The Fully Accessible Guide to Paying for College for Students with Disabilities

BY GoodCall

The Fully Accessible Guide to Paying for College for Students with Disabilities

Getting Started

Navigating the complex process of paying for college raises a ton of questions for most students. What’s a Pell Grant? Or a Perkins Loan? Do I have to pay anything back? Those questions can pile up even more quickly for a student with a disability.

For example, the all-important Free Application for Federal Student Aid – you may know it as FAFSA – requires male applicants to be registered for Selective Service. Does that include young men with disabilities? Yes. Selective Service rules provide no exemptions for people with physical or cognitive disabilities. All men age 18-25 who can reasonably leave their house must register.

The good news: 88 percent of postsecondary institutions and nearly 100 percent of public two- and four-year schools report enrolling students with disabilities. An impairment is not an impediment to a college education, and there are plenty of resources for those who need help to apply and pay for it. This guide, which has been built to work with assistive technology, can help find these resources.

The first step is understanding how financial aid works: the types available, requirements for eligibility, and your responsibilities if you’re awarded assistance. Will you need to maintain your grades, work in your school’s library or commit to some other requirements? It’s important to familiarize yourself with these early to avoid surprises later.

Step 1: Federal Aid- Completing the FASFA

The first step in anyone’s financial aid search is to fill out the FAFSA mentioned earlier. The government uses the form to determine whether applicants qualify for grants, loans and work-study programs, and many colleges also require it for their need- or merit-based financial aid. This year, the FAFSA opened in October. Since some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s important to complete the application soon. Click here to learn more about the FASFA at the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid website.

Qualifying for assistance hinges on many factors, including need. To reach the basic level of eligibility, you must:

  • Have graduated high school or have your G.E.D.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen and have a Social Security number
  • Male applicants, as mentioned earlier, must be registered with the Selective Service.

Most students qualify for some sort of aid, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which encourages everyone to submit a FAFSA.

Based on the results of the FAFSA and other factors (such as grades and extracurricular activities), the colleges a student applies for will send information detailing awards for the applicant, including grants, scholarships, work-study and more.

How is that decision made? The FAFSA asks for your name, Social Security number, date of birth, address and other information, and it asks about your financial situation, as well as that of your parents (if you are a dependent student).

The notification from the school is called an awards letter. The awards letter outlines what types of aid you’re eligible to receive. The timing of when you’ll get the awards letter varies by school.

How much aid you are offered depends on a number of factors, including the following:

  • The cost of attendance for each school.
  • The amount your family is expected to contribute to your education.
  • Your year in school
  • Your enrollment status – whether you’re a full-, half- or part-time student.

Specific types of federal student aid include:

Pell Grants: These grants can total up to $5,815 for the 2016-17 academic year and do not have to be repaid. Students can receive Pell Grants for up to 12 semesters – roughly six years of college. These generally are only for students who have yet to earn a bachelor’s or professional degree.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: Students must have exceptional need; those who are already eligible for the Pell Grant have higher priority. The grants, which again do not have to be repaid, can total up to $4,000 an academic year.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant: Students interested in teaching can earn $4,000 per academic year with this grant. Recipients must sign contracts promising to follow through on becoming teachers and to serve in a low-income school following graduation. Those who don’t must repay the grant as a direct unsubsidized loan.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant: Students who had a parent or guardian die in Iraq or Afghanistan as a result of military service after the 9/11 attacks are eligible. The amount of the awards is the slightly lower than that for Pell Grants. Recipients must not be eligible for Pell Grants on the basis of their expected family contribution but must meet all other Pell Grant requirements. Recipients must have been 24 or younger at the time OR enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent’s or guardian’s death.

Federal Work-Study: Students can earn money in part-time jobs on or off campus; the program often encourages community service work or employment related to the student’s course of study. This aid is often based on a first-come, first-serve basis. Workers are paid at least minimum wage.

Federal Perkins Loan: These loans are available to students with exceptional financial need. Interest is set at 5%. Loans can total up to $5,500 a year for undergraduate students and up to $8,000 for graduate and professional students.

