A decline in public investment in education has caused great hardship for students across the country trying to keep up with decades of skyrocketing tuition costs and piling student loans. In the last 40 years, average tuition and fees at four-year institutions rose 213 percent at private schools and 300 percent at public schools. Students spent about $27,300 (public) to $55,800 (private) in the 2021-22 school year to cover courses, room and board, books, and other expenses. Over 43.4 million borrowers have federal student loan debt and the total student loan debt in the United States is now $1.747 trillion, according to the Education Data Initiative.
Many students rely on scholarships to supplement their incomes, savings, and loans. To sponsor scholarships for secular student activists, the Secular Student Alliance reached out to individuals, local communities