How Do I Pay for School?

How do I pay for my social work education?

From scholarships and grants to loans, there are quite a few options to help pay for your education. You’ll find that each opportunity has a checklist of requirements and application steps—be sure to carve out plenty of time to complete everything.
Review the different funding opportunities below as you work through this important step of your social work education journey. CSWE's list of funding opportunities can be accessed here


Scholarships are financial awards, given for a number of reasons. Usually scholarships are merit-based, which means you can qualify for them based on academics or other qualifications. Scholarships can come from federal or state government, private or nonprofit organizations, or academic institutions. 

Carl A. Scott Memorial Fund (awarded to those working for equality and social justice in their studies) are two examples of scholarship opportunities at CSWE. Also check out Scholarship Search, a database with information about more than 3.5 million scholarships. 


Loans give you access to money but must be paid back with interest. Student loans are available from the federal government or private sources such as banks or other financial institutions. Make sure to look at all the information closely, including repayment options and interest rates, to ensure you’re choosing the loan that’s right for your situation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau outlines items to consider when comparing loan and repayment options.


Fellowships allow you to study and focus on your professional goals and development simultaneously. These programs offer stipends to help cover some personal costs during your studies. CSWE has  fellowship programs for your consideration, including one for students interested in serving racial/ethnic minorities. The National Association of Social Workers Foundation also lists several fellowship opportunities. 


Grants are very similar to scholarships, and you may find the terms used interchangeably. These are mostly need-based, so be prepared to provide financial statements during the application process. One of the most important parts of a grant application is telling your story—don’t be afraid to share why you are pursuing a social work degree and the difference you intend to make in the world.

Service-based commitments

Service-based commitments provide pathways for obtaining an education and serving the broader community. Here are a few examples:

Some of these opportunities offer financial awards or scholarships to assist with continued education or to help pay off existing loans. Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the federal government may forgive a portion of your debt after certain conditions are met.