Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Scholarships for Latinas on the Rise

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Scholarships for Latinas on the Rise

Article excerpt

The number of special scholarships for Latinas keeps growing as more Hispanic women than ever seek higher education and professional training. Some of these earmarked scholarships are being offered by national corporations, such as Microsoft and Goldman Sachs, and are specific to Latinas seeking careers in science, technology or business.

But many scholarships are awarded by local or regional organizations that are making a difference in the lives of Latinas, hoping to expand their educational horizons. The financial awards give a much-needed helping hand to those who want to get started at a community college or who already are enrolled in a four-year school and are trying make it to the finish line.

The scholarship initiative from Goldman Sachs began two years ago when the company joined forces with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) to invest in the next generation of Latina business leaders and entrepreneurs. They created the 10,000 Women Business Leadership Award. The initiative provides comprehensive support for select students, including mentoring from Goldman Sachs professionals.

When the program was announced, Goldman Sachs released a study showing Latinas as the fastest-growing group of minority entrepreneurs in the United States, making them a potential source for top talent. However, statistically it is more difficult for Latinas to pursue nontraditional fields of study, thus limiting their postgraduate career options. Research shows many Latinas feel isolated and lack solid role models.

The initiative provided for 20 Latinas to receive $10,000 toward their education. It is the first program managed by HSF that puts students on a targeted track while offering them the additional resources of Goldman Sachs. Awardees have included Latinas from Fordham University, Rutgers University, Baruch College and University of Texas-Austin.

Goldman Sachs is just one of the companies showing interest in supporting Latinas. Although scholarships for this subgroup of Hispanics have been limited in the past, there are new opportunities emerging. In fact, Latina scholarship candidates often have an advantage, especially those who have a passion for math, science or computers. Corporations are seeking to increase the presence of minority women working in these fields, a factor that gives leverage to strong Latina applicants. For example, Microsoft has a scholarship specifically for both minorities and females who want to study in various fields of science or technology. The program provides full and partial scholarships to undergraduates in an accredited four-year curriculum.

Many other national organizations fund scholarships for Hispanic students, both male and female, but some groups are designing scholarships specifically for Latinas because they face unique social, economic and cultural barriers to advancing their education. The majority of these scholarships are being distributed at the local level by small foundations and networks of professional Latinas who are determined to help the next generation of women.

More Scholarships, More Need

As might be expected due to demographics, California has several organizations offering scholarships for Latinas. The Chicana/Latina Foundation (CLF) provides tuition assistance for students in 12 counties in Northern California. Last year, the foundation awarded $1,500 scholarships to 41 Latinas enrolled in undergraduate or graduate institutions. The foundation continues to offer the same number of scholarships, but the number of applicants has increased dramatically because of the economy and the steep rise in tuition at all California public colleges.

"We received the highest number ever of applications, a 35 percent increase over the previous year," said Olga Talamante, CLF executive director. "Our students are finding it increasingly difficult to afford a college education."

Although applicants must have been area residents for two years, their backgrounds are varied and include those who have grown up in war-ravaged countries, such as Guatemala, before immigrating to the United States. …

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