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Heath Resource Center: Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities


See the HEATH Resource Center's Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities for an updated version of this guide.

Education beyond high school in the United States is optional but has become a necessary investment in future employment and life satisfaction for many people. Most, however, can't afford to make this investment without some outside monetary assistance in meeting the cost of postsecondary education. Over the years public and private sources of money have been developed specifically to provide that help for education. As increasing, but limited, amounts of money have become available, a standardized method of determining eligibility has evolved to promote equitable disbursement of student financial aid.

Financial aid is based upon a partnership between the student, parents, postsecondary educational institutions, state and federal government, and available private resources. For the student with a disability the partnership may be extended to include a Vocational Rehabilitation Agency and the Social Security Administration. Such a partnership requires cooperation of all, and an understanding by each of their responsibilities within the financial aid process.

Obtaining financial aid can be a complex process. Laws are frequently amended and eligibility requirements, policy, and disbursement of governmental funds change each year. As the costs of obtaining postsecondary education rise, keeping informed about changes in the financial aid system becomes imperative. This resource paper provides an overview of financial aid. It also discusses the roles and responsibilities of those who play a significant part in the process of providing aid to students with disabilities. The paper also addresses the financial aid application procedure, and suggests timelines and resources for those individuals seeking financial aid. The information in this paper was based upon the best available information at the time of publication in the fall of 1995 and reflects information for the 1996-1997 school year. The HEATH staff have prepared this resource paper for students, parents, and all professionals who assist students with disabilities to secure financial assistance for postsecondary education.

The discussion below covers the various types of financial aid, the technical words and phrases used to discuss it, and the process involved in its disbursement. Particular attention is given to those expenses which are considered disability related, and suggestions are made about ways in which some of those expenses may be met. There follows a brief description of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies, the services that they may provide, and the interaction between the state VR agency and the Financial Aid Office of a postsecondary institution. Finally, suggestions are offered about additional possibilities for financial assistance.

What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is designed to help individuals meet their educational expenses when their own resources are not sufficient. A student who believes that his own and family resources are not sufficient to pay for all the costs of attendance (tuition, room and board, books, transportation, campus activities, etc.) should apply for financial aid through the Financial Aid Office of the institution he or she plans to attend. Three types of aid are available:

  1. Grants -- Gifts and scholarships which do not have to be repaid

  2. Loans -- Money borrowed to cover school costs, which must be repaid (usually with interest) over a specified period of time (usually after the student has left school or graduated)

  3. Work -- Employment which enables a student to earn a portion of school costs during or between periods of enrollment.

The Federal Government contributes to all three types of student financial aid. These programs are explained in a booklet called The Student Guide: Financial Aid From the U.S. Department of Education. Free copies of this booklet may be obtained by writing Federal Student Aid Programs, Box 84, Washington, DC 20044 or by calling 800-433-3243 or 800-730-8913 (TTY). The programs described in the booklet are:

  1. Federal Pell Grants

  2. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)

  3. Federal Work-Study (FWS)

  4. Federal Perkins Loans

  5. Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) including:
    1. Federal Stafford Loans (subsidized and unsubsidized)
    2. Federal PLUS Loans

  6. Federal Direct Student Loans (FDSL) including:
    1. Federal Direct Stafford Loans (subsidized and unsubsidized)
    2. Federal Direct PLUS Loans

All of these programs are based upon financial need of the student, and his or her family, except the unsubsidized and PLUS loans. Although the PLUS and unsubsidized loan programs do not take into account any family contribution, neither can individually or combined, exceed the difference between the student's cost of attending a postsecondary institution and the student's other financial aid (including scholarships). Generally, a postsecondary school participates in either the Federal Family Education Loan Program or in the Federal Direct Loan Program. A student may not borrow both a Federal Stafford and a Federal Direct Stafford for the same period of enrollment, nor may a parent borrow both a Federal PLUS and a Federal Direct PLUS simultaneously for the same student. The terms and conditions of the FDSL programs mirror those of the FFEL programs, except that the FDSL programs carry additional repayment options. In fact, from the student's perspective, the FDSLP is very similar to FFEL, except that the federal government provides the loan capital, and the school executes many of the tasks previously performed by the private lender.

A new program of national and community service, authorized under the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, is also available. This program provides individuals age 17 and over the opportunity to earn education awards of $4,725 in exchange for full time service of at least two years in an approved program of community service. An individual is eligible to serve up to two terms and earn up to two education awards. Although this program was funded during 1995-1996, funding for 1996-1997 was uncertain at the time this brochure was written.

Some colleges, states, and other entities may also offer aid that is merit-based, which means that funds are provided to students without regard to financial need, if certain conditions (such as high grades) are met. The financial aid administrator at the school of your choice is the best resource for locating merit-based or any other financial aid resources for attending that school.

What is the Family Contribution?

The family contribution is the amount of money the family of a student is expected to contribute toward college expenses. The family includes the student and the student's parents in the case of a dependent student, or the student (and spouse if any) in the case of an independent student. The amount the family is expected to contribute is calculated by a standardized formula that takes into account the family's financial resources (income and assets), family size, and basic living expenses.