Direct Subsidized Loans: Students with financial need qualify for this loan. Interest rates vary and can be found by visiting the StudentAid.gov webpage on interest rates. Subsidized loan interest will be covered by the government while the student is in school at least half-time, for the first six months after leaving school and during periods of deferment – postponement of loan payments. Amounts vary depending on grade level.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Students designated as having no financial need qualify for these loans. Students will owe all interest, which can be capitalized and added to the principal of the loan while recipients are in school or during periods of deferment. Students can qualify for up to $20,500 depending on their grade level and other financial aid.

Direct PLUS Loans: Also known as the Parent PLUS loan, this loan is for parents of eligible students. The loan amount can be for the total cost of attendance (established by the school), excluding any other forms of financial aid.

Does this aid have to be repaid? Scholarships and work study don’t have to be repaid; some grants must be repaid if you don’t fulfill the terms – an example is the teacher grant. Loans must be repaid.

The final step for federal aid is to accept it. Your awards letter will tell you how to accept your aid. Always accept any scholarships or grants first; then consider the loans. Keep in mind you don’t have to accept loans or even the full amount of the loans you are offered, and make sure you’re accepting loans with the most favorable terms to you.

Step 2: Private Aid- Winning Scholarships

Federal aid isn’t all that’s out there to help you fund your education. You can win private scholarships – money you don’t have to repay – by putting forth a bit of effort.

Your high school is a good place to begin your search. Ask your college counselor for guidance on finding and applying for scholarships. Another good resource is teachers; ask whether they will help review your application, provide reference letters or critique your essay.

Your college also may have more information about scholarships. Some colleges automatically consider you for scholarships, while others may require you to fill out more forms to be eligible for smaller scholarships.

Scholarship search engines allow you to take matters into your own hands, since you can search for awards based on your qualifications. You can search based on interests, extracurricular activities and more. GoodCall’s search engine includes information on nearly 7,900 active scholarships and nearly $22 million in available scholarship funds. Click here to visit GoodCall’s scholarship search engine.

Among those awards are scholarships for students with disabilities. Following is a list of recurring disability-specific scholarships:

> Scholarships for All Disabilities

A.A.H.D. Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability

The A.A.H.D. Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Healthy and Disability is awarded to a student with a disability who is currently pursuing an undergraduate or graduate school degree that is related to health and disability. Fields of study may include public health, health promotion, disability studies, disability research, rehabilitation engineering, audiology, disability policy, special education and majors that will impact quality of life of persons with disabilities. Applicants must provide a personal statement as well as two letters of recommendation. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Up to $1,000
Deadline: November 15

Mays Mission for the Handicapped Scholarship Program

Mays Mission offers scholarships to students with physical and/or mental disabilities who score 18+ on the A.C.T. or 870+ on the S.A.T. Applicants must be enrolled in a four-year undergraduate study program and must be able to document a significant disability. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies
Deadline: June 30

Chicago Injury Center’s Annual Scholarship Fund for Disabled Veterans

The Chicago Injury Center offers a scholarship for veterans who have suffered a physical or emotional injury. Applicants must write a 500+ word essay on the challenges they have had to overcome from their disability and how this has prepared them to succeed in their intended course of study. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: June 1

The Ability Center Scholarship

The Ability Center of Greater Toledo offers a number of scholarships totaling $20,000 to Toledo-area students with disabilities. Applicants must be individuals with disabilities who maintain a 3.0 G.P.A. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Awards vary, totaling $20,000
Deadline: March 31

M.C.E.C. Foundation for Exceptional Children Scholarship Program

The Michigan Council for Exception Children provides scholarships for students in the state of Michigan with disabilities who are no longer eligible for special education programs and services provided by public education. Awards up to $1,500 can support transportation, special equipment, tutoring, and/or tuition. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Multiple awards, up to $1,500 each
Deadline: April 12

Buckfire & Buckfire P.C. Disability Scholarship Program

Buckfire & Buckfire P.C. offers a scholarship for a college or university student with any type of disability. Applicants must submit a one-page essay describing how they overcame adversity caused by their disability, and what they learned from the experience. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: April 1

California-Hawaii Elks Undergraduate Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities

The California-Hawaii Elks Major Project, Inc. provides a number of scholarships to students who are residents of California or Hawaii who have a physical impairment, neurological impairment, visual impairment, hearing impairment, and/or speech-language disorder. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Awards vary, $1,000 to $2,000 each
Deadline: March 15

