Public health is a growing field, with related occupations such as health educator, epidemiologist, and environmental scientist expected to grow in the coming years. Efforts to increase diversity in health professions for all Americans may increase the number of minority students interested in pursuing careers in public health. For minority students pursuing public health degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level, financing may be a concern.

The underrepresentation of minority students in higher education and public health, however, has increased the availability of financial aid and public health scholarships for minorities.

Many scholarships for minority students are open to students in any major, while there are several specific to public health majors. Professional organizations for public health minority students have useful resources related to scholarships, internships, policy, research, and job opportunities.

Scholarships for African American Public Health Students

Professional Organizations for African American Students

  • American Public Health Association – Black Caucus of Health Workers: The Caucus is an entry point into APHA for African-American public health professionals. It provides programs focused on public health issues related to people of color in the United States, such as poverty and access to healthcare.
  • National Association of Health Services Executives: NAHSE, founded in 1968, is a black healthcare executives association focused on improving the quality of healthcare services available to underserved communities and minorities. Student member can enjoy benefits such as conferences, networking, and the Young Healthcare Professionals Forum.
  • Black Mental Health Alliance for Education and Consultation, Inc.: BMHA's mission is to promote a culturally relevant approach to developing health programs and services for at-risk communities. BMHA provides patient referrals to members and educational events and trainings. Membership benefits include professional development and continuing education opportunities.

Scholarships for Hispanic and Latino Public Health Students

Professional Organizations for Hispanic and Latino Students

  • National Hispanic Health Foundation: NHHF focuses on improving the health of underserved communities and Hispanics. The organization supports current and future researchers and diversity in the healthcare workforce. Sponsored by NHHF, the Hispanic Health Professional Student Scholarship has awarded over $800,000 since its establishment in 2004.
  • Association of Hispanic Healthcare Executives: The AHHE works to increase the Hispanic community's access to healthcare, opportunities for Hispanic healthcare leadership, and provide professional development opportunities. Students can join for $25, and membership includes access to mentorship opportunities, local AHHE networking events, and job listings.
  • American Public Health Association – Latino Caucus for Public Health: Founded in 1973, this caucus within the APHA advocates for the Latino community's health interests and provides leadership opportunities for young public health professionals. Students can join for a discounted membership rate to receive updates about scholarships, job opportunities, paid internships, publications, and professional events.

Scholarships for Native American Public Health Students

Professional Organizations for Native American Students

  • National Indian Health Board: The NIHB provides services such as advocacy, research on Indian health issues, and training programs. They also raise awareness of Indian health issues. Students can find information on grants and requests for proposals, as well as related career opportunities.
  • Rural Health Information Hub: The RHI has information on rural health across America, as well as rural tribal health, with specific information on health disparities in tribal areas. There is a database of opportunities and funding for rural health issues, such as the Indian Health Service loan repayment program and workshops for Native American students applying to health professional school.
  • Indian Health Service: IHS administers a scholarship program for undergraduate and graduate students. Its mission is to raise American Indian health to the highest level and to ensure that health services are available and accessible. The IHS has information for patients and providers, and has a career opportunities page with a special section for students.

Scholarships for Asian and Pacific Islander Public Health Students

Professional Organizations for Asian and Pacific Islander Students

  • American Public Health Association – Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health: APIC promotes the health and equity of Asians and Pacific Islanders by linking to academic, research, and advocacy resources. Caucus membership is free and includes access to events and the listserv. At the APHA annual meeting, APIC hosts events for young professionals and students in public health.
  • National Council of Asian Pacific Americans: NCAPA is a coalition of 34 organizations devoted to Asian Pacific American interests, including health and scholarship related groups. The coalition was founded in 1996 and works to influence governmental policy for better representation. NCAPA provides resources on issues including health, education, and immigration on their website.
  • Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund: APIASF includes three scholarship programs and has donated $100 million in scholarships since 2003. In addition to scholarships, APIASF also provides mentorship opportunities and collects research on APIA students.

Scholarships for Undocumented Public Health Students

Professional Organizations for Undocumented Students

  • Pre-Health Dreamers: Founded by three undocumented youth, PHD supports undocumented pre-health students while also providing career resources and advocacy for the health of the undocumented community. Joining the listserv provides resources for job and internship opportunities, news, and PHD advocacy updates.
  • TheDream.US: The largest college access organization for Dreamers provides two scholarships, one for high school or community college graduates, and the other for students who live in states that do not offer in-state tuition to Dreamers.
  • United We Dream: United We Dream is the largest youth-led immigrant network in the United States, empowering young people to become active in their communities. The organization focuses on four areas: protecting immigrant youth, defending against deportation, education access, and LGBTQ immigrant justice and empowerment.