The calculation of the family contribution is based on information provided by the student's family on a standardized need analysis form. All students applying for Federal financial assistance are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There is no charge to the student or the student's family for the processing of this form or for determining the student's eligibility for Federal financial assistance.

There is one other type of FAFSA, the Renewal FAFSA. This document may also be used to apply for federal student aid but will be generated only for individuals who filed a FAFSA during the 1995-96 award year. The form will include preprinted information, spaces for corrections to that information, and specific questions that must be answered by all applicants.

Students who are also applying for non-Federal financial assistance from schools or from their State of residence may be required to complete an additional form, and the student may be required to pay a fee for processing the information on the additional form.

Since schools may have a preference for a particular form, it is advisable to check with the financial aid offices of the schools that you are interested in attending to determine which of the additional forms for non-Federal assistance they prefer.

The financial aid office can also tell you about the availability of State aid and whether an additional form is needed for the State aid. If you reside in a State other than the one in which the school is located, the school can tell you where to obtain this information for the State in which you reside. The financial aid office can either supply you with any additional forms needed to apply for State aid or tell you how to obtain that form.

Some students receive little or no financial support from their parents in order to enroll in a postsecondary education program, and the financial aid system recognizes this situation. A student may qualify as financially independent if he or she: is 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year (12/31/96 for the 1996-1997 award year); is a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States; will be a graduate or professional student for 1996-1997; is an orphan or ward of the court; is married; has legal dependents other than a spouse; or is a student for whom a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence by reason of other unusual circumstance.

The family contribution of an independent student is calculated based upon the income and assets of the student (and spouse, if married.)

What is the Cost of Attendance?

Each school must estimate the costs a student will reasonably encounter in order to attend that school. Cost of attendance will always include a figure for tuition and fees. Supplies needed for coursework are sometimes included in tuition, but more often books and supplies are estimated separately. Cost of attendance should also include estimates for living expenses, primarily room and board but also a moderate amount for personal and miscellaneous expenses. Cost of attendance is sometimes called cost of education, or student budget.

For students living in dormitories or other local housing, cost of attendance estimates should include transportation for trips between the student's home and the school at the beginning and end of the period of attendance as well as any breaks during which the school closes its housing facilities. For a student commuting daily from home, transportation includes a reasonable amount for commuting, usually using public transportation if it is available. Purchase of a car for commuting purposes may not be considered an educational-related cost, although upkeep of a car during the student's enrollment may be included.

In addition, costs related to a student's particular personal circumstances may also be included if they are incurred as a result of attending the school. For example, day care costs for students with dependent children should be considered when determining the cost of attendance. Expenses associated with a period of study abroad that is part of the student's educational program, or during a cooperative education experience may also increase a student's cost of attendance. Costs related to a student's disability may also be included under certain circumstances (see the subheading "What expenses are considered disability-related?"). A student who believes his or her costs are higher than the standard estimated by the school should ask to speak with the school's financial aid administrator.

Whether a student is taking classes on a full-time basis or part-time may also impact his or her cost of attendance. A student's "enrollment status" is usually measured as full-time, three-quarter time, half-time, or less than half-time. The actual definition of these measurements may vary at different schools, but federal rules establish certain minimum definitions that must be used when determining the amount of the student's federal financial aid. Although a school may increase the amount of work required to classify a student as full-time, the school may not reduce the federal minimum definition for any reason. However, a school may allow a student with unusual circumstances (such as a disability) extra time to complete his or her program, and may award financial aid during the extra terms or periods of enrollment.

The amount of tuition estimated for a student attending on a part-time basis is generally less than the amount charged for full-time attendance. The allowances for books and travel might also be less for a part-time student. Allowances for room and board and certain other costs are eliminated entirely for students who attend less than half-time. In addition to affecting a student's cost of attendance, part-time enrollment directly affects the maximum amount allowable under certain aid programs.

What is Financial Need?

The financial need of the student is the difference between the student's educational expenses and the amount of money the family is expected to contribute. In general terms, the formula to determine financial need is shown in the box below.

There is no guarantee, however, that any one institution will be able to meet the total financial need of a student, disabled or not.

   Educational Expenses
   Tuition, fees, books and supplies, room, board, transportation, personal 
   expenses, dependent care, expenses related to a disability; study abroad 
   costs; cooperative education costs. (Some expenses may not be considered
   in the determination of financial need. See the subheading
   "What expenses are considered disability-related?".)

   -  (Minus)

   Family Contribution              
   Amount family and/or student is expected to contribute toward cost of
   education (contribution from income or assets, social security
   benefits, welfare, etc.)

   =  (Equals)

   Financial Need
   May be met by financial aid package (See the subheading "What is a financial 
   aid package?".)

What is the Financial Aid Process?

The financial aid process is designed to serve equitably over 15 million applicants at more than 7000 postsecondary education institutions. The scope of the financial aid system requires that the application process be standardized. Describing special circumstances or needs, therefore, may require additional effort on the part of the applicant. Applicants who have special needs, such as disability related expenses, should express those needs to the aid administrator at the postsecondary institution. Because of the complexity of the system, however, they must take care to express those needs within the context of the system as explained below.

