the real gain could be in the financial and social benefits that degree provides. This may also be the impetus behind the free online college classes being increasingly offered.