FAQ for Organizations Starting a Scholarship Program

How do I start a scholarship program?
NSPA offers several resources to help our members start a scholarship program. One of those resources is our Scholarship Program Toolkit which provides comprehensive advice and guidance on starting and managing scholarship programs.  Other resources include our professional development webinars, learning circles, regional meetings, and annual conference.

NSPA does not offer consulting services.

Useful links:

NSPA Program Design Webinar (based on Toolkit)
FinAid.org on Scholarship Program Design

What is a scholarship for higher education?
A scholarship for higher education is financial aid that does not have to be repaid, awarded to a student for the purpose of attending a post-secondary institution. Scholarships take on many forms with identified and meaningful eligibility criteria.  These can include academics, financial need, student demographics, geographic, community involvement, overcoming adversity, athletic ability, career choice, etc. 

Is it necessary to start a nonprofit organization to give scholarships for higher education?
No. Anyone can establish a scholarship, or scholarship program, for higher education. Foundations, businesses, community groups and even individuals, or groups of individuals, can establish this type of scholarship program. The National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) provides its members with a Scholarship Program Design Guide, created by NSPA members, that offers an overview of some of the steps and considerations necessary for creating a successful scholarship program. 

As an alternative to creating a nonprofit organization to give scholarships for higher education, you may want to consider establishing a scholarship program to be implemented by your local community foundation, a specific college or university, or a scholarship administration service. 

As stated previously, creating a nonprofit organization to give scholarships for higher education is not necessary. However, there may be tax implications for both the scholarship provider and the scholarship recipients. Please visit www.IRS.gov for more information.

Having just started a scholarship program for higher education, what is the first piece of business we should attend to?
NSPA provides its members with a Scholarship Program Toolkit that provides more details regarding each of the considerations listed below. The following guidelines and suggestions provide an overview of some of the critical steps and considerations necessary for creating a successful scholarship program: 

  • Establish Award Constituency 
  • Establish Scholarship Funding Purpose and Source 
  • Establish eligibility criteria for the scholarship 
  • Create a communication plan to connect with potential applicants 
  • Develop an application for the scholarship 
  • Define the selection criteria and process 
  • Outline an implementation plan and timeline
  • Consider academic calendar, financial aid process, tuition due dates, etc.
  • Develop an awarding process 
  • Plan for program evaluation 

Is there a document that outlines the rules and regulations of creating a scholarship fund?
There is no document that outlines rules and regulations for scholarship funds because they vary by state, institution, and scholarship provider. Scholarships are not regulated by any one governing authority, each scholarship program has its own set of rules and regulations. 

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