According to many directors of financial aid, taking care to be early and accurate in applying for aid are the most important steps in the financial aid process. However, completing the financial aid application form requires you to report actual or estimated income tax information well in advance of the April 15th Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax filing deadline. Having this information available several months before a family usually prepares the income tax form calls for advanced planning. Campus financial aid administrators suggest that a family complete or estimate the tax information in time to complete the FAFSA and any additional non-Federal forms by the announced deadline. If the actual IRS tax information is different from the estimate, send an amended report when it is available to the financial aid administrator rather than delay sending the form in the first place. If an individual's aid information is not processed and forwarded to the appropriate schools by January or February, institutional processing deadlines may be missed and the student may lose priority for financial aid. If the family mistakenly reports only the taxes withheld on the W-2 form and not the complete tax information from the 1040 and other IRS forms, corrections must be made by the family, causing unnecessary additional delay. Students and their families should be aware that because aid application deadlines may vary from school to school and may call for differing information, a very early and accurate preparation is necessary so that all deadlines can be met with appropriate information.

It is also important to note that students must reapply every year.

What is a Financial Aid Package?

A financial aid package is a combination of financial aid resources (grants, loans, work) put together by the college financial aid administrator and designed to meet, as closely as possible, a student's individual financial need. The amount and types of assistance in a package depend on the cost of attendance at a particular institution, the student's need, availability of funds at the institution, and funds available from outside sources. Thus, a student may be offered two different financial aid packages if he or she applies to two different schools. It pays for a student to shop around and compare not only the dollars offered, but also the composition of the financial aid package each institution offers. The following examples illustrate different packages of financial aid which a student might be offered at two different schools: School A which costs $5,000 to attend and School B which costs $10,000.

						   SCHOOL A     SCHOOL B

   COST OF ATTENDANCE                               $5,000       $10,000

   FAMILY CONTRIBUTION                              $1,000       $ 1,000
   Need for Financial Aid                           $4,000       $ 9,000
     (cost minus family contribution)

     Federal Pell Grant                             $1,100       $ 1,100
     Federal Campus-based Aid                       $1,500       $ 3,000
       (FSEOG, Work-Study, Perkins)
     Aid from Institution                           $  400       $ 2,000
     Federal Stafford Loan                          $1,000       $ 2,500

   Total Financial Aid                              $4,000       $ 8,600

   Total Unmet Financial Need                       $    0       $   400
      (to be met from outside sources;
      additional family contribution, FFEL, FDSL
      loans for parents or students, local/
      disability-specific scholarships, etc.)

Note: The aid amounts are for illustration purposes only and do not necessarily reflect actual amounts from campus to campus. However, it costs twice as much to attend School B as School A.

In the examples above, School B offers $8,600 this year whereas School A offers less than half of that. In fact, if the student chooses School B, he must find $400 more than the expected family contribution. On the other hand, School B may have the academic program of choice and necessary support services. Thus, the student may believe that in the long run, School B is the right choice.

In addition to comparing the total dollars offered in aid by each school, however, students need to consider level of indebtedness, terms of repayment, and the school's policy on how the aid packages are constructed in subsequent years. Students, their families, financial aid personnel, and, where relevant, rehabilitation counselors of students with disabilities are concerned about what level of indebtedness a student can reasonably repay upon completion of education. Often career choices determine (or are determined by) level of indebtedness from loans and terms of repayment of financial aid loans.

From year to year financial aid administrators may vary the combination of grant, loan, and work-study money in a student's aid package, emphasizing loans for freshmen and work-study or scholarships in later school years -- or the other way around. There might not be a uniform policy on financial aid package combinations over time. It is definitely appropriate to ask the financial aid administrator what the school's policy is beyond the first year of study.

What Expenses are Considered Disability Related?

The student with a disability is often faced with additional expenses not incurred by other students. These may include:

  • special equipment (related to the disability) and its maintenance;

  • expenses of services for personal use or study such as readers, interpreters, notetakers; or personal care attendants;

  • transportation necessary to pursue an academic program, if regular transportation is not accessible;

  • medical expenses relating directly to the individual's disability that are not covered by insurance.

Students should be sure to inform the aid administrator of disability-related expenses that may previously have been covered by the family budget. These may include food and veterinary bills for dog guides, batteries for hearing aids and a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) [now called a Typed Text or TTY], or the cost of recruiting and training readers or personal care attendants.

Often, leaving home necessitates the purchase of new or additional equipment that will allow the student to be independent at school. For example, the student's secondary school may have furnished an adapted computer or other disability-related equipment necessary for use in school, but that equipment belongs to and remains at the high school after the student graduates. Students with disabilities should seek assistance from the Office of Disability Support Services and/or Financial Aid Office to determine disability-related expenses.

Once these expenses are identified students should provide the financial aid administrator with documentation of any disability-related expense which is required to ensure attainment of the student's educational goal. Depending upon the institution, documentation may be simply a written statement of explanation by the student or an official statement by a doctor or Vocational Rehabilitation counselor. To be certain, the student should check with the Financial Aid Office.

