Designed to serve communities and invest profits back into services and programs for members, credit unions stand ready to offer scholarships to students who need a little help to pay for college. Though you have to be a member to apply for most of these, we made sure to select credit unions that don’t have strict requirements to join.
To qualify for the Affinity Plus Foundation Annual Scholarship, you need to meet the following criteria:
Planning to attend or currently enrolled in an accredited undergraduate or graduate program
Affinity Plus primary member or meet eligibility requirements to join Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union (FCU)
First time receiving a scholarship from Affinity
Not an employee, board member or immediate spouse of Affinity Plus FCU
To qualify for membership to Affinity Plus FCU, you need to meet one of the following criteria:
Member of the Affinity Plus Foundation — $25 one-time membership fee
Employee or volunteer at a qualifying Minnesota organization
Student or alumnus of a qualifying Minnesota college or university
Live, work or worship in a qualifying Minnesota city
Relative or roommate of an Affinity Plus FCU member
The Affinity Plus Annual Scholarship program offers eight students the chance to win $5,000 toward their education. And it isn’t limited to incoming first-year students.
Students currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program are invited to apply. Nontraditional students are also eligible.
GTE Foundation Scholarship
Award amount: $2,500
Deadline: March 31st
To qualify for the GTE Foundation Scholarship, you need to meet the following criteria:
Primary GTE Financial account holder
Incoming first-year student or continuing full-time undergraduate student
Enrolled in an accredited two- or four-year program in the US
GTE Financial does not require applicants to meet a minimum GPA.
To qualify for membership to GTE Financial, you need to meet one of the following criteria:
Member of CUSavers — $10 one-time membership fee
Employee of a GTE Community Partner
Related to a GTE member
Live, work, worship or attend school in a serviced area
GTE Financial offers $2,500 scholarships to primary account holders who are enrolled in or plan to enroll at an accredited college or university. There are no age limitations, and you can apply each year you’re eligible — even if you’re a previous recipient.
Kinecta Scholarship Program
Award amount: $2,000
Deadline: March 1st
To qualify for the Kinecta Scholarship Program, you need to meet the following criteria:
24 years old or younger
Incoming first-year student or continuing full-time undergraduate student
You do not need to be a member of Kinecta FCU to submit an application.
To qualify for membership to Kinecta FCU, you need to meet one of the following criteria:
Member of the Consumers Cooperative Society of Santa Monica (Santa Monica Co-Op) — $10 one-time membership fee
Member of a Kinecta Associational Group organization
Employee, student or retiree of a Kinecta Select Employer Group
Immediate family member or share a household with a Kinecta member
Live, work or attend school in a serviced area
Each year, Kinecta FCU awards eight students with a $2,000 scholarship. Selection is based on community involvement, extracurricular activities and academic achievement. And unlike many other credit unions, Kinecta doesn’t specifically restrict scholarships to its members — provided you meet the two basic eligibility criteria, you may qualify.
Digital Credit Union Annual Scholarship Program
Award amount: Up to $2,500
Deadline: March 6th
To qualify for the Digital Credit Union (DCU) Annual Scholarship Program, you need to meet the following criteria:
High school senior
Planning to attend a two- or four-year accredited college or university
You do not need to be a member of DCU to submit an application.
To qualify for membership to DCU, you need to meet one of the following criteria:
Work or retired from a qualifying company
Member of an organization whose members DCU serves
Live, work, worship or attend school in a qualifying community
Immediate family member of a DCU member or someone who meets one of the above criteria
The Digital Credit Union Annual Scholarship Program is one of the rare scholarships you can apply to without being a member. You may be awarded up to $2,500 — but the contest is only open to graduating seniors. Students enrolled in a degree program need to look elsewhere.
