How to Pay for Your Undergraduate STEM Degree?
- Federal financial aid
- Employer Tuition Reimbursement
- Tuition-Free Community Colleges
Federal Financial Aid is offered in the form of Loans, Grants, and Work-Study
Loans are the equivalent of borrowing money that has to be repaid with interest. There are two types of loans that the government offers to students, and they are the following:
- Direct subsidized loans
- Direct unsubsidized loans
Direct subsidized loans are reserved for undergraduate students who have financial needs. On the other hand, direct unsubsidized loans are available for undergraduates and graduate students. The school you attend determines the amount you can borrow. The maximum amount of direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized loans a student can borrow each academic year is between US$5,000 and US$12,500.
Generally, no interest is charged on direct subsidized loans while the student is in school full-time or part-time or during deferment periods. 3.75% is the current interest for undergraduate students’ direct unsubsidized and subsidized loans. The interest rate is fixed, meaning it does not change while the loan is being paid off.
Think of grants as free money. There are two types of grants offered exclusively to undergraduates: federal pell grant and federal supplemental educational opportunity grant (FSEOG).
Whether a student receives a grant is dependent on financial need.
The largest federal pell grant that was awarded for the 2020 to 2021 school year was US$6,345. Meanwhile, FSEOGs range from US$100 to US$4,000.
Federal Work-Study (FWS)
How to Apply to Federal Financial Aid?
Scholarships for Hispanics
Scholarships are like grants because they are essentially free money. However, students must typically go through a competitive application process to win a scholarship. Few scholarships are awarded per student.
The Hispanic Scholarship Foundation offers scholarships to Hispanics pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in any field. The amount provided varies according to financial need but typically falls between US$500 to US$5,000.
One of my favorite websites to find scholarships is fastweb.com.
Scholarships for Hispanics pursuing an Undergraduate STEM Degree
There are two well-known STEM scholarships for Hispanics studying STEM:
- Great Minds in STEM (GMiS) scholarship
- Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) scholarships
SHPE has several scholarships available. They have a general scholarship application that allows them to identify which scholarships a student is best suited for. When I applied, I was awarded SHPE’s dissertation scholarship of US$5,000. GMiS has one scholarship application. They award typically between US$500 to US$10,000.
Both scholarship applications take time to complete, but it is worthwhile because it proves that external institutions value your work if you win the scholarship.
Tips for Applying to Scholarships
Ask a few people to review your application. Ideally, use your network or search for someone on LinkedIn who has won the scholarship you want to apply to and ask them for tips when filling out the application.
Employers offering 100 % Tuition Reimbursement
The following list of employers offer full tuition reimbursement to their employees. The eligibility and offerings of each tuition reimbursement program differ according to the employer. Click on the links below to understand how each program works. Starbucks, for example, offers 100% tuition reimbursement for its full and part-time workers who enroll only in Arizona State University’s online program to pursue their first bachelor’s degree.
Employers offering Partial Tuition Reimbursement
The following list of employers offer some monetary compensation to their employees for college tuition. Click on the links below to understand how each program works. Verizon, for example, offers up to $8,000 per year to full-time employees and $4,000 per year to part-time employees to pursue a degree or certification at any college.
Tuition-Free Community Colleges
Community colleges are two-year institutions that allow students to graduate with an associate’s degree. The benefit of attending a community college is that the professors are dedicated solely to teaching students. While at a four-year institution, professors have other obligations, like research. Therefore, teaching at four-year institutions is not a priority like community colleges.
Suppose your goal is to obtain a bachelor’s degree. The good news is that community colleges often offer bridge programs that permit students to transfer their credits to a four-year institution. Therefore, it is vital to ensure a bridge program exists before enrolling in a community college.
There are 20 states and one city that offer tuition-free community college programs. Typically the students have to be state or city residents of where the community college is located. These tuition-free programs permit students to graduate with no college debt for their associate’s degree or the first two years of their bachelor’s degree.
- Boston, Massachusetts
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
The following blog post will discuss how to select an undergraduate institution.