Finding Grants to Finance Your Education in Social Work
Social workers make an invaluable contribution to society. Social work crosses cultural and class lines as few other professions do. Social workers counsel individuals, families, institutions and communities. Most social workers specialize. Specializations include family and relationship counseling, medical social work, substance abuse counseling, and psychiatric counseling. Although students can stop with a Bachelors degree, most continue on to complete a Masters in Social Work (MSW), because this is the minimum degree required for clinical practice.
Grants and other funding intended specifically for social work students generally come from three sources:
- State agencies,
- Colleges and universities, and
- Professional associations and activist organizations
State Funding for Social Work Students
To address the chronic shortage of trained social services personnel, many states have instituted funding programs for students studying social work. Here are a couple of examples:
- he Workforce Shortage Student Assistance Grant from the Maryland Higher Education Commission is for students who plan on working in specific careers, including social work, upon graduation. It is available to high school students about to enter college, undergraduates, and graduate students. Visit their website at www.mhec.state.md.us/financialaid/ProgramDescriptions for more information.
- The Baccalaureate Child Welfare Education Program (BCWEP) is a consortium of undergraduate social work programs in New Jersey who are working in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. BCWEP provides a stipend and tuition to undergraduate social work students throughout New Jersey to support them during an internship year at the Division of Youth and Family Services. More information can be found at www.stockton.edu/~bcwep.
The best place to begin researching a state’s programs for social work students is the state’s higher education authority. A list can be found at http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list.cfm?category_ID=SHE.
College and University Grants for Social Work Students
Virtually any college or university that has a degree program in social work will have designated grants and scholarships for undergraduates and graduate students in the department. This funding may be through the central Financial Aid office or it may be through the department. Here are some examples:
- Wellesley College offers the Margaret Freeman Bowers Fellowship for graduating seniors or graduates of Wellesley for their first year of graduate study in selected fields, including social work. More information can be found at www.wellesley.edu/CWS/students.
- The School of Social Work at Arizona State University (www.ssw.asu.edu) offers a variety of funding opportunities for students pursuing a Bachelors or a Masters Degree in Social Work.
- Case Western Reserve University awards the Louis Stokes Grant to minority graduate students specializing in social work aimed at community development.
- The University of Nevada – Reno’s School of Social Work (http://hhs.unr.edu/sw) offers four scholarships to undergraduates and graduate students who have been admitted to the social work program.
- The School of Social Work at the University of Michigan has an impressive number of grants, scholarships and fellowships available to Masters and Doctorate level students. The lists are available at www.ssw.umich.edu/admissions.
Private Organization Funding for Social Work Students
The mission of most professional organizations includes educating the next generation of practitioners. For this reason, most of these organizations will have some funding programs for students. The following are some suggestions of places to start researching.
- The National Association of Social Workers is the largest membership organization for social workers in the world. Through its foundation (www.naswfoundation.org), it offers several grants and scholarships to Masters and Doctoral students.
- The Center for Clinical Social Work awards the Judith Holm Memorial Student Awards each year to MSW students in their final year of study. Details can be found at www.centersw.org/student-awards.html.
- The American Cancer Society offers a Masters Training Grant and a Doctoral Training Grant in Clinical Oncology Social Work. More information is available at http://www.cancer.org/Research/ResearchProgramsFunding/FundingOpportunities/IndexofGrants/
- The American Association of University Women funds dozens of grants, scholarships and fellowships each year to scholars and students in all fields of study. The funds may be used for individual research, academic study or community action projects that focus on issues of equity and education for women and girls. Their website is www.aauw.org.
Students should bear in mind that, depending on their area of specialization and interest, any organization that works on behalf of the disadvantaged or disabled could have an educational funding opportunity that is appropriate for a social work student.