Pursuing a doctoral degree in education comes with significant financial costs and obligations. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition and fees for a full-time doctoral student in education in 2021-2022 was over $17,000 at public institutions and over $33,000 at private not-for-profit institutions. On top of tuition and fees, doctoral students face living expenses like rent, food, transportation, books, and supplies. Financing a doctorate through student loans alone can amount to over $100,000 in debt by the completion of the program. This is where scholarships for doctoral students in education come into play. Scholarships help lower the financial burden for students and open up opportunities for those who may not otherwise be able to afford a doctorate.
Defining Key Terms
Before diving into specific scholarship opportunities, it is crucial to define some key terms that will come up frequently:
Doctoral Degree in Education: Also known as a Ph.D. or EdD, a doctoral degree in education is an advanced degree focused on research, teaching, leadership, or service in the field of education. Popular areas of study include curriculum and instruction, educational policy, educational psychology, higher education administration, and more.
Merit-Based Scholarship: A scholarship awarded based on a student’s academic achievements, talents, leadership qualities, or other merits rather than financial need. No payback is required for merit scholarships.
Need-Based Scholarship: A scholarship awarded based on a student’s demonstrated financial need as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Need-based aid like this does not need to be repaid.
Top Scholarships By Countries
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Fellowship: A prestigious award, often merit-based, that provides funding for tuition and may include a stipend or other support like health insurance for living expenses. Fellowships usually involve a work or research commitment in exchange for funding.
With these key terms defined, let’s dive into an overview of some of the top scholarship opportunities available for doctoral students in education. I will organize them by level – federal, state, institutional and professional organization scholarships.
Federal Scholarship Opportunities
When researching funding, federal scholarships should always be one of the first places to look given their scale and prevalence. Some top options for doctoral students in education include:
Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Fellowships
Offered by the U.S. Department of Education, GAANN fellowships provide funding of $30,000 for master’s and $38,000 for doctoral students studying in areas of national need like STEM and foreign languages. Awards also include tuition and fees. The application is competitive with priority given to financial need. Deadlines are in early fall.
National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships
The NSF awards fellowships of up to $12,000 per year for costs of research and living expenses to outstanding Ph.D. students in STEM fields including STEM education research. Applicants need not be U.S. citizens. The program emphasizes diversity and inclusion. Fall deadlines.
Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships for Minorities
This fellowship from the Ford Foundation provides three years of support for underrepresented minorities pursuing a Ph.D. or EdD. Awards cover a $28,000 annual living stipend plus tuition and fees. The priority is increasing diversity in STEM and social science fields including education research. Fall deadlines.
Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship
For undergraduates and graduate students in STEM fields including STEM education, SMART provides funding up to $55,000 per academic year plus a $25,000 sign-on bonus and guaranteed post-graduate federal employment. Recipients commit to working after graduation for the Department of Defense. Fall deadlines.
These are just a few of the notable scholarship programs at the federal level. Be sure to also explore opportunities through other government agencies like the Department of Education, National Institutes of Health, and more by visiting websites like FederalStudentAid.ed.gov. Strong grades, research experience, and diversity are keys to competitive federal awards.
State Scholarship Opportunities
Beyond federal options, exploring scholarships from one’s home state can uncover additional funding sources. Programs and eligibility vary by state but a few examples include:
California Student Aid Commission Graduate/Professional Degree Scholarships
California residents pursuing a graduate degree full-time including a PhD/EdD Program can receive $12,000-$20,000 annually. Students must demonstrate high academic ability and plan to work in California after graduation.
Washington Student Achievement Council Advanced Degree Scholarships
Citizens or residents of Washington state admitted full-time to an approved postgraduate program in education, math or science can receive a $10,000 scholarship per academic year. Merit-based awards support the development of academic talent in high-demand disciplines.
New York State Regents Professional Opportunity Scholarships
Available to New York residents studying to become teachers at the graduate level, recipients can receive up to $6,000 for tuition support. Commitment to teach for at least five years in New York is required.
