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Earning Your Doctorate of Education: Funding Your Degree Through Scholarships

Pursuing an advanced degree like a Doctor of Education (EdD) or PhD in Education can unlock incredible career opportunities and allow you to make a meaningful impact through research, teaching, and leadership. However, the steep cost of doctoral study may seem insurmountable without financial assistance. Fortunately, there are many scholarship options available to help fund your education at the doctoral level.

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Deciding on a Program and Specialization

The first step in applying for education doctorate scholarships is determining your area of specialization and selecting suitable programs. EdD and Ph.D. degrees focus on different aspects of education:

  • Doctor of Education (EdD): Professional practice-oriented degree focusing on education leadership, administration, teacher training, curriculum development, and policy. Students complete a dissertation in practice.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.): Research-focused degree emphasizing theoretical foundations, contributing to the knowledge base through original research. Students complete a traditional dissertation.

Choosing a Program

Common specializations include educational leadership, curriculum and instruction, literacy education, special education, higher education administration, and more. Research programs and courses offered to determine the best fit. Accredited public and private universities typically offer doctoral programs in education.

Make a list of 2-3 programs that match your interests and career goals. Factors like location, reputation, cost of attendance, specializations, faculty expertise, and required credentials will influence your choice. Knowing your program and focus area will help tailor your scholarship applications.

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Federal Funding: FAFSA, Grants & Loans

To be considered for federal student aid, you must complete and submit the FAFSA as its required for need-based federal aid like grants, work-study, and loans for graduate study. Submit your FAFSA as early as possible for maximum funding opportunities:

  • Federal Work-Study: Part-time jobs on or near campus that help pay educational costs. Award amounts depend on financial need and availability.
  • Federal Perkins Loan: Low-interest loan for both undergraduate and graduate study with repayment deferred until after graduation. The total borrowing limit is $60,000 for all federal student loans.
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans accrue interest from disbursement but have higher borrowing limits compared to Perkins. Interest payments can be deferred while in school.

Award amounts vary based on financial circumstances, cost of attendance, and availability of funds at your university. Federal education grants over $5,000 per year may include:

  • Federal Graduate PLUS Loan: Borrow up to the cost of education minus other aid. Requires good credit history. Interest is charged during all periods.

Be sure to exhaust university and private scholarship options before borrowing at high-interest rates. Carefully consider the total debt load before accepting educational loans.

Institutional Funding: Assistantships & Scholarships

The graduate school and departments at your chosen university are goldmines for funding opportunities unique to that institution. These include:

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Teaching & Research Assistantships

Part-time work (15-20 hours weekly) for a fixed stipend. Duties may involve supporting faculty, grading papers, proctoring exams, leading discussion sections, and conducting original research.

TA/RA positions are highly competitive as they cover tuition remission plus a living stipend, effectively making doctoral education ‘debt-free.’ Strong candidates have direct experience like tutoring or research relevant to their proposed field of study.

Merit-Based Awards

Based on factors like academic excellence, cultural/social diversity, or disciplinary interests. Examples are predoctoral fellowships, named scholarships, or departmental awards funded by alumni donors.

Need-Based Financial Aid

Committed schools can offer tuition waivers, grants, or non-service awards for those with demonstrated financial need.

Contact graduate admissions and individual departments early for application deadlines and requirements. Accepting an offer locks in that funding package for the duration of your doctoral program.

Private Scholarships

Private organizations offer thousands of scholarships to help support education at all levels. Tapping into these resources requires proactive searching and application:

Diversity & Identity-Based Scholarships

For women, minorities, veterans, people with disabilities, and more. Examples include Soroptimist International, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and the American Indian Graduate Center.

Field or Employer-Specific Awards

Professional associations, foundations, non-profits, and corporations provide funding tied to your chosen education specialty or future career path. Examples are AERA grants for educational research and Sallie Mae scholarships for literacy education.

