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Scholarships & Financial Aid for Disabled Students

Grants, Student Loans, & Fellowships

Affording college seems to be the biggest obstacle for students wanting to further their education. As students with disabilities, the obstacles may seem even greater. But, they don’t have to be. Financial aid and scholarships are available for disabled students. It’s just a matter of finding the right one.

Most colleges and universities provide disability services as part of their student services. This is a great place to seek out potential scholarships and other financial aid specific to students with disabilities. And if the college or university does not offer financial aid for disabled students, they may be able to guide students to outside scholarship programs and other financial aid.

Disabled students should also work with the campus financial aid department to determine what financial aid opportunities are available. Most types of aid include grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and loans.

Where Disabled Students Can Find College Money

Federal and State Financial Aid

Like others, disabled students should look into federal and state financial aid to help pay for college. To be considered, 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. For this reason, it is important for students with disabilities to complete and submit a FAFSA. The deadline for state financial aid may differ from federal financial aid. Be sure to find out the all deadlines to ensure quicker approval. Aid provided by federal and state include grants, loans, work-study programs, and scholarships.

Scholarships Offered by Organizations

Besides federal and state aid, disabled students may also be eligible for a variety of scholarships especially geared toward students with disabilities. Types of disabilities include, but are not limited to, mobility, hearing, and visual impairments; speech impairments; food allergies; chronic illness; learning disabilities; severe anxiety and depression; and seizure disorders.

For outside scholarships, it is typically the student’s responsibility to seek these out; however, some colleges and universities with disability services departments may provide lists of scholarship options and other financial aid opportunities not offered by the institution.

Here are examples of scholarships for students with disabilities provided by various organizations:

Minnie Pearl Scholarship—awarded to disabled students with severe to profound bilateral hearing loss. This scholarship is renewable. Award amount is $2,000.

Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation (ELA)—scholarships are awarded to women with a disability who are attending graduate school. This is a merit-based award. Amount awarded ranges from $500 to $2,000 per year. Deadline for submission is June 1 of every ear.

Google Lime Scholarship for Students with Disabilities—awarded to disabled students studying computer science. Award amount is $10,000.

Science Graduate Student Grant Fund—this scholarship is sponsored by the Foundation for Science and Disability (FSD) and is awarded to undergraduate students with disabilities in their fourth year of school, who are accepted to graduate school in the sciences field. Graduate science students with disabilities may also apply for this scholarship. Award amount is $1,000.

George H. Nofer Scholarship for Law & Public Policy—awarded to full-time graduate student with moderate to profound hearing loss. Must be enrolled at an accredited law school or pursuing a doctoral or master degree in public administration or public policy. Deadline for application is March 1 of every year.

Scholarship for Students Hard of Hearing or Who are Deaf —awarded to students who have bilateral hearing loss. Award amount is $1,000 which can be used for tuition, books, and school supplies. Funds can be used for any term.

Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Scholarship —awarded to two high school students with learning disabilities pursuing undergraduate degrees. Amount awarded is $10,000 each student.

Anne and Matt Harbison Scholarship —awarded to a high school student with a language-related disability pursuing an undergraduate degree. Award amount is $1,500.

TPA Scholarship Trust —established by the Travelers Protective Association of America, this scholarship is awarded to individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired. Deadline is March 1 of every year. Award amount varies.

FAAN College Scholarship Essay Contest —sponsored by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, this scholarship awards college-bound high school students a limited number of $1,500 college scholarships.

National MS Society Scholarship Program —this college scholarship is awarded to students with MS or students whose parents have MS. Award amounts vary, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.

There are also several scholarships specific to students who have survived or are diagnosed with cancer:

Cancer Survivors’ Fund Scholarship —awarded to students who are cancer survivors or are diagnosed with cancer. Award amounts vary.

Andre Sobel Award—this scholarship is awarded to students residing in the United States who are survivors of cancer. For eligibility, students must submit a 1,500 word essay. Award amounts vary.

Matt Stauffer Memorial Scholarship —this scholarship is awarded to college students who are permanent residents or attending an educational institution in the states of Washington, D.C., Maryland, or Virginia, who have survived cancer. Award amount varies.


Students with disabilities can also apply for loans. Most institutions offer the Perkins Loan, and the Federal Stafford Loans, and the Federal Direct Loans. To be considered for these loans, a FAFSA must be completed and submitted.
Loans should be pursued as a last resort since they have to be repaid. Repayment typically begins six months after leaving school or graduating.

Points to Note about Financial Aid for Disabled Students

  • Check with the disability services department on campus for financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
  • Complete and submit a FAFSA for federal and state financial aid consideration. And, know your federal and state deadlines prior to applying.
  • When searching for financial aid opportunities online search ‘students with disabilities’ to locate outside scholarship programs.
  • Exhaust all other financial aid options before seeking loans. There are many scholarship programs for students with disabilities—extra research can ensure big rewards.

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