More than 50 million people in the United States identify as Hispanic, making the growing Latino population by far the largest minority group in the country. Though there are continued cultural, economic, and societal barriers to educational success, students of Hispanic descent have recently made significant gains.
Graduation rates among Latino students jumped 10 percentage points between 2006 and 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and the number of Latinos enrolled in postsecondary education has grown from 2.9 percent in 1972 to 16.5 percent in 2011, based on Pew Research Center analysis.
One of the biggest hurdles for Hispanics who have their sights set on attending college is the hefty price tag of education. Thankfully, there are many organizations and programs geared specifically toward the Hispanic population that are helping offset the high cost of postsecondary education through scholarships.
[Learn more about the record Hispanic college enrollment.]
If you're a Latino student looking for college scholarships, we encourage you to start your search at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the nation's largest nonprofit organization supporting Hispanic postsecondary education. HSF's mission is to increase the number of Hispanic college graduates, primarily through scholarships and financial support.
HSF awards multiple scholarships through its various scholarship programs, including scholarships geared specifically for high school seniors, community college students, and current college students. In order to be eligible for any of them, you must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, be pursuing or plan to pursue your first undergraduate or graduate degree, fill out the FAFSA, and plan to enroll as a full-time student at an accredited U.S. postsecondary institution in the upcoming academic year.
[Find out more about filling out the FAFSA.]
Another excellent organization that awards multiple postsecondary scholarships is ¡Adelante! U. S. Education Leadership Fund, which has distributed more than $1.5 million in assistance since its inception in 1993. The organization's scholarships range from a general National Scholarship and various leadership scholarships to a scholarship geared specifically toward future engineers. Scholarships for the 2013-2014 academic year open in February, so check the website soon for more information.
Interested in a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career? The SHPE Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing educational enrichment and academic outreach for Latino students from the pre-college to postgraduate levels.
One of the ways that SHPE fulfills its mission is through scholarships that are specifically geared toward students pursuing degrees in engineering, math, and science. Merit- and need-based scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 are awarded to deserving Latino high school graduating seniors, undergraduate students, and graduate students who demonstrate both significant motivation and aptitude for a career in STEM.
[Read about other scholarships for STEM majors.]
Finally, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has been distributing scholarships to Hispanic students since 1932, and continues to offer a variety of scholarships for high school seniors, undergraduate, and graduate college students through the LULAC National Scholarship Fund. Every dollar raised by local LULAC Councils is matched by corporate partners. Applicants are eligible for a National Scholastic Achievement Award, an Honors Award, or a General Award. Check back at the end of January to apply.
Michelle Showalter joined Scholarship America in 2007 and is an alumna of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.