Consult individual state scholarship programs and higher education agencies for education-focused opportunities in your state of residence. Competitive state awards emphasize academic merit and plans to work in-state after graduation. Application deadlines are typically February or March.
The universities that doctoral students apply to should all be considered as potential funding sources as well. Most institutions provide some level of funding through teaching or research assistantships, tuition waivers, and scholarships from their endowments and donations. Let’s explore a few examples:
University of Southern California Provost’s Doctoral Fellowships
For outstanding entering USC Ph.D. students from all backgrounds, these awards offer up to four years of full tuition remission plus a $39,000 annual stipend. Selection is highly competitive based on candidates’ promise of academic excellence and leadership.
Georgia State University Doctoral Fellowships
GSU offers over $100,000 worth of funding over four years of study for accepted PhD students through fellowships in education, public health, public policy, and more. Packages cover full tuition and health insurance with annual stipends of $25,000.
University of Michigan School of Education Initiatives in Educational Research Fellowship
This fellowship funds up to four years of PhD study and research for Michigan students specializing in education research. Awards include full tuition, a $30,000 stipend each year, and conference travel support. Strong academic records and letters of recommendation are key.
Contacting departments directly is crucial to learn what funding options may be available. Institutions usually have priority application deadlines in late fall/early winter for entering doctoral students. Demonstrating strong fit and commitment can give applicants an advantage.
Scholarships from Professional Organizations
Beyond government and university support exist many external scholarships from professional organizations related to specific education research focus areas. Let me briefly highlight several notable awards:
American Educational Research Association (AERA) Dissertation Grants
For AERA student members, these merit-based grants range from $5,000-$15,000 to support dissertation research in education. Applications are accepted in early fall and spring.
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Graduate Student Scholarships
NCTE scholarships support doctoral students researching English education or plans to teach English at the secondary level. Awards provide up to $5,000. November deadline.
Association of Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) Dissertation Fellowship
Awards $20,000 to a Ph.D. student conducting dissertation work related to education policy, economics, or finance. Strong association with AEFP is emphasized. Rolling applications year-round.
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness Doctoral Dissertation Grants
Provides $10,000 to an SREE student member doing rigorous research related to improving K-12 education. October deadline.
Keep an eye out for funding opportunities via professional networks within your specific education focus areas as selection committees often look for strong disciplinary ties. Membership itself can improve chances.
FAQs on Financing a Doctorate
Now that we’ve covered various scholarship avenues thoroughly, let’s address some commonly asked questions about financing doctoral studies in education:
How do I know if I’m eligible for need-based aid and how much can I expect to receive?
To determine your eligibility, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually. Doctoral students can qualify for Federal Work-Study along with need-based loans and occasional grant aid. For living expenses, estimated $15,000-$25,000 annually may be needed depending on location.
What if I don’t receive any scholarships—are loans my only option then?
While scholarships are ideal, many doctoral students rely on reasonable borrowing via federal student loans like Direct Unsubsidized and GradPLUS. Most programs also provide teaching or research assistantships paying $10,000-$20,000 annually in exchange for work. Assistantships can help cover costs while you repay loans later.
How long should my doctoral program take to complete?
Most full-time education doctorate programs are designed to take 4-6 years to complete including coursework, research, dissertation, and any required internships or practicums. It’s not unusual for doctoral study to extend longer depending on research challenges, life circumstances, or the need to work part-time. Most funding sources like scholarships and assistantships only cover 4-5 years.
What expenses are considered in the cost of attendance?
The total cost of attendance calculated by your institution for financial aid includes tuition and required fees, books and supplies, room and board or living expenses, transportation costs, and sometimes allowances for miscellaneous personal expenses. Be sure loans or scholarships can cover real costs like rent and food in your local area.
How can I strengthen my scholarship applications?
Thoroughly following all instructions, meeting all deadlines, having your materials proofread for errors, highlighting your academic achievements and research interests compellingly, and asking professors for strong letters of recommendation can significantly improve your chances. Relevant research, volunteer or work experience also adds value to your applications.