By now, many of the deadlines have passed for scholarship-hunting college students. But don't despair: Maryland families still have one week to apply for aid from Central Scholarship Bureau, a nonprofit that's adding scholarships thanks to some recent donations.
The Pikesville group, which makes grants and interest-free student loans to Marylanders, last month received pledges for two sizable gifts to create more scholarships. That was on top of smaller donations earlier this year that established four scholarships.
Before the credit crunch, scholarships nationally were growing at a steady clip, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org. Now the growth trend is "flat to slightly increasing" because when scholarships are added, others are often discontinued, he says.
Central Scholarship has nearly 30 scholarship programs. That's a little more than a year ago, which is a significant achievement in this weak economy, says Roberta Goldman, program director.
"Anything in this economy funding-wise that is positive is a big deal," Goldman says. "It means more help for people in Maryland."
While Central Scholarship has been around since the 1920s, it's still not widely known. But low- to-moderate income Maryland families with children in college should get acquainted with it.
The nonprofit sprung out of the closing of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in 1924. Funds left over from the orphanage along with donations were used to create scholarships and interest-free student loans.
Last year, Central Scholarship awarded about $800,000 in scholarships that don't have to be repaid and $200,000 in loans that must be paid back but without interest. It expects to disburse a similar amount late this summer.
Some new scholarships that will be awarded come from the gifts made last month.
One bequest comes from the estate of a former board president, Catharine Hecht, who died last year. The money will fund the Isaac & Catharine S. Hecht Endowed Scholarship. Central Scholarship won't disclose the amount at the request of the family, and how many scholarships it will create hasn't been determined, says Jessica Schmidt-Bonifant, the group's development director.
The other gift is a $100,000 pledge by David Dalsheimer to the BHD Endowed Scholarship Fund for Teacher Education, which was established in 2004 with a $500,000 gift from his mother, Babette H. Dalsheimer. The $100,000 will provide two extra scholarships each year, for a total of 11 annual awards of up to $5,000 each. Scholarships go to graduate education students with a background in liberal arts, mathematics or science who plan to teach in a Maryland public school.
To qualify for loans or scholarships, applicants must be Maryland residents with family adjusted gross income under $90,000. Students can attend schools outside Maryland.
For loans, students must have a grade-point average of at least 2.0 on a 4.0 scale; scholarships require 3.0 or higher.
Loans are based on need and merit. You must have a co-signer. You can borrow up to $10,000 a year, although the typical loan is $4,000 to $5,000, Goldman says.
Scholarships usually run $3,000 to $4,000 and have their own criteria. Some, for example, are awarded to graduates of certain high schools or go to those studying certain fields. Check out the scholarships at http://www.centralsb.org.
Competition has been growing for Central Scholarship's limited funds. Last year, it received 2,200 applications and made about 200 awards for scholarships and loans. Three years ago, 450 students applied and 180 received awards.
"Those aren't bad odds," says Kalman Chany, author of "Paying for College Without Going Broke." He noted that the chances with some big national scholarships are 1 out of 50,000.
But Chany advises families to make sure they meet the criteria before applying for any scholarship or risk being disappointed.
For more information, call 410-415-5558. Applications must be made online by May 10.