Some of the special equipment and support services may be available at the postsecondary institution, through public and private community organizations, the state Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, or organizations of and for people with disabilities. The student should check with the Student Services Personnel, 504 Coordinator, or Office of Disability Support Services at the postsecondary institution. Probably the most valuable resource to a new student is the network of students with disabilities already on campus. Disabled students who have had similar experiences and similar needs are likely to have practical advice and low-cost solutions to problems that students with disabilities frequently meet.

Regardless of whether the student is able to obtain any special equipment or services through the institution or elsewhere, it is still important to let the financial aid administrator know of any anticipated expenses. Such information is considered in the determination of the student's financial need, on which all aid decisions are based. It is also important to understand that disability-related expenses that are covered by other assisting agencies cannot also be covered by financial aid from the school.

How Does Vocational Rehabilitation Fit into the Financial Aid Process?

Assistance to students with disabilities is often provided by state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies. In some states there are two agencies: a general agency and one for persons who are blind or visually impaired. In other states, there is one agency serving all persons with disabilities. State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency titles vary from state to state, and thus may be hard to locate in the telephone directory. You may contact a state education agency, public library, or Governor's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities for the telephone number and address of your local VR agency.

The local Vocational Rehabilitation Agency has VR counselors who can help a person with a disability determine eligibility for assistance. The VR program is an eligibility program, rather than an entitlement program. To be eligible for services, an individual must have an impairment that results in a substantial impediment to employment and can benefit from and requires VR services for employment. The primary goal of a VR counselor is to assist the client in becoming employed; therefore, the counselor will look closely at a student's educational plans in terms of job potential. While initial counseling and evaluation are open to all, the counselor may determine that a client is not eligible for other services based on State Agency policies governing economic need, order of selection, and other policies of the agency.

Among the services that may be provided by VR Agencies to a student who is a client are:

  • Tuition expenses

  • Reader services for persons who are blind or learning disabled and interpreter services for people who are hearing impaired; individually prescribed aids and devices, which are authorized in advance in an Individualized Written Rehabilitation Program (IWRP) developed jointly by the client and the counselor

  • Telecommunications, sensory, and other technological aids and devices

  • Other goods and services, which help render an individual who is handicapped employable.

The above items may differ from state to state, or be subject to a test of a client's ability to pay or the use of available resources from another social service agency before a commitment of VR funds is made. To understand why there are differences among and between states' VR programs, one needs to know that the U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) administers the Rehabilitation Act, but each participating state administers its own program through the provisions of a state plan which has been developed under the guidelines of the Act and which has been approved by RSA. For additional information request Vocational Rehabilitation Services -- A Postsecondary Student Consumer's Guide from HEATH.

Is There Coordination Between the Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies and the Financial Aid Offices?

Most states have developed working agreements between state associations of financial aid administrators and Vocational Rehabilitation administrators. These agreements, while not legally binding, allow for a coordinated effort in providing funds for students with disabilities in participating states. The agreement, or memorandum of understanding, establishes the process a VR agency and postsecondary educational institution should follow in determining the aid to be granted to the VR client/student. Students served by VR are required to apply for student financial aid under the guidelines of the Vocational Rehabilitation/Financial Aid Cooperative Agreements discussed below.

Through standardized information exchange forms, the two offices (VR and Financial Aid) are kept abreast of what the other is doing. The process is not a simple one; it takes time and requires a constant determined effort by both offices and the student. Often a student's aid package is recalculated several times as any new information is provided by either office.

The best advice for a student with a disability in the quest for financial assistance is to contact both the VR agency where the student is a client and the financial aid office of the institution that the student plans to attend as early as possible to be sure to meet both their deadlines. The institution will determine the student's eligibility for student financial assistance and develop an award package. Meanwhile, VR will also determine the student's additional disability-related needs, and, if possible, award funds. Whatever is not covered by the VR Agency can be recalculated by the institution into the student's expenses and, if funds allow, the student's aid increased. Even with excellent cooperation between the financial aid administrator and the Vocational Rehabilitation counselor, there still may be remaining need for additional family contribution or loans.

Is Financial Aid Available for Graduate Study?

The increasing importance of graduate or professional study as part of the educational process has caused concern over the availability of funds for graduate study. After a student completes an undergraduate degree program, he or she is no longer eligible for certain sources of federal and state funds. Other programs may serve graduate students, but only after all undergraduates have been served. Because there is the expectation of employability after completion of a technical, community college, or undergraduate degree program, state VR agencies may be reluctant to fund graduate studies. Students who are pursuing a second bachelor's degree may also find difficulties in obtaining funding unless exceptional circumstances warrant a second degree. Many students, therefore, use the traditional routes of institutional scholarships in the field of study, part-time or alternate semester employment, loans, savings, assistantships, and family contribution as the primary routes to the graduate degree.

Are There Other Possible Sources for Financial Assistance?

Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal program set up to provide financial assistance to persons who are aged, blind, and disabled who have little or no income and resources. The amount of SSI payment is dependent upon the income and resources of the client. (If the student is under l8, some of the parent's income and resources will be included.) The student should be aware that earnings from work-study or other work may affect SSI benefits. If the Social Security Administration approves a Plan for Achieving Self Support, the student would be able to set aside income and resources that are being used toward a specific vocational goal (tuition, savings for equipment or other needs) and continue to receive SSI payments. Plans can be developed by Vocational Rehabilitation counselors, public or private social agencies or groups, anyone assisting the student, or by the student. For more information regarding SSI and the Plan for Achieving Self Support contact the local Social Security Administration office.

Social Security Benefits
The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program allows workers and eligible dependents to receive monthly cash benefits because of a period of disability. A student who has been employed, may file based on his or her own work record. If the parents of a student with a disability have filed for Social Security or if a parent is deceased, the student may also qualify for dependents' benefits based on the parent's work record. For further information on the student provisions and eligibility requirements of the various Social Security programs, contact the local Social Security Administration office.

Talent Search, Educational Opportunity Centers, and Special Services for Disadvantaged Students
Talent Search and Educational Opportunity Centers are federally funded programs located at various sites across the country. Some are part of a postsecondary institution and some have been established as part of a private or public organization. These programs were set up to provide counseling and other services to disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. One of the responsibilities of the program is to help place students and sometimes help to negotiate financial assistance for students with the postsecondary institution. Many colleges also have federally funded programs of services for disadvantaged students, including students with disabilities. These programs provide some services, academic assistance, and may provide financial assistance as well. Because each program is individualized to a specific campus, check with the campus of your choice to determine if there is a Special Services Program, and what services are offered.

For more information on the location of Talent Search, Educational Opportunity Centers, and Special Services Programs, contact Division of Student Service, 1250 Maryland Avenue, SW, Portals Bldg, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20202-5249.

State Programs
Most states now have some form of student assistance. These programs vary by state. To find out the details of state grants and loans students should contact their high school counselor or college financial aid administrator.

Private Scholarships
A variety of unique situations, which may have nothing to do with disability, may make a student eligible for private scholarships. They may include parents' place or type of work, military experience, ethnic background; student's career goals; religious affiliation; extracurricular activities, etc. Such scholarships may be researched by purchasing or borrowing books about financial aid from a school or public library. Several of these are mentioned in the bibliography at the end of this paper. There are very few scholarships available for persons whose unique situation is disability. Since there is not a central list of scholarships for students with disabilities, HEATH staff has surveyed organizations and foundations across the country and developed a listing of organizations which do provide scholarships for persons with particular disabilities. Note that the amount of money from one of the disability scholarships may be token and ceremonial rather than substantial. Disability organization scholarships are generally $500 to $1000 per year.

In general, the best resource for all students, including those with disabilities, is the financial aid administrator at the colleges being considered. The financial aid administrator has been trained to understand and explain the complex system of Financial Aid. In addition, the financial aid administrator will be familiar with local, state, and private sources of funding, and able to tie these together with institutional resources to create the most advantageous financial aid package for the student.

However, any problems encountered in applying to a school, or in completing the financial aid application in a thorough and timely manner, could adversely effect the quality of any financial aid package for which a student may be eligible. Students may apply to and "shop" among several colleges for the most advantageous combination of academic excellence and financial aid available. Due to the lead times involved in the college/financial aid process, "smart shoppers" will begin the process of looking for a school, and preparing to apply for financial aid up to two years in advance of high school graduation.

The International Kiwanis Club recommends checking with local Kiwanis organizations to see if they offer scholarships. To find the number of the local chapter, call (317) 875-8755.

The Elks Grand Lodge in Winton, NC may be contacted for scholarships at (919) 358-7661.

Local chapters of the Rotary Club offer scholarships for overseas study. Call (202) 638-3555 for more information.

The Lions Club International may be contacted at (708) 571-5466 to find the telephone number for the District Governor in your area.

Another possible source of funds may be the National Association of American Business Clubs at PO Box 5127, High Point, NC 27262, (919) 869-2166.

Scholarship Search Services
Entrepreneurs in many cities have established scholarship search services businesses which have information about thousands of scholarships nationwide and which provide -- for a fee -- lists of those appropriate for individual clients. These services usually charge a fee ranging from $50 to $85, and can be found in the yellow pages or from a long distance information operator in various large cities (San Francisco, New York, Houston and others) under names such as Scholarship Information Service or Scholarship Search. As with any other service for which there is a fee, callers should request a written list of exactly what they will get for their investment and what has been the experience of the business in identifying scholarships for students with disabilities. In a telephone survey of such places in several cities, HEATH staff found that some are computerized, others are operated by individual researchers. None of the computerized search services contacted had specific descriptors for handicaps; thus the computer cannot list scholarships specifically intended for students with general or specific disabilities. The computer will, however, list funds available to students by geographical area, interest, school attending, professional, civic, or religious affiliations. Most of these services do not have a large database of disability-related information, but could prove a useful resource for some students. They often offer assistance (for an additional fee) in college selection and preparation of the financial aid application. The National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students offers a scholarship search for $35 to any student. Contact NSSFNS, 250 Auburn Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Atlanta, GA 30303. (404) 577-3990.

