Education is usually not free, especially if you’re pursuing an advanced computer science degree. But there are many options for those looking for financial aid to help them reach their computer education goals.
Three main categories of financial aid exist: loans, grants, and scholarships. The advantage of scholarships is that you don’t have to pay them back; the disadvantage is that there is stiff competition for most scholarships. Loans can be obtained from the federal government, as well as from some state governments. Student loans can be easier to get, but you have to pay them back, with interest. Grants are “free” — you don’t have to pay them back, but they often come with obligations, such as working for a specific company for a period of time.
Scholarships are available from a myriad of organizations. Some are subject-related, such as only for computer engineering students; others are specifically for minority or disabled students; and some are both subject- and demographically specific, such as for Hispanic students from Iowa studying computer science. Scholarships can be based on merit (good grades, for example, or active participation in a computer club) or on financial need.
The Robert Half Technology/AITP Scholarship awards up to $2500 to qualified students who are enrolled in an Information Technology program and who are student-members of AITP. The Foundation for Information Technology Education and many other organizations also offer information technology scholarships, some of them up to $10,000. Corporations, too, make money available to computer industry students. For example, Morgan Stanley offers IT scholarships, and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair provides about $4 million in prizes and scholarships each year. The military can also be a source of financial aid, such as scholarships offered by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.
Another good source of scholarships is BrainTrack, an organization that maintains a worldwide directory of colleges and universities online. BrainTrack scholarships (see www.braintrack.com/about-braintrack-scholarships.htm) are available for computer programmers, software application and systems engineers, information technology specialists, systems analysts, database and network administrators, and network analysts.
A good place to start when looking for financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and perform an online search for scholarships that apply to your situation. If you are already working, also investigate to see if your company offers tuition reimbursement or other assistance.
Last Updated: 04/26/2014