Thomas Loeb, M.D., Annual Scholarship Award

This scholarship is opportunity is for students with disabilities who are attending two- or four-year college, graduate school, medical school, or medical technology courses, such as medical billing, x-ray technology, or courses for other vocational medical careers. Applicants must submit an original graphic promoting the positive message of self-esteem, “Be Happy With Yourself”. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Two awards, $500 each
Deadline: June 30

Auger & Auger Disabled Scholar Award

Auger & Auger Attorneys at Law offer two $1,000 awards per year to disabled students pursuing an undergraduate degree. Applicants must write a 500-1,000 word essay on one of the following topics: overcoming their disability to do something extraordinary; how their college degree will contribute to their goals; or how their disability has made them unique. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: Two annually – July 31 and November 30

Gabriel’s Foundation of HOPE College Scholarship

Gabriel’s Foundation of HOPE offers several $500 scholarships to students who are living with a diagnosed disability, who desire to work in a field that will benefit people with disabilities or who have immediate family members living with a disability. Applicants must write a one-page essay explaining their career goals and why they want to further their education. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Multiple awards, $500 each
Deadline: Two annually – July 1 and November 1

Wells Fargo Scholarship Program for People with Disabilities

The Wells Fargo The Wells Fargo Scholarship Program for People with Disabilities is designed to help people with disabilities obtain the education or training necessary to succeed in the career path of their choice. Applicants must have an identified disability and be high school seniors or graduates planning to enroll in full- or half-time study at an accredited two- or four-year college or university for the 2017-18 academic year. The program will award two $2,500 renewable scholarships for full-time students and $1,250 scholarships for half-time students. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Multiple awards
Deadline: January 17th

> Scholarships for Physical Disabilities

1.800.Wheelchair.com Scholarship

This scholarship funds two $500 awards. Applicants must submit an essay and a visual poem (combined total 500-1,000 words) on the theme of overcoming a personal challenge, and must also maintain a 3.0 G.P.A. or higher. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Two $500 awards
Deadline: January 15

Karman Healthcare Scholarship Fund

Karman Healthcare offers two $500 scholarships for students with mobility disabilities. Applicants must submit an essay, poem or other presentation on how disability laws can be improved or changed. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Two $500 awards
Deadline: September 1

Mary Free Bed Guild Disability Scholarship

The Mary Free Bed Guild offers a scholarship to students with a diagnosed physical disability who are currently enrolled in or accepted to college or university and are a permanent resident of certain Grand Rapids-area counties. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies
Deadline: April 1

Silver Cross Scholarship Program

Silver Cross offers a scholarship for full-time college and university students using mobility equipment such as a power wheelchair, manual wheelchair, or mobility scooter. Applicants must submit a 500 word essay that describes how they have demonstrated leadership in their community or school environment, and how it helped them build their life skills. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,500
Deadline: December 15

Moseley Collins Auto Accident Survivor Scholarship

The Offices of Moseley Collins offers a scholarship to college students who have been sustained and recovered from serious injuries due to a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident or big rig accident. Applicants must write a 250+ word essay on their experience. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $500
Deadline: December 31

Marianjoy Scholarship Program

The Marianjoy Scholarship Program awards scholarships to students with permanent physical disabilities or functional impairments who are permanent residents of certain Illinois counties. Applicants must submit a personal profile stressing the nature of their disability, their career goals, and aspirations. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies
Deadline: Not currently available

> Scholarships for Autism

Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship for Autism

The Avonte Oquendo Memorial scholarship, sponsored by The Perecman Firm P.L.L.C. is open to high-achieving students who have been diagnosed with autism or have a family member that has been diagnosed with autism. Applicants must write a 500-1,000 word essay about one of a number of topics relating to autism. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: July 31

Autism Delaware Adults with Autism Scholarship

Autism Delaware offers a scholarship for adults with autism spectrum disorder who want to pursue a post-secondary education. To be eligible, one must have completed high school or earned a G.E.D., have been accepted into a post-secondary program, and submit a letter. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Multiple available, $1,000 each
Deadline: Not currently available

O.A.R. Scholarship Program

The Organization for Autism Research offers a number of scholarships to students across the autism spectrum. Students with an autism diagnosis who are pursuing full-time post-secondary education or vocational training are eligible. Applicants must apply online and answer three short essay questions. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Multiple available; awards vary
Deadline: Not currently available

 

