College is usually one of the biggest expenses a person can face; however, it is an investment in their future and a way to achieve their goals. Importantly, college can even be more expensive for people with disabilities.
In many cases, accommodations to make their classrooms accessible have to be paid by the student. Furthermore, medical bills also take a toll on their finances, with higher costs than average, and their transportation needs can be more expensive than other students. Therefore, students with disabilities should be as well informed as possible about the options they have when it comes to funding.
Here, some of these options are presented, in the hope that students with disabilities can learn more about the resources available to them.
Students with disabilities should get information about the many scholarship options available to them.
Some of these are:
- AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability.
- Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) College Scholarship Program.
- Google Lime Scholarship Program.
- Baer Reintegration Scholarship.
- Flora Marie Jenkins Memorial Disability Scholarship.
- National Center for Learning Disabilities Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships.
- Hemophilia Federation of America (HFA) Educational Scholarships.
- Microsoft disAbility Scholarship.
Some of these scholarships are available to any student who has finished high school, while others have more specific criteria. The scholarships offered by Google and Microsoft are for students with disabilities who want to declare a major related to technology. Meanwhile, the Baer Reintegration Scholarship is directed to students with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Federal Disability Benefits
The federal government has been instrumental in making more campuses accessible to students with disabilities. Furthermore, they consider this population as eligible for the Federal TRIO Programs. These are services that are offered to people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as students with disabilities. There are eight different programs, and people are eligible from middle school until they finish their graduate studies.
Also, the Pell grant is available to all students, including those with disabilities. The amount of the grant will depend on several aspects, including how expensive the school the person wishes to attend is, if their education will be full-time or part-time, the depth of financial need, and more. Therefore, an extensive process is done to apply for this grant.
The amount depends on your financial need, costs to attend school, status as a full-time or part-time student, and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.
The government also offers the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, which is focused on helping people with disabilities to find a job. During the assessment, they offer insight on what the educational goal should be for this person based on their aptitudes and vocation. After this, the program offers assistance with higher education options, including vocational training.
Other Financial Options
The first option for loans should always be federal loans. The amount students can borrow varies, but the interest rates are much better than loans from a private institution. Like any other student, students with disabilities must fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), where their eligibility is assessed.
Students with disabilities must do a correct estimate of the cost of attendance. As these are very likely to be higher than for other students. Therefore, it is important to have the necessary documentation to provide proof of these estimates. This means, being able to provide the bills and services the student will have to pay due to their disability.
On the other hand, there are personal loans for fair credit and private loans, that will take into consideration credit scores as well as other criteria, which will depend on the institution in question.
Unlike loans, grants do not need to be paid back. However, this usually translates into stricter criteria. Like with loans, financial need and family situation are assessed before a grant is awarded. Similar to scholarships, there are numerous grants offered every year to students with disabilities.
Some of these are:
- The Foundation for Science and Disability Grant.
- Gabriel’s Foundation of Hope Scholarships and Grants.
- Alice Chavez Pardini Education Advancement Grant.
- Michigan Scholarships and Grants for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired.
Just like with scholarships, grants can be general or highly specific. The Foundation for Science and Disability Grant is offered to students who will be focusing on STEM careers, while the Alice Chavez grant is specifically for people who are legally blind. Furthermore, other grants are awarded to cover for any technological or accessibility issues that need to be paid by the student due to their disability.
These programs are available to all students and the vast majority of them are funded by the federal government. However, there are limits to how much a student can earn through these programs. The hourly pay starts at the minimum wage, and it can increase depending on the job.
The federal government has implemented different bills and acts to ensure students with disabilities are not discriminated against in college. However, this goes beyond improving accessibility. Increased financial expenses mean that college, which can already be very expensive, can become a prohibitive dream for many. Therefore, financial aid becomes instrumental for most students with disabilities, and getting informed about the options available can make all the difference. It is thanks to these financial aid opportunities that many students with disabilities can embark on a successful college career.