NOTE: High school guidance departments are often able to do computerized searches of this nature at no cost to students. Students should inquire about a computerized scholarship search at their own school.

Foundation Center
The Foundation Center with headquarters in Washington, DC and New York and cooperating collections in nearly 100 cities across the country can provide names of private foundations which donate money for particular activities or causes. The Foundation Center has a volume of listings called Foundation Grants for Individuals arranged in broad categories. It can be used there or purchased for $65 + $4.50 s/h. To find the address of the nearest cooperating collection call (800) 424-9836 toll free. (No information other than address can be given over the telephone.)

Selected Resources

Toll Free Number (800) 433-3243 / (800) 730-8913 (TTY) may be used by seekers of federal student financial aid information. Toll free calls from all 50 states and Puerto Rico can be made from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST Monday through Friday. Callers will receive a recorded message and will be asked to remain on the line if they need additional information or if they have a specific question. Inquirers to HEATH and HEATH staff report that the toll free service provides useful information and is staffed by knowledgeable people.

The Student Guide: Financial Aid From the U.S. Department of Education (1996-1997) is a Department of Education booklet which describes the federal student aid programs. The booklet is widely available in school and public libraries or can be ordered free by writing Federal Student Aid Programs, Box 84, Washington, DC 20044 or by calling (800) 433-3243.

Applying for Financial Aid is a four page newspaper developed by the American College Testing Service which covers the basic information which students and parents need to know. Sample calculations are provided as are sources of financial aid. Applying for Financial Aid is available in college financial aid offices or can be obtained by requesting it in writing from ACT-91, PO Box 168, Iowa City, IA 52243 or by calling (319) 337-1615.

Don't Miss Out: The Ambitious Student's Guide to Financial Aid (1994-95) is one of many new special focus guides produced regularly by Octameron Associates. This 120 page book is full of useful strategies, helpful hints and good solid planning information as well as information on the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Bill, and includes a brief section about students with disabilities. Others in the series cover academic scholarships, college grants, loans, cooperative education opportunities, admissions, campus visits, and transition from high school to college. Don't Miss Out is available by prepaying $9.50 postage paid to Octameron Associates, P.O. 2748, Alexandria, VA 22301. You can also request a brochure describing the whole series.

Paying For College: A Guide for Parents (1994), by Gerald Krefetz for The College Board, incorporates the 1986 Tax Reform Act regulations to provide parents with practical advice. The 154 page book covers a range of sound financial management strategies for saving, investing, borrowing, and establishing credit for parents of teenagers as well as young children. There is an extensive glossary to clarify financial terms, appendixes providing an individual tax table, a gift tax table, an income tax rate chedule for trusts, and information on interest rates and yields. Available by paying $14 plus $3.95 handling charge to College Board, College Board Publications, Box 886, New York, NY 10101-0886.

Need A Lift? To Educational Opportunities, Careers, Loans, Scholarships, Employment (annual edition) is a publication of the American Legion covering sources of financial aid and the financial aid process. Special emphasis is given to programs for children of deceased or disabled veterans, but is designed to be of service to all students. The 120 page booklet contains sources of scholarships, cooperative education programs, and sources of career information. Available for $3 from American Legion National Emblem Sales, PO Box 1050, Indianapolis, IN 46206, attn: Need A Lift.

The College Financial Aid Emergency Kit (1995-1996), by Joyce Lain Kennedy and Dr. Herm Davis, while not disability specific at all, is one of the clearest and most useful small booklets available on the subject of utilizing the regular financial aid system to full advantage. Basic terms are defined and needs for money immediately, soon, and in the future are addressed. Kennedy and Davis, who are especially experienced in clarifying all aspects of financial aid, describe ten steps to simplify the application process, alternative strategies for financing a college education, and numerous borrowing tips. Locating scholarships, grants, and other gifts are described as are several save-ahead plans for those who have a few years before the actual college or graduate school dollars are to be spent. A realistic list of suggested reading concludes this 40 page booklet. Available only by mail for $5.50 from Sun Features, Inc., Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007 (include a self-addressed stamped envelope with 55¢ postage).

Financial Aid for the Disabled and Their Families (1996-98), by Gail Ann Schlachter and R. David Weber, promises to inform readers about the 900 programs that have been established just for the disabled or members of their family. The book is a useful and comprehensive resource for librarians and counselors, but the book promises more than it really delivers. The book is well organized for use since it has chapters about financial aid for people with specific disabilities, and there are sections of each chapter for both undergraduate and graduate education but entries are double and triple counted so as to inflate the total number of scholarships and other aids included. The book is available for $38.50 plus $4.00 for shipping and handling from Reference Service Press, 1100 Industrial Road, Suite 9, San Carlos, CA 94070 or call (415) 594-0743.

The Big Book of Minority Opportunities (1995), edited by Willis L. Johnson, lists employment opportunities, financial aid sources, and career information services for members of minority groups. Although the volume is not specifically for those with disabilities, HEATH staff suggests that some of our many callers who ask about financial aid may find it an important resource. This well-organized directory lists over 4,000 general sources of financial aid. Programs cited include scholarships, fellowships, and loans for college study; job training and retraining activities; summer employment and internship options; occupational information and career guidance assistance; and employment skills banks and talent bank services. Most programs listed are open to minority group members. Available by paying $35.00 to Garrett Park Press, P.O. Box 190A, Garrett Park, MD 20896 or by calling (301) 946-2553.

