U.S. Scholarship Statistics: The Latest Data, Facts And Costs

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U.S. Colleges aren’t getting any cheaper.

As prices continue to rise, students are looking for different opportunities to lower the cost of their college education.

Scholarships play an important role in the United States.

Over 1.7 million scholarships are awarded every year and 58% of U.S. families use scholarships to help pay for college.

Bottom line – Scholarships are an essential part of U.S. college education today.

Below I’ve put together a complete list of the latest scholarship statistics, showing who gets scholarships, how many are awarded and who is most likely to receive them.

Key Scholarship Statistics

Scholarships come in lots of different forms.

Depending on the college and the education you’re pursuing, a huge range of scholarships are available to apply for.

These are the key scholarship statistics you need to know:

  • 58% of U.S. families use scholarships to help pay for college in some way each year
  • There are over 1.7 million scholarships awarded each year
  • The largest federal scholarship fund is Pell Grant and provides financial support to 7.5 million students annually
  • The U.S. Department of Education awards an estimated $46 billion in scholarship funding every year
  • 16% of students receive state scholarships and 13% of students receive private scholarships
  • Approximately 1.58 million scholarships are available to undergraduate and graduate students each year
  • Only one in eight college students is awarded a scholarship
  • 97% of students that are awarded scholarships received less than $2,500
  • Only 0.2% of students receive scholarships worth $25,000 or more
  • Full-ride scholarships (education + living expenses) are awarded to only about 0.1% of students
  • A regular high school student can have the needed qualifications for up to 50 to 100 scholarships – they just don’t know it

As you can see, many U.S. students and families receive some sort of scholarship funding for education.

But only a very few actually full-ride scholarships that pay for everything.

us scholarship statistics infographic

Scholarship Recipients Statistics

Who is most likely to receive a scholarship in the U.S.?

GPA (grade point average) can play a big role in the likelihood of getting a scholarship. But it’s not as big a deal as you think.

Here’s the breakdown of scholarships awarded vs the GPAs students have:

Student GPA Percentage Of Students Awarded Scholarships
3.5 to 4.0 4%
3.0 to 3.4 30%
Lower than 2.4 5%

30% of all scholarships in the United States are awarded to students with a GPA between 3.0 to 3.4.

Only 4% of scholarships are given to students with a GPA of 3.5 to 4.

us scholarship statistics graphic 1

The truth is that grades are important, but they aren’t everything. Better grades don’t mean you are more likely to get a scholarship.

But that’s not necessarily the case when you look at private scholarships.

Over 66% of students with above-average SAT and ACT scores receive private scholarships. This means you need to have good grades if you want a scholarship at a private college.

Studying STEM subjects at school can also help you win a scholarship in college.

STEM stands for-

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics

Being a STEM student simply means that you choose these subjects at school.

17% of STEM students are awarded scholarships vs 12.1% of non-STEM students. Focusing on STEM at school increases your chance of receiving a scholarship.

Over 33% of all private scholarships in the U.S. are given to STEM students.

Demographic Scholarship Statistics

White students are more likely to get scholarships than minority students.

But the percentages are reasonably balanced compared to where they used to be.

Ethnicity Chances Of Getting Scholarship
White Students 14.2%
Minority Students 11.2%

The chances of a white student getting a scholarship are 14.2%, while the chances for minority students are 11.2%.

These scholarship statistics on their own show that being white makes you 3% more likely to get a scholarship.

Of course, other factors also affect the overall outcome, though.

ethnicity and income

When you break these stats down by minority students only, it gets a little more interesting:

Ethnic Background Chances Of Getting Scholarship
Black Students 11.4%
Hispanic Students 9.1%
Asian Students 10.5%

Black students are the most likely to win a scholarship at 11.4%. This is followed by Asian students at 10.5% and Hispanic students at 9.1%.

What about income?

Students from middle-income families receive 13.8% of scholarships compared with 10.6% of lower-income families. Only 8% of the scholarships are awarded to families with upper-income levels.

income and scholarship

Surprisingly coming from a middle-income family increases your chance of receiving a scholarship.

Private school students are also far more likely to win private college scholarships.

10% of students that attend a private school win an average scholarship at a private college worth $2,631. Compare that to just 3% of public school students who win scholarships to private colleges worth an average of $3,463.

These statistics might not tell the whole story because 91% of students in the U.S. attend a public school and just 9% of students attend a private school.

private vs public schools

There are far more students attending a public school, so the percentage will be far less on this factor alone.