Types of Funding Available for Public Health Students

Scholarships

Scholarships are usually awarded based on academic credit and do not need to be paid back following graduation.

Many college and private scholarships might have minimum GPA requirements. Merit scholarships may also be awarded for athletic potential, community service, or leadership. Some minority scholarships are awarded based on work within that community.

Start your scholarship search early to see what's available, as applications often require letters of recommendation, which take time to acquire.


Grants

Grants also generally do not have to be repaid, but they are often need-based. There are two main types of grants: ethnic and nonethnic. Ethnic grants are awarded to students in certain minority groups. Nonethnic grants may be awarded to students with disabilities and women.

The most common federal grants include federal Pell Grants and federal supplemental educational opportunity grants. There are also state grants, which vary, and students should check their state's department of education for more information.

Work Study

Work study is a program that provides students with the chance to work and earn money while enrolled in college. The money does not have to be repaid because students earn it. Work study is usually available to undergraduate and graduate students.

The most common form of work study is federal work-study. Students should be paid directly, or they can request that the money they earn be applied towards their tuition or other fees. Employment is often on-campus.


Federal Student Loans

Loans, or money that is borrowed and paid back with interest, are often needed to help pay for the tuition that remains after a student receives scholarships and grants. Federal student loans are often preferred over private loans, because they offer flat interest rates and more repayment options.

The two main types of federal student loans are subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are based on financial need, and the amount borrowed cannot be more than your financial need. The government pays the interest while you are enrolled in school and for six months after graduation.

Unsubsidized loans are not based on financial need, and the amount borrowed is determined by the college based on the cost of attendance. However, you are responsible for all interest accumulated, and any interest not paid will be added to the principal balance.


Private Loans

Federal student loans have a maximum amount that a student can borrow, so they may need to turn to private loans for any remaining costs. Private student loans can be found at credit unions, online lenders, or at banks. Some of the advantages of private loans are that the processing time may be shorter and, because the interest rate varies, it may be lower than the interest rate for federal loans.

Private loans also come with some drawbacks. Rates may be higher than that of federal loans, and it may change once you have the loan. Private loans also require a credit check, so you may need a cosigner with good credit.


Filing the FAFSA

The FAFSA is a form that determines if students are eligible for federal financial aid, such as grants and loans. Colleges and states also use FAFSA results to award need-based aid.

Students can complete the form between October 1, 2017, and June 30, 2019, for the 2018-2019 academic year, and they must complete it every year. States and colleges may have their own application deadlines.

The amount of aid from the federal government is determined by subtracting your expected family contribution from the cost of attendance at your college.

The FAFSA is available in English and Spanish. Citizens and eligible noncitizens are eligible for federal student aid, but undocumented students are not eligible. To be eligible, students must also have a Social Security number or Alien Registration number and a high school diploma or GED.

Scholarship Application Tips

Additional Scholarship Resources for Public Health Students

  • FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is where students apply for federal loans and grants. There is also a link to the College Scorecard, where students can search for schools by program or location and learn information such as average costs, graduation rates, and the salaries of graduates.
  • Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health – Financing Your Degree: The ASPPH offers information on the impact of public health, various areas of study, and public health education. Education resources also include a page on financing a public health degree, with information about state and federal aid, tips and tricks, and a section on scholarships for minorities and underserved populations.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Fellowships, Internships, and Learning Opportunities: The CDC offers information about internships, fellowships, job opportunities, and education for students at all levels of higher education. They also offer a specific page on opportunities related to minority health, for minority students and students interested in working to promote health equity.
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the AHRQ's mission is to ultimately make healthcare safer, more equitable, and affordable. The organization offers information about healthcare programs and research, as well as funding and grants.
  • National Institute of Health Undergraduate Scholarship Program: The UGSP offers scholarship support, paid training, and employment at NIH after graduation. The scholarship is for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and provides a maximum scholarship of $20,000 per year for up to four years. Minority students who receive these public health scholarships must commit to training and employment at NIH. Applicants must be U.S. citizens with a minimum GPA of 3.3.