Financial Aid for Graduate & Professional Education (1993), by Patricia McWade, is a 14 page pamphlet which provides a comprehensive overview of the topic. How and when to apply, determining financial need, types of aid available, aid for special groups (although not very much information about disability), debt management, and consolidation are some of the topics covered. Contact information about related resources are included. Available by prepaying $2.35 + $1.00 s/h to Peterson's, P.O. Box 2123, Princeton, NJ 08543-2123. 800-EDU-DATA (800-338-3282).

Financing Graduate School (1993), by Patricia McWade, answers the most frequently asked questions about financial aid for graduate school. Topics include aid eligibility, loan jargon, and information on tax laws pertaining to student loans. Available by prepaying $15.95 + $5.75 s/h to Peterson's, P.O. Box 2123, Princeton, NJ 08543-2123. 800-EDU-DATA (800-338-3282).

Grants for Graduate & Postdoctoral Study (1995), fourth edition, lists and fully describes a diverse collection of over 1,400 scholarships and grants usable at the graduate level for the study of nearly every discipline. This well-indexed guide provides practical tips as well as specific details about each award. Available in libraries or may be ordered by prepaying $89.95 + $9.75 s/h from Peterson's, P.O. Box 2123, Princeton, NJ 08543-2123. 800-EDU-DATA (800-338-3282).

Scholarship and Financial Aid Resources

Scholarships specifically designated for students with disabilities are extremely limited. Students are urged to read the publications listed in the Selected Resources section of this paper and to pursue the scholarships available for qualities other than disability. Listed below are organizations which offer the few disability specific scholarships that have come to HEATH staff attention.

Alexander Graham Bell Association of the Deaf
3417 Volta Place, N.W.
Washington, DC 20007-2778
(202) 337-5220 (voice/TTY)
(limited to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing)

American Council of the Blind
1155 15th Street, N.W., Suite 720
Washington, DC 20005
(800) 424-8666 (3:00-5:30 p.m. EST) or (202) 467-5081
(limited to individuals who are blind or visually impaired)

American Foundation for the Blind
11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
(800) 232-5463 or (212) 502-7661

Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
206 North Washington Street, Suite 320
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 548-1884

Bridge Endowment Fund
Scholarship Office
National FFA (Future Farmers of America) Center
P.O. Box 15160
Alexandria, VA 22309-0160
(703) 360-3600

Blinded Veterans Association
477 H St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-2694
(800) 669-7079
(202) 371-8880
(for children and spouses of blinded veterans)

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Personnel Representative Undergraduate Scholar Program
P.O. Box 12727
Arlington, VA 22209-8727
(703) 482-0677

Chairscholars Foundation, Inc.
"Doc" and Alicia Keim
Silver Dollar Ranch
17000 Patterson Road, Unit #38
Odessa, FL 33556
(813) 920-2737
(limited to high school seniors and college freshmen who are confined
to a wheelchair)

Council of Citizens with Low Vision (CCLV)
6511 26th Street, West
Bradenton, FL 34207
(800) 733-2258
(941) 755-3846

Electronic Industries Foundation (EIF)
919 18th Street, N.W., Suite 900
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 955-5836 (TTY) 
(202) 955-5814 
Contact Marcie Vorac
(limited to students who are preparing to enter a technical or
scientific field supporting electronic industry) 

Foundation for Exceptional Children
1920 Association Drive
Reston, VA 22091
(703) 620-1054

Foundation for Science and Disability, Inc.
Richard Mankin, Grants Committee Chair
503 NW 89 Street
Gainesville, FL 32607-1400
(limited to graduate students or seniors accepted to graduate or
professional school who have a disability and are seeking a graduate degree
in science, mathematics, computer science, medicine, or engineering.)

The Geoffrey Foundation
P.O. Box 1112
Ocean Avenue
Kennebunkport, ME 04046
(207) 967-5798
(limited to students who are deaf or hard of hearing)

Graduate Fellowship Fund
Gallaudet University Alumni Association
Alumni Office
Gallaudet University
800 Florida Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 651-5060 (Voice/TTY)
(limited to Ph.D. students who are hearing impaired)

Immune Deficiency Foundation
25 West Chesapeake Avenue, Suite 206
Towson, MD 21204
(800) 296-4433
(limited to students with primary genetic immune deficiency)

Jewish Braille Institute of America
110 E. 30th Street
New York, NY 10016
(212) 889-2525
(offered to students who wish to become rabbis, cantors or Jewish educators)

La Sertoma International
1912 E. Meyer Boulevard
Kansas City, MO 64312
(913) 492-3116
(limited to graduate students who are preparing to assist people who are blind)

Lighthouse, Inc.
111 E. 59 Street
New York, NY 10022
(212) 821-9559
(limited to legally blind students who attend schools & have legal
addresses in one of these states: NY, NJ, CT, PA + New England States)