Odds Of Receiving A Scholarship Statistics

So far we have just looked at specific data from different demographics.

But what are the chances of winning a scholarship overall?

Just 1 in 8 students are likely to receive a scholarship. That means the average chance of getting a scholarship is just 12.5%. And that doesn’t mean that all costs are covered.

chances of getting a scholarship

Only 0.2% of all students in the U.S. receive a scholarship upwards of $25,000.

Full-ride scholarships are awarded to only about 0.1% of all students and full-tuition scholarships are awarded to only 1.5% of students.

While winning some sort of scholarship is possible, getting the full ride is very difficult.

Of the students accepted to a bachelor’s program in the U.S., very few of them have enough money to cover costs.

Bachelor Program Scholarships Costs Covered
5% 100%
7% 90%
9% 75%
8% 50%
71% Less than 50%

Just 5% of students in bachelor programs got enough scholarship funding to cover 100% of their degree costs. 7% of students received enough to cover about 90% of costs and 9% received enough funds to cover 75%

A further 8% of students received enough funds to cover 50% of the costs.

Everyone else in a bachelor’s program got either nothing or received scholarships that covered less than 50% of the costs.

Private Scholarship Statistics

Private scholarships are some of the most sought-after.

They are also the hardest to get.

Private colleges awarded over $7.4 billion in scholarships in 2021.

scholarships for private schools

Private colleges provided just $3.3 billion in scholarship funding in 2003.

That means that during this 18-year gap, private college scholarships grew by about $4.1 billion. This is expected to continue in the future as well.

But not all private scholarships are given by the college itself.

There are a lot of organisations and companies that provide scholarship funding for individual students:

  • The Miss America Foundation gives college funds up to $12,000 per student.
  • The United Negro College Fund provides funds for over 400 different scholarships every year.
  • The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation’s biggest scholarship is worth $20,000.

Each company and organisation provides scholarships based on a range of different criteria.

In recent years, scholarships for women have been a priority.

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) awarded 330 scholarships in 2022. The total of those 330 scholarships amounted to $1,700,000 for the year.

The Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) gives scholarships anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 every year – up to 4 years.

All of these are provided to students specifically for private colleges.

Public Scholarship Statistics

The Department of Education is the biggest provider of scholarships to U.S. families.

They have the longest track record of consistently providing scholarship funding and have a dedicated budget for scholarships specifically.

How big is the Department of Education’s budget?

$46 billion.

Experts estimate that the U.S. Department of Education gives families about $46 billion in scholarship money. The scholarship funding is awarded for several reasons and isn’t just for the highest achieving students.

US Departement of Education

For example:

Pell Grants are reserved for lower-income families.

To receive a Pell Grant scholarship, the student’s family must have an income below $25,000 annually. The average Pell Grant scholarship for an undergraduate degree is $4,418 each year.

But not all grants and scholarships are purely Government funded.

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is a grant specifically for undergraduate students with exceptional financial needs.

The FSEOG provides students with $100 to $4,000 in scholarship funds, depending on the year and the student’s financial position.

But there’s a catch for the colleges participating in the grant program.

FSEOG requires schools participating in the program to contribute 25% of the total awarded money. The Government partners with schools to provide financial aid to students in need.

This has been a successful scholarship program that has helped thousands of students attend college.

Most Common Types Of Scholarships

Now you know how big the scholarship market is and who is most likely to get scholarships.

The following scholarship statistics detail the most common types of scholarships and what it takes to get them.

Most common types of scholarships

1. Merit Scholarship Statistics

Merit-based scholarships are given to students based entirely on excellence in a particular area. This can include-

  • Academic gifts
  • Test scores
  • Extracurricular activities

And other exceptional factors.

Most colleges provide scholarships based on merit as a way of attracting talented and gifted students. These kinds of scholarships are often worth the most.

14% of students received merit scholarships between 2007 and 2008. The average student received $4,700 each.

Between 2019 and 2020, 22% of undergraduates received merit-based scholarships.

So which type of college provides the most merit-based grants and scholarships?

Private colleges.

25% of students at private colleges received merit scholarships.

This is in direct contrast to only 18% of students in public colleges receiving the same type of scholarship.

Merit-Based Sholarships

It makes sense, right…

Selective colleges are typically more concerned with the types of students they enrol and the results of those students. And the more selective the college, the more financial aid they will provide.