> Scholarships for Health Conditions

Patient Advocate Foundation’s Scholarship for Survivors

The Patient Advocate Foundation provides scholarships to individuals under the age of 25 who have been diagnosed or treated for cancer, a chronic, or life threatening debilitating disease within the past five years.  Applicants must write an essay (1,000 word maximum) on how their diagnosis has impacted their life and future goals. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $3,000 annually for up to four consecutive years
Deadline: February 25

Baer Reintegration Scholarship Program

The Baer Foundation and the Center for Reintegration partner to offer a scholarship covering all or part of an education, ranging from G.E.D. to P.h.D., for persons currently receiving medical treatment of an illness including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder. Applicants must complete an application package including a form, essay, and recommendations. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies
Deadline: January 29

The Hydrocephalus Association’s Scholarship Program

The Hydrocephalus Association’s Scholarship Program provides financial assistance to capable and promising young adults living with the ongoing challenges and complexities of hydrocephalus. There are a number of different scholarships available in different categories. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies
Deadline: Applications accepted beginning January 1

> Scholarships for Hearing Impairments

T.P.A. Scholarship Trust for the Hearing Impaired

The Travelers Protective Association provides financial aid to people with deafness or hearing impairment. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies
Deadline: Quarterly – March 31, June 30, September 30 and December 31

Millie Brother Scholarship for Hearing Children of Deaf Adults

The Millie Brother Scholarship is an annual scholarship awarded to the hearing children of deaf adults pursuing undergraduate or graduate study. Students must submit a 2-page essay describing their experience with Deaf parents as well as their career aspirations. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies; average of two $3,000 scholarships given annually
Deadline: First Friday in April

Alexander Graham Bell College Scholarship Program

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing offers a number of scholarships for full-time students who are deaf and hard of hearing who are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. There are a variety of merit-based scholarships available in different categories for students who demonstrate academic excellence. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies
Deadline: Applications accepted beginning December 1

Graeme Clark Scholarship

The Cochlear Graeme Clark Scholarship is awarded to Nucleus Cochlear Implant recipients who are undertaking university studies. The scholarship is named for Professor Graeme Clark, whose research lead to the first “bionic ear” in 1978 and the first Nucleus Implant in 1982. Scholarship applicants must have a Nucleus Cochlear Implant, must be enrolled in a post-secondary institution, and must have a 2.5 G.P.A. or better. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $2,000 annually for up to four years
Deadline: September 30

Sertoma’s Scholarship for the Hard of Hearing or Deaf

Sertoma’s Scholarship for the Hard of Hearing or Deaf is available to students with clinically significant bilateral hearing loss for who are pursuing four-year college degrees in any discipline. Applicants must have a minimum 3.2 G.P.A. and submit an application including two letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: May 1

> Scholarships for Learning Disabilities

Gemm Learning Dyslexia Scholarship

This bi-annual scholarship is available to students with dyslexia who are attending college/university. Applicants must send in their story in the form of a 300-500 word essay on the topic “Living with Dyslexia.” Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $1,000
Deadline: Two annually – June 30 and December 15

The DREAM Institute H.E.A.P. Scholar Award Scholarship

The Disability Resources Educations Advocacy Motivation Institute’s Higher Education Assistance Program is an annual scholarship awarded to Oklahoma students with physical and/or learning disabilities who are transitioning into higher education at an Oklahoma state college or university. The scholarship can cover tuition, other fees, books, and dorm costs. The winner will also get to participate in an orientation workshop on what they will need to know and do to begin their post-secondary academic career. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies
Deadline: Not currently available

> Scholarships for Visual Impairments

National Federation of the Blind Scholarships

The National Federation of the Blind annually offers blind college students the opportunity to win one of thirty merit-based, national-level scholarships. All scholarships are based on academic excellence, community service, and leadership. Applicants must be legally blind in both eyes, a U.S. resident, and planning to pursue a full-time, postsecondary course of study in the U.S. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies; 30 scholarships available ranging $3,000 to $12,000
Deadline: Not currently available

Alamo Council of the Blind Scholarship

The Alamo Council of the Blind Scholarship Program aims to provide college assistance grants for academically qualified legally blind students seeking to pursue academic, professional, and/or technical-vocation careers. Applicants must write a 200-500 word autobiographical sketch outlining their goals, what they have done to achieve them, and how the scholarship can help them obtain those goals. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Award varies; $4,000 in total funds available
Deadline: July 15