National Association of the Deaf
Stokoe Scholarship 
814 Thayer Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 587-1788 (voice)
(301) 587-1789 (TTY)
(limited to graduate students who are deaf or hard of hearing)

National Captioning Institute, Inc.
Dr. Malcolm J. Norwood
Memorial Award Panel
1900 Gallows Road, Suite 3000
Vienna, VA 22182
(703) 917-7600 (Voice/TTY)
(limited to students who are deaf and hard of hearing studying for
careers in communication and/or media technology) 

National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314

National Hemophilia Foundation
110 Greene Street
New York, NY 10012
(800) 42-HANDI

National 4-H Council
7100 Connecticut Avenue
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
(301) 961-2800

Parke Davis Epilepsy Scholarship Award
c/o IntraMed
1180 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
attn: John Bayliss
1-800-292-7373 (1-800-AWARD-PD)
(limited to students with epilepsy who are pursuing a college education)

The President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities
1331 F Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 376-6200

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic
20 Rozelle Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 452-0606
(limited to students who are blind and/or visually impaired or who
have learning disabilities)

Spina Bifida Association of America
4590 MacArthur Boulevard, NW, Suite 250
Washington, DC 20007
(800) 621-3141 
(202) 944-3285

Venture Clubs Student Aid Award and Venture Clubs of Americas
Handicapped Student Scholarship
210 Center Plaza
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1883
(215) 557-9300

Very Special Arts Young Soloists Program
Education Office
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC 20566
(202) 628-2800
(202) 737-0645 (TTY)
(limited to students ages 25 and under studying selected musical instruments)

Colleges and universities may offer specific scholarships for students with disabilities. Students should contact the Finacnial Aid office at each school to which they are applying to find out about such disability-related aid. In addition, students and counselors may consult the Directory of College Facilities and Services for People with Disabilities, Fourth Edition (1996). This Directory is published by The Oryx Press, 4041 North Central at Indian School Road, Phoenix, Arizona 85012-3397. The 423 page Directory contains an Index of Institutions which offer special financial aid programs. Libraries and guidance/counseling offices may wish to purchase this Directory, which is available for $115.00 from the publisher.

Pre-College Financial Aid Checklist

During the Junior year of High School

  • Complete the college pre-selection process.
  • Investigate financial aid opportunities with your high school counselor.
  • Write to college(s) of your choice for application and financial aid forms.
  • Begin the application process with Vocational Rehabilitation and/or Social Security.
  • If you are involved in Special Education services at your high school, be sure that your Individual Transition Plan (ITP) includes your academic and vocational goals.
  • Collection information and document expenses for completing the financial aid forms.
During the Senior year of High School
  • Obtain the appropriate financial aid form for the schools to which you are applying from your high school counselor. Using the expense information collected during the last year, and the current year's estimated income tax information, complete the form.
  • Mail the appropriate financial aid form as soon as possible after January 1, since forms postmarked before then do not count. (Be sure to check application deadlines for each school to which you plan to apply.)
  • Complete and return to the college(s) all application materials and the college's financial aid form by the date indicated on the form (usually February/March).
  • Keep track of the date on which you sent in the financial aid forms. You should receive an acknowledgment of receipt of the form within six weeks and a Student Aid Report (SAR) within six weeks of the acknowledgment. If you have not received any response within eight weeks, call the Student Aid center at the number listed on the aid form or the instructional booklet.
  • When the SAR arrives, send it to the financial aid offices of the colleges on your list.
  • Keep in touch with the college financial aid office during the course of the application process to verify that they have received your SAR and that they are processing your aid package.
  • If you are a VR client, be sure that your counselor is in touch with the financial aid offices at the college(s) on your list. Be on time and accurate in filling out the application forms. If possible, have a third party read them and check for accuracy. Keep at least one photocopy of each completed form for your own record in case problems arise.

The HEATH Resource Center is a clearinghouse which operates under a Congressional legislative mandate to collect and disseminate information nationally about disability issues in postsecondary education. Funding from the United States Department of Education enables HEATH to increase the flow of information about educational support services, policies, and procedures related to educating or training people with disabilities after they have left high school.

The HEATH Resource Center is designed to:

  • identify and describe educational and training opportunities,

  • promote accommodations which enable full participation by people with disabilities in regular, as well as specialized, postsecondary programs, and

  • recommend strategies which encourage participation in the least restrictive and most productive environment possible for each individual.

To accomplish these goals, HEATH has an extensive publication program, a toll-free telephone service, and a professional staff which participate in a strong network of colleagues across the country.

January 1996. Updated by Daniel Gardner and Rhona C. Hartman from material prepared previously by HEATH. Assistance from the staff of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is gratefully appreciated.

This resource paper was prepared under Cooperative Agreement No. H030C3002-95 awarded to the American Council on Education by the U.S. Department of Education. The contents do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, nor does mention of products or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

The HEATH Resource Center is a national clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities, and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

This document was converted to HTML by Mark Kantrowitz with permission from Dan Gardner and Rhona Hartman of the HEATH Resource Center. Visit for more information.


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