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Scholarships & Financial Aid for Latino Students

Grants, Student Loans, & Fellowships

The Latino ethnic group, also referred to as Hispanic, is the largest minority group in the United States. Individuals making up the Hispanic/Latino ethnic group include Puerto Rican, Mexican, South American, Cuban, and others.

Studies show that Latinos receive the least amount of federal aid compared to any other ethnic or minority group in the United States. Due to cultural or language differences, Latino Americans may be more likely to be unfamiliar with college entrance requirements and how to receive financial aid; therefore, they often fail to receive financial aid.

With the Latino population lagging in financial aid and on many campuses, some universities, like Oregon State University (OSU), are taking extra steps to ensure Latino representation. OSU has a dedicated group that recruits Latino students, and assists them while attending. The group provides support services, referrals, and organizes recruitment workshops on and off campus for college-bound Latino students.

There are many financial aid options available to students looking to further their education. And Latino students are no different. It is just a matter of seeking them out. Most universities and colleges offer Latino students a wide range of financial aid. Some aid options include grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and loans. In addition, many organizations offer scholarships, including those designed especially for individuals with Hispanic descent.

Where Latino Students Can Find College Money

With an abundance of financial aid options, where do Latino students begin to find the best aid for them?

Federal and State Financial Aid

First and foremost, students should look into federal and state financial aid to help defray the cost of college. To be considered for federal and state financial aid, students must complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form can be completed and submitted online at www.fafsa.ed.gov/ . The deadline to submit the FAFSA is usually June 30.

Once the FAFSA is submitted and reviewed for federal aid, it is automatically sent off for state financial aid approval, if funds are available. Therefore, it is important to complete and submit a FAFSA as soon as possible. Note that the deadline for state financial aid may differ from federal financial aid. Be sure to find out the deadlines to ensure quicker approval.

By submitting a FAFSA, Latino students may earn a federal or state grant, a scholarship, or a federal work-study opportunity. An example of a state-based grant offered is the Jose Marti Scholarship Challenge Grant Fund —this need-based merit scholarship is awarded to students of Hispanic origin who plan to further their education at a Florida public or eligible private institution. Award amount is $2,000.

Institutional Scholarships

Scholarships are free money students do not have to repay. However, they must apply for them. Latino students may qualify for a number of scholarships. Most colleges and universities offer need-based and/or merit-based scholarships to enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. There are general scholarships, athletic scholarships, academic scholarships, minority scholarships, and departmental scholarships available to Latino students.

Here are some examples of institutional scholarships especially designed for Latino students:

The University of Southern California’s Mexican American Alumni Association offers tuition assistance in the form of grants to students involved in the Hispanic community. Scholarships are awarded to graduate and undergraduate students to supplement their financial aid. Amount awarded to undergraduate students ranges from $500 to $3,500; while amount for graduate students ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.

Among the many scholarships offered at UCLA, there is one in particular designed for Latino students. The William M. Ortega Scholarship Fund is awarded to students of Mexican descent who also have a Spanish surname. Students must be able to speak and understand the Spanish language, demonstrate a financial need, and maintain good academic standing. Award amount varies.

Oregon State University offers the Diversity Achievement Award which is awarded to incoming freshmen and transfer students who are a member of an ethnic minority. Amounts awarded range from $1,000 to $8,000, and are renewable for up to four years.

Scholarships Offered by Organizations

In addition to institutional scholarships, Latino students may qualify for any of the many scholarships offered by organizations. Outside scholarships are a great supplement to a student’s financial aid package.

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) works together with other organizations to offer a number of undergraduate and graduate scholarships. Here are examples of some of the scholarships offered to Latino undergraduates:
HSF/Air Products Excellence in Engineering Scholarship Program —this program awards a $15,000 scholarship to two Hispanic students pursuing a major in chemical or mechanical engineering.

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program —this scholarship is awarded to minority students pursuing studies in math, engineering, science, public health, education, or library science. This is a very competitive scholarship with rigid requirements and deadline.

HSF/Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting Scholarship Program —this scholarship is awarded to outstanding Latino students studying accounting, business administration, finance, economics, or management at an accredited institution. Award amount ranges from $1,250 up to $10,000.

HSF/Wells Fargo Scholarship —this scholarship is awarded to Latino students pursuing a career in the financial and banking industry. Internship opportunities are also available. Award amount is $2,000.

Here are examples of graduate scholarships offered by HSF:
HSF/General College Scholarship —this scholarship is awarded to graduate students of Latino heritage in the amount ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

HSF/Atrisco Heritage Foundation Scholarship —this scholarship is especially designed for outstanding Latino students who are heirs of the Atrisco Land Grant in New Mexico. Award amount is $2,000.

HSF/Qualcomm Q Awards Scholarship —this scholarship awards $5,000 to Latino students studying computer engineering, computer science, or electrical engineering. Possible summer internship with Qualcomm.

Other outside scholarships include:
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute offers scholarships for Latino students who demonstrate strong civic participation, working with communities and participating in service-oriented activities. Award amount ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.

Dr. Raquel Ontiveros Memorial Scholarship—this nonrenewable scholarship is awarded to students residing in Saginaw County, Michigan who plan to attend a university or college in Michigan seeking a degree in Education. Students must be at least one-quarter Mexican American ancestry. Award amounts vary.

The Hispanic Scholarship Consortium offers a variety of scholarships, including general scholarship programs and specialized programs.


Most universities and colleges offer federal loans as another way for paying for college expenses. Loans are not free money. They have to be repaid. However, repayment does not begin until after graduating from college or leaving the college.

The two most common loans offered by most universities and colleges are:
Need-based loans such as the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan, and the Perkins Loan. Neither of these loans accrues while the student is enrolled in college.
Non need-based loans such as the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, and the Federal Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS).

Points to Note Regarding Latino Financial Aid

  • When searching for financial aid opportunities online be sure to include “minority scholarships;” oftentimes, sites use the general term “minority” which may include individuals of Hispanic descent.
  • Be prepared before filling out the FAFSA, and apply online for faster approval. Know your deadlines—both federal and state financial aid.
  • Exhaust all other financial aid options before looking into loans. There are many scholarships and grants for Latino students—a little research can bring many rewards.

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