It just turns out that private colleges are generally more selective than public colleges.

What’s more?

56% of moderately selective colleges provided scholarships and only 28% of less selective colleges offered scholarships.

35% of more selective universities offered merit-based scholarships as their primary scholarship program.

Interestingly, 24% of Southeast colleges provide merit scholarships for exceptional students.

The big takeaway here is this:

If you want to get a scholarship to a more selective college – the best way to do it is based on merit.

2. Athletic Scholarships

Sport is big in the United States.

And the top colleges are always looking to attract the best students to their sports programs. But athletic scholarships are less common than you think.

Athletic scholarships are offered to less than 2% of high school student-athletes. This means you must be in the top 2% of your sport if you want a real shot at an athletic scholarship.

Athletic scholarships

But if you get an athletic scholarship…

It pays big bucks.

The amount awarded to athletic scholarship students is more than $3.1 billion yearly for NCAA Divisions I and II alone. Most of the scholarships are full-ride.

U.S. male sports have the most athletic scholarships available. Here’s the breakdown:

Male Sports NCCA Scholarships Available
Football 27,304
Track & Cross 12,271
Basketball 9,510
Baseball 8,189
Soccer 6,368

Male athletes will have more opportunities for scholarships. But that doesn’t mean colleges don’t offer any scholarships for women.

These are the latest scholarship statistics on how many scholarships are available to female athletes:

Female Sports NCCA Scholarships Available
Track & Cross 16,620
Basketball 10,222
Soccer 9,870
Golf 3,544
Tennis 4,362

There still is a good number of athletic scholarships available to women. Track and Cross for example, have more scholarships available for women than men.

But how much are these scholarships worth?

For male students, the athletic scholarships that get the largest average financial assistance are:

Male Sports NCCA Average Financial Scholarship
Basketball $38,246
Football (bowl subdivision) $36,070
Ice Hockey $31,756
Football (championship subdivision) $20,706
Skiing $20,275

Basketball offers the highest financial scholarship, reaching an average of $38,246.

Football comes in second place with as much as 36,070 on average, but it depends a lot on the subdivision you are selected for.

What about female students?

Here is the highest average financial amount from NCAA athletic scholarships for females:

Female Sports NCCA Average Financial Scholarship
Ice Hockey $41,693
Gymnastics $40,172
Basketball $36,758
Tennis $32,630
Volleyball $31,138

For female students, ice hockey gives the highest average financial scholarship from NCAA athletic scholarships with $41,693. Gymnastics comes in at the second highest, with an average financial scholarship of $40,172.

Different athletic associations also offer different amounts of scholarships.

The athletic association with the highest maximum scholarships is the NCAA Division I. They offer 74,243 total scholarships, followed by NJCAA with 41,195.

NCAA Division II gives 36,343 athletic scholarships and NAIA provides 25,778.

3. Need-Based Scholarship Statistics

Need-based scholarships are the biggest scholarship category.

But they are very different for a couple of reasons – the biggest being your financial position, not your personal abilities.

It is possible to receive a need-based scholarship and a merit/athletic scholarship simultaneously.

37% of students received a need-based scholarship in 2007 – 2008. The average student received $4000 each.

Today 16% of recipients were need-based scholarships versus 18% of students that received merit-based scholarships. Times have changed and need-based scholarships have decreased compared to merit-based.

Need-Based Scholarships

Across the United States, over $8.8 billion was provided in need-based scholarships.

California has one of the biggest need-based scholarship expenditures in the country.

They alone offer need-based scholarships totalling over $1.8 billion. This marks a 37.2% increase since they first offered this kind of support.

But not all States provide college scholarships for students needing financial support.

Georgia and New Hampshire have spent exactly $0 on need-based scholarships since 2012.

So, if you need financial aid for your college, they are NOT the places to look.

Wrapping It Up

That’s the complete wrap on the latest scholarship statistics.

us scholarship statistics infographic

The truth is that most “scholarships” are really just financial aid.

Less than 2% of all scholarships are offered to cover the costs of going to college. It’s even less if you consider the living expenses as well.

But the good news is that there are a lot of scholarships available.

And not all of them are based on merit or your abilities. The U.S. Department of Education provides a lot of scholarship funding for students with financial needs.


Most students qualify for between 50 to 100 scholarships.

The key to getting scholarship funding for your college education is knowing what you qualify for and applying for them as early as possible.

Want more statistics posts? Take a look at these blogs:

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