The Arthur E. and Helen Copeland Scholarships

The United States Association of Blind Athletes offers the Arthur E. Copeland Scholarship annually to one male student and the Helen Copeland Scholarship annually to one female student. Applicants must be active U.S.A.B.A. members, legally blind, and enrolled full-time in a postsecondary institution. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $500 each
Deadline: July 31

The I.C. You Foundation Valor Achievement Awards

The U.S.A.B.A. and I.C. You Foundation Inc. together award the I.C. You Foundation Valor Achievement Awards to one male and one female athlete annually. Applicants must be legally blind, enrolled in a postsecondary institution, be a current U.S.A.B.A. member, and have a G.P.A. of 2.5 or higher. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $500 each
Deadline: July 31

Lighthouse Guild Scholarship

The Lighthouse Guild scholarship program aims to help outstanding and deserving legally blind students attend college and/or graduate school. Scholarships are based on strong academic accomplishments and merit. Applicants must provide proof of legal blindness and U.S. citizenship, send documentation of academic achievement and three letters of recommendation, and write two personal statements of 500 words or less on their educational and personal goals and the influence of an outstanding teacher. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: Multiple available; up to $10,000 each
Deadline: March 31

The McGregor Scholarship Program

The McGregor Scholarship Program was set up on behalf of Eudora F. McGregor to provide financial assistance for blind and visually impaired students in Iowa seeking postsecondary education. Applicants must submit a 300-500 word autobiographical sketch that explains their goals and how this scholarship award can help them achieve them. Click here to visit the official website and apply for this scholarship.

Amount: $2,500
Deadline: April 30

Step 3: Know Your Rights

Be sure to keep up-to-date about your rights as a student with a disability. The following represent key government legislation related to the education of students with disabilities, specifically relating to colleges:

Note: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Individual Education Program do not apply beyond secondary education.

FAQs for Students with Disabilities

To help you from feeling overloaded by the details of the above laws, we’ve put together a Q and A to break them down more simply:

What do the laws mentioned earlier mean for college students with disabilities?

Put generally, the A.D.A. and Section 5 0 4 protect students by ensuring institutions cannot discriminate on the basis of disability. The specifics cover admissions, programming (including extracurricular activities), housing, and other services. Overall, institutions must provide necessary adjustments or accommodations for students with disabilities who need them.

Which institutions do these laws apply to?

The A.D.A. applies to all public and private institutions, with the exception of those affiliated with religious organizations. Specifically, Title II of the A.D.A. relates to state-funded schools (including universities, community colleges, vocations schools, etc.), while Title III covers private colleges and vocational schools.

Section 5 0 4 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to any institution that receives federal dollars for any program or service – whether that institution is private or public.

Which students qualify for accommodations under these laws?

In order to receive academic or other accommodations from an institution, students must identify themselves to the institution as having a disability and may need to provide documentation. The laws protect those with physical, sensory and health-related disabilities, psychological disorders or attention disorders, and some learning disabilities – anything that might prevent the student from participating fully in the life of the campus community. Students are not required to inform colleges of their disability if they would prefer not to do so, but this means they will not be eligible for accommodations.

How do these laws affect college admission?

Post-secondary institutions covered under these laws may not deny admission to any qualified candidates on the basis of disability.

What are some of the accommodations post-secondary institutions must make?

These accommodations fall into a number of categories; some follow, with examples of each.

  • Architectural: Construction of new buildings must be accessibility-compliant; classes or programs must be relocated to an accessible building if necessary
  • Academic: Substitution of certain courses in programs; extended time for testing; early enrollment options
  • Communication-related: Interpreters, assistive listening systems, captioning, audio recordings, Braille and large print materials
  • Housing: Comparable, accessibility housing for students with disabilities must be provided at the same cost, quality, and variety as to other students

About This Guide

The Accessible Guide to Paying for College for Students with Disabilities was created by the college and careers experts at GoodCall.com. The purpose of this guide is to provide disabled students with comprehensive information about how to pay for college as well as scholarships and other information that is specifically helpful for students with disabilities.

This guide was built to accommodate the special needs of students with disabilities. The design, formatting and style were developed to be easily interpreted by students with visual, hearing and mobility disabilities. It was built to work with a broad range of assistive technologies.

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