Scholarship Statistics: Types, Facts, and Challenges for 2024

Updated on January 11, 2024
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Written by
Andrea Mercado
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Layla Varela
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David Mercado
Scholarship statistics

Scholarships offer non-repayable funds for college, covering a variety of fields, skills, and backgrounds. However, navigating the options can be challenging, as personalized searches reveal opportunities, while school policies might affect external aid.

How can students make the most of support in 2024? Join us as we explore ten key scholarship statistics to understand how they impact enrollment rates, diversity, graduation goals, and more. 

How do scholarships work?

Scholarships are opportunities for students to fund their education without the burden of loans. 

Each scholarship provider seeks specific skills or interests, requiring winners to meet standard criteria while standing out from other applicants.

These financial aids can come from various sources such as private organizations, corporations, and universities. 

The significant advantage is that students awarded scholarships don't need to worry about repayment, making it an attractive option to cover educational expenses. 

However, there are some disparities. A student receiving a scholarship at a private 4-year college typically gets $10,230 more on average than their counterparts in public 4-year colleges.

How much money do U.S. scholarships give to students?

In the academic year 2021-22, around $140 billion flowed into the hands of undergraduate and graduate students through federal, state, and institutional grant aid. 

That financial injection proved indispensable for those embarking on higher education journeys. 

But how much money does a student receive on average today?

U.S. college students receive $6 billion in annual scholarships from federal resources

An analysis of Department of Education data shows that colleges distribute over $6 billion in scholarships yearly, offering students financial aid that doesn't need to be repaid.

Scholarships vary, some based on financial need, others on academic or extracurricular achievements.

The multi-billion figure comes from federal reporting exclusively, reflecting the vast scholarship opportunities available to students. 

However, smaller, localized programs may still have information gaps.

Scholarship statistics

29% of 2022-2023 college costs were covered by scholarships

Analysis of 2023 higher education survey data showed scholarships accounted for 29% of college costs in the last application cycle - up 3% from the prior year.

These non-repayable packages and grants provide over a quarter of the total required funding at public and private universities.

Schools like the University of Chicago and Pomona College lead in eliminating loan dependence on packages.

What percentage of college students are on scholarships?

Some analysis by higher education experts reveals that a mere 12.5% of college students, or 1 in 8, have won scholarships for their degrees.

For those defying low odds, the average scholarship across recipients totals around $4,200 as of 2023.

The studies derived the figure by dividing the total scholarship dollars awarded by the number of undergraduates nationwide. Results show a tiny fraction, 0.1%, secure astronomical awards over $25,000.

What types of scholarships are there?

Seeking scholarships is vital for free financial aid. Graduate students can explore the Banks Brown, LAGRANT Foundation, or Excedr STEM scholarships. 

If they pursue certifications, they can find options like the Bridging the Dream and Minnie L. Maffett awards. 

In any case, there are many ways to find scholarships, even the institutions themselves often offer a wide variety of programs. 

What should you keep in mind? The various types of aid to which, depending on your conditions, you can apply.

Scholarship statistics

$12,088 was the average merit scholarship for the 2022-2023 academic year

In the 2022-2023 academic year, U.S. undergraduates got an average of $12,088 in merit scholarships. These scholarships cover some or all tuition costs based on skills, not financial need. 

Unlike aid tied to family finances, merit awards respond to academic, athletic, artistic, or leadership abilities. The data comes from an analysis of over 1,000 colleges ranked by U.S. News. 

Although the impact can differ for each student, the common occurrence of merit support exceeding $12,000 highlights significant unclaimed funding annually.

Over 1,000 U.S. colleges offer athletic scholarships

Analysis from EducationUSA, a government-backed advising group, reveals over 1,000 American colleges provide scholarships aimed at talented athletic recruits.

While competition proves fierce for full rides covering sports participation, many schools carve out partial scholarships, too.

The prevalence of athletics-based aid presents niche funding opportunities for gifted international prospects, though visa constraints can complicate matters.