Pen Air Federal Credit Union Scholarship
Award amount: $10,000 — up to $1,250 per semester for eight semesters
Deadline: March 27th
To qualify for the Pen Air Federal Credit Union Scholarship, you need to meet the following criteria:
Primary account holder
Graduating high school senior
Enrolled full time at an accredited college, university, community college or technical school
Maintain a 2.0 average for renewal
To qualify for membership to Pen Air FCU, you need to meet one of the following criteria:
Member of the Friends of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society — Pen Air will make a one-time donation in your name
Active-duty or retired military member
Civil service employee
Employee of a Pen Air member group
Immediate family member of someone who meets one of the above criteria
While the Pen Air scholarship is only open to graduating high school seniors, it is one of the better scholarships out there. If you’re awarded a scholarship, you receive up to $10,000 — that’s $1,250 per semester for eight semesters.
NASA FCU Mitchell-Beall-Rosen Memorial Scholarship
Award amount: Up to $12,000
Deadline: February 7th
To qualify for the NASA FCU scholarship, you need to meet the following criteria:
Primary NASA Federal Credit Union account holder
High school senior
Average grade of C or higher
21 or younger
To qualify for membership to NASA FCU, you need to meet one of the following criteria:
Member of the National Space Society (NSS) — NASA FCU gives you a one-year complimentary membership
Current or retired employee of a NASA Center
Employee or member of a NASA FCU association or partner company
Related to or living with a current NASA FCU member
While it requires a longer essay and is only open to graduating high school seniors, the NASA FCU scholarship is one of the largest out there. Awards are up to $12,000 and can be extended for two years — meaning funds last into your sophomore year.
Great Lakes Credit Union Scholarship
Award amount: $1,000
Deadline: April 1st
To qualify for the Great Lakes Credit Union (GLCU) Scholarship, you need to meet the following criteria:
Full- or part-time student at an accredited school
High school graduate or graduating senior
GLCU account holder
To qualify for membership to GLCU, you need to meet one of the following criteria:
Live, work or attend school in a qualifying Illinois community
Member of a qualifying community organization
Federal government employee
Active-duty military member
Relative of someone who meets one of the above criteria
Great Lakes Credit Union awards six scholarships to its members each year. The contest is open to incoming freshmen and high school graduates. And there’s no essay requirement — you simply need to submit a five-minute video that answers GLCU’s prompt.
How we picked these scholarships
We chose scholarships from credit unions with broad membership criteria that are open to a variety of students — both those new to college and continuing their education. However, this isn’t a definitive list — check with your local credit unions to see if they offer any additional scholarships you can apply to.
How else can I pay for school?
Small-dollar scholarships like those from local credit unions typically won’t cover all the costs of attending college. Other ways to pay for school include:
Federal grants. Federal grants like the Pell Grant are designed to make college more affordable for low-income students. You may be awarded up to $6,195 depending on your expected family contribution (EFC) and the cost of attendance for your school.
State- and school-funded scholarships. Many states and universities offer scholarships to students on the basis of academic achievement. If you’ve earned high grades throughout high school, you may be eligible for a merit-based scholarship simply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA).
Student loans. After you’ve run out of grants and scholarship opportunities, turning to federal or private student loans can help you cover any remaining costs.
If you’re willing to open an account at a federal credit union, you could walk away with thousands of dollars in scholarship money. But these small-dollar programs will only go so far. Once you’ve exhausted your scholarship opportunities and filled out the FAFSA, you can compare student loans to pick up the slack where free aid falls short.
Frequently asked questions
Your high school’s college adviser is a good place to start a local search. For national scholarships, check online search engines dedicated to helping students connect with organizations offering free aid. You can get started on your hunt with our A-to-Z list of scholarships opportunities.
Not necessarily. We searched for scholarships open to current college students and adults looking to go back to school. However, some credit unions only accept high school seniors.
Most credit unions — and other organizations — earmark your funds for room and board, tuition, fees and other costs specifically related to attending classes. But check with your scholarship program for specifics on how you can use the money you receive.
Kellye Guinan is a seasoned financial writer with over 500 articles under her belt spanning all things loans from auto to personal to business and everything in between. With four years in the field and five years of research experience, she's able to make complex personal finance decisions easier for anyone to tackle. When she's not up to her knees learning about the latest trends in lending, she spends her time improving her own financial literacy and expertise — and maintaining a Duolingo streak of over 1,300 days.
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