Free College Money, Anyone?

Money in human hands

If you’ve started exploring the possibility of going to college after high school, you’ve no doubt discovered an undeniable truth – college is outrageously expensive. But don’t let that keep you from pursuing your educational goals. Scholarships help more than two-thirds of our nation’s full-time college students pay for their education.

Each year, more than $46 billion is awarded in scholarships and grants by the U.S. Department of Education, and also by colleges and universities across the nation. An additional $3.3 billion in scholarship money is awarded by private sources, such as foundations, corporations, nonprofit groups, churches and other organizations.

Scholarships are awarded based on merit (your academic performance while in high school) as well as financial need.

“Sometimes students don’t apply for scholarships because of modest academic achievements,” says Teri Buchholtz, program manager for the National FFA Organization. “While it is true academics are important and contribute to the overall application, they shouldn’t discourage a student from applying.”

National FFA Scholarship Program

For the last 30 years, the National FFA Scholarship Program has awarded more than $38 million in scholarship funds. The program started in 1984 with 16 scholarships awarded and has grown to 1,786 scholarships awarded in 2014. The National FFA Organization awarded $2,223,000 in scholarships in 2014 alone.

“Our sponsors provide scholarships because of their belief in FFA members and the future of agriculture,” Buchholtz says. “They have a passion to provide students with an opportunity to pursue their educational dreams, whatever form those dreams may take.”

Scholarships are available for a big variety of experiences, career goals and higher education plans, including everything from vet techs and mechanics to bankers and cosmetologists. Criteria can include two-year, four-year and vocational technical schools.

Buchholtz says scholarships have the power to change lives.

“One of my favorite stories involves a thank-you call received by a co-worker some years ago,” she recalls. “The caller identified himself as an ‘indifferent’ student while in school. He admitted to submitting an application only because his advisor made him do it. Turns out he was selected to receive a scholarship that year. He went on to say he was so motivated by the sponsor’s belief in him that he went on to complete a degree in agricultural education and is now an FFA advisor himself.”

FFA Scholarship Program graphic

Agribusinesses Create FFA Scholarships

The Monsanto Fund is one of many partners of the National FFA Scholarship Program. Through its America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders program, Monsanto provided $1,500 scholarships to 72 students across Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, North Carolina and South Carolina in 2014. The program is expanding to include 40 states this fall and will award up to 352 scholarships in 2015, totaling more than $500,000.

Applicants must intend to pursue a degree in one of 52 agriculture-related majors and are required to get the endorsement of three farmers.

“We require this because we know farmers have a vested interest in seeing the next generation of farmers succeed,” says Elizabeth Vancil, youth and community outreach manager for Monsanto. “We encourage farmers to endorse the students they believe will contribute to the future success of the industry.”

Grow Ag Leaders was developed to help keep rural youth in agriculture by raising awareness of the diverse career opportunities in the industry, and by providing scholarships that enable students to further their education and become future leaders in the field.

“The Monsanto Fund partnered with the National FFA Scholarship Program because FFA is one of the most recognized youth organizations in rural America,” Vancil says, “and it plays a major role in shaping the next generation of agricultural leaders.”

Vancil adds that Monsanto finds it more important than ever before to promote and encourage careers in agriculture.

“We encourage students to consider a career in agriculture for two reasons,” she says. “First, there will be a need to feed an estimated 9 billion people by 2050, so the agriculture industry needs talented, driven and passionate youth willing to make a commitment to agriculture. Secondly, there are 23 million jobs available in agriculture, in a variety of fields like science, technology, business and communications. There has never been a better time for students to consider a career in this rapidly growing industry.”

Jessica Mozo