College is expensive; that's not a surprise. But the costs can rack up when you're a student with special needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires schools to accommodate the needs of these students, but it doesn't expect them to pay for any extra costs students may face. Students with medical issues may need to pay for additional insurance or equipment out of pocket, while students with learning disabilities may need to foot the bill for tutoring services or one-on-one assistance. According to the National Center for Education, 19 percent of undergraduates in 2015-16 reported having a disability
The transition to college is an overwhelming experience for all students, but potentially even more so for students with special needs, who face a myriad of unique challenges such as a difference in student services, academic requirements, and learning environment. With all this in mind, inadequate financial help can be a breaking point.
The good news? Students with disabilities and special needs have access to numerous scholarships targeted for their education. Some scholarships are specific to students who have a particular type of disability, while others are geared for students with disabilities who are pursuing a particular area of study. Others are national and non-specific.
Learning disorders and ADHD/ADD
- Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Awards:__ Learning Ally is a nonprofit educational organization that supports students with reading deficits by providing them with equitable access to the books they need to and want to read. Every year, the organization awards $6,000 to three top high school seniors and $2,000 to three special honors students. Candidates must subscribe to Learning Ally members and demonstrate academic achievement, outstanding leadership, and service to others.
- Joseph James Morelli Scholarship:__ This foundation was created to recognize students with dyslexia and empower them to pursue higher education. Funds range from awards of $500 to $2,500, offered to high school and college students who are pursuing a degree in a STEM field and have with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and/or dyscalculia.
- The Anne Ford Scholarship:__ This $10,00 scholarship is available for high school seniors with identified learning disabilities and/or ADHD who are pursuing a full-time bachelor's degree. Candidates must have a 3.0 GPA or higher and be willing to act as a role model and spokesperson for others with learning disabilities and attention challenges.
- The Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarship:__ This one-time $2,500 scholarship is awarded annually to a high school senior with a documented learning disability and/or ADHD. Candidates must show enrollment status at a two-year community college, a vocational or technical training program, or a specialized program for students with learning disabilities and/or ADHD.
- The Schwallie Family Scholarship:__ This scholarship is made possible by the Organization for Autism Research, an organization that strives to enhance the quality of life for individuals with autism. Every year, one-time awards go to students with autism or Asperger's Syndrome who are pursuing a two-or four-year degree or a trade, technical, or vocational school.
- Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship:__ This program is backed by the Perecman Firm, a New York-based law firm, to offset the financial burden of higher education for a student who faces the unique challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The firm allocates $1,000 to a student living with autism or whose close family member has a form of autism, including Asperger syndrome. Candidates must be accepted to or enrolled at an accredited college, university, or vocational school.
- Katie MacDonald Memorial Scholarships: These four scholarships are a product of the nonprofit group, United Parent Support for Down Syndrome, which offers $2,500 to two individuals with Down syndrome who are pursuing an education or job training opportunities beyond high school. The organization also grants $2,500 to two individuals who are seeking a junior college, undergraduate, or graduate degree. Candidates must have a personal connection and/or family involvement in support of the nonprofit.
Hearing and vision loss
- Lighthouse Guild College Bound Scholarship:__ Each year, this merit-based program helps up to 17 legally blind high school students from across the country with awards of up to $10,000. Candidates must show enrollment status at an accredited college or university.
- AG Bell College Scholarship Program:__ This program is backed by the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Every year, it awards between $1,500 and $5,000 to full-time students who are deaf or hard of hearing and use spoken language. The foundation also offers financial assistance for students attending an accredited law school or a masters or doctoral program in public policy or public administration.
- SpinLife Innovation in Motion Scholarship:__ This scholarship is offered by SpinLife, the largest internet retailer of mobility equipment in the U.S. Every year, the company awards one $1,000 scholarship to a student enrolled at an accredited 4-year institution who uses a manual or power wheelchair. Candidates must be at least 17-years-old, have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Chronic illness and disease
- Sacks for CF Scholarship:__ This program is offered by the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which awards between $3,000 and $10,000 to 30 students with cystic fibrosis. Candidates must be college students who are working toward academic success and receiving daily cystic fibrosis therapy.
- ACES Scholarship for Rare Diseases:__ This program is the product of Takeda, a global pharmaceutical company. It recognizes academic achievement in the rare disease community by awarding $5,000 to three current and/or incoming undergraduate students who live with one of 13 rare diseases.
- Hemophilia Federation of America Educational Scholarship:__ Every year, this national nonprofit organization advocates for the bleeding disorders community by awarding two $2,000 scholarships to students with bleeding disorders. Candidates must be seeking a post-secondary education from a college, university or trade school.
- The Hydrocephalus Association Scholarship Program:__ This program was established to provide financial assistance to promising young adults who face the ongoing challenges of hydrocephalus. Every year, it awards 11 $1,000 scholarships to students with the condition.
Scholarships by Area of Study
- BMO Capital Markets Lime Connect Equity Through Education Scholarship:__ This program is the product of a partnership between BMO, an investment banking company and Lime, a nonprofit working to connect people with disabilities to scholarships and jobs. It awards $10,000 to undergraduate students who are pursuing bachelor's degrees in business, commerce, computer science, engineering, math, physics, statistics, or a related discipline.
- Google Lime Scholarship:__ Lime also partners with Google to award $10,000 to current undergraduate, graduate, or Ph.D. students with disabilities. Candidates must be pursuing computer science or computer engineering degrees, or degrees in a closely related technical field.
- Microsoft disAbility Scholarship:__ This program delivers on the mission of Microsoft's employee resource group to empower and enable people with disabilities. Through it, the company awards renewable $5,000 scholarships, up to $20,000 total for each student. Candidates must be high school seniors who live with disabilities and plan to attend undergraduate programs at two- or four-year universities, colleges, or technical colleges. They must also declare an approved major in engineering, computer science, computer information systems, law, business, or a related field.
- NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship:__ This program honors Tony Coelho, a former United States Representative and the primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It offers eight $5,625 scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are interested in pursuing a career in communications, media, or entertainment.
- The AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability:__ This annual $1,000 scholarship is offered to undergraduate or graduate students who are pursuing studies related to health and disability. Candidates must be of at least sophomore status and have a disability as defined by the American with Disabilities Act.
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