$26,800 is the average aid for international students at U.S. colleges

Analysis of 2022-2023 higher education data discloses U.S. colleges awarded international students $26,800 in financial aid on average last year. 

However, packages tripled to nearly $77,000 among the most internationally-friendly schools.

Between tuition, travel, housing, and other costs, overseas undergraduates face immense expenses stateside.

Scholarship statistics

Challenges in the delivery of scholarships in the U.S.

Under 10% of scholarships go to students of color

Recent data exposes an alarming imbalance in aid distribution, with students of color receiving well under 10% of available funding. 

Across $6-8 billion awarded through universities and non-profits annually, disproportionate percentages go towards majority groups.

That means over 90% of coveted scholarship dollars, enabling debt-free education, currently fund white students instead of marginalized populations. 

Around $100 million in scholarship funds are unclaimed annually

Over the past decade, the number of scholarships awarded has surged by more than 45%, reaching new highs. 

Surprisingly, an estimated $100 million in scholarship funds still needs to be claimed annually, primarily due to a shortage of applicants.

Scholarship statistics

What universities offer good scholarships?

Wesleyan University awards $83K per international student

In the 2022-2023 academic year, Wesleyan University provided the highest financial aid per international student, averaging around $83,000. 

The Connecticut-based liberal arts school distributed over $7 million among 84 overseas undergraduates last admissions cycle.

Although California institutions like Stanford and Pomona spent more overall, Wesleyan's per capita contributions set the national standard. 

55% of Harvard students get scholarships

Financial aid data revealed that over half of Harvard students get need-based scholarships. Surprisingly, 1 in 5 students pays zero tuition fees for their education.

Harvard advisors play a crucial role by offering individualized assistance to families and identifying various funding sources, including government aid, university grants, and donations. While loans are available, they are not mandatory.

Harvard University secures funds from diverse channels, such as federal and state grants, alumni donations, and its substantial endowment. 

Scholarship statistics

Photo by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash

Summary: Scholarship Statistics to Consider in 2024

1. U.S. college students receive $6 billion in annual scholarships

2. 29% of 2022-2023 college costs were covered by scholarships

3. Around 12.5% of college students have received a scholarship.

4. $12,088 was the average merit scholarship for the 2022-2023 academic year

5. Over 1,000 U.S. colleges offer athletic scholarships

6. $26,800 is the average aid for international students at U.S. colleges

7. Under 10% of scholarships go to students of color

8. Around $100 million in scholarship funds are unclaimed annually

9. Wesleyan University awards $83K per international student

10. 55% of Harvard students get scholarships


Do scholarships cover only undergraduates? 

No. Scholarships are available for various education levels, including graduate degrees and technical certifications. 

Eligibility criteria vary widely, encompassing merit, financial need, and other factors.

Are scholarships renewable?

Many scholarships are renewable, but you might need to maintain a specific grade point average to remain eligible. 

It's crucial to understand the renewal conditions before applying.

Why aren't more people applying for scholarships? 

According to Forbes, the application process to get a scholarship can be intimidating, time-consuming, and often leads to rejection. 

However, aspiring applicants should take it step by step, stay organized, and seek feedback on rejected applications to improve future submissions.

Final Thoughts

Scholarships are crucial in U.S. college funding by providing non-repayable assistance across different fields. 

Navigating this landscape involves recognizing that colleges distribute over $6 billion annually in scholarships, addressing various needs and achievements. 

It's important to note that scholarships aren't exclusive to undergraduates, and many are renewable. 

If you're looking to pursue studies on a tight budget, applying for scholarships is a practical step to consider in 2024.


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Andrea Mercado is a tech-focused journalist and copywriter with over 5 years of experience covering innovation, edtech, AI, and internet trends across media outlets. She is passionate about how technology can democratize access to education and is an avid learner when it comes to emerging tech like AI. Her articles and webinars help readers stay informed on the latest tech developments.
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