General Graduate Scholarship Databases

Scholarship databases aggregate opportunities from a variety of public and private sources searchable by criteria like location, field of study, heritage, or affiliations. Major options are FinAid, FastWeb, and CollegeBoard Scholarship Search.

Crowdfunding Your Education

Online platforms create an avenue for you to create a profile to share your goals and accept donations from family, friends, and supporters. Examples are GoFundMe, YouCaring, and Fundera Education.

Independent Research

Systematically search individual organization websites or online articles for hidden or niche awards requiring mailed paper applications. Perseverance is key as many pay only a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

State Grant Programs

Several states offer scholarship and financial aid programs for residents pursuing postgraduate degrees. Contact your state higher education authority for eligibility details and deadlines:

Louisiana GO Grant

  • Up to $4,000 annually for Louisiana residents attending eligible Louisiana universities.

Ohio College Opportunity Grant

  • Awards up to $2,000 per year, depending on EFC, for students attending Ohio public or nonprofit private institutions.

New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship

  • Yearly stipend based on family income to attend any accredited university worldwide for New Mexico high school graduates.

Georgia’s HOPE Grant

  • Tuition assistance for Georgia residents with demonstrated financial need at eligible public/private Georgia schools.

California Dream Act

  • State financial aid programs like Cal Grants open to undocumented California residents meeting certain criteria.

Residency requirement deadlines exist, so begin exploring state options early in the scholarship search process. Programs aim to retain skilled workers and keep education affordable for in-state students.

Professional Organizations

Membership with relevant associations boosts your network and unearths targeted scholarships tailored to your field or research interests. Many allow free student memberships:

Major Education Groups

American Educational Research Association, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Subject Area Organizations

International Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Higher Education Administration

American College Personnel Association, Association for the Study of Higher Education, NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Conduct membership directory searches or attend conferences to identify funding opportunities for members pursuing advanced degrees or conducting cutting-edge research. Awards typically range between $500-$5,000 each.

Scholarship applications ask about academic plans, career aspirations, relevant experience, and the potential impact of your future work. Show how your goals align with the mission of sponsoring organizations.

Strengthening Your Scholarship Applications

With diligence, many prospective doctoral students piece together complete or near-complete financial packages through layering various scholarship opportunities. A few tips:

  • Ask current professors for letters of recommendation highlighting your qualifications and potential.
  • Emphasize contributions to diversity or underrepresented communities in personal statements whenever possible.
  • Highlight research experience, publications, conference presentations, or relevant work experience in your application materials.
  • Ask for editing assistance and format reviews from mentors or university writing centers before submitting.
  • Apply for as many options as feasible even if success rates appear low since some fund very few applicants.
  • Carefully follow all instructions and meet submission deadlines to increase your chances.
  • Follow up on any unclear requirements or missing application materials with scholarship sponsors.
  • Express sincere gratitude through thank you emails after being notified, even for declined applications.

Dedication to the searching, writing, and revision required to craft top-notch scholarship submissions is an investment that pays off financially and jumpstarts your career in substantive ways. With the right strategies, the goals of pursuing an education doctorate need not remain unreachable.

Conclusion

As this comprehensive overview demonstrated, there are numerous scholarships, grants, loans, and assistantships available to help fund your Doctor of Education degree through a combination of federal, state, institutional, and private funding sources. The key is developing a proactive search strategy and dedicating adequate time to complete compelling applications communicating your qualifications and future promise as an educator or researcher.

By exhaustively exploring options through your graduate program’s financial aid office, associations in your field of study, and general scholarship listings – you can greatly minimize or even cover the full cost of attaining this prestigious degree. Just be sure to start the scholarship process early, as application deadlines differ and layers of support take time to build.

With careful financial planning and dedicated scholarship application efforts, earning an EdD or PhD remains attainable despite rising education costs. This unlocks opportunities to make meaningful contributions through advanced, applied practice and original research. The investment of time and effort required to fund your education will open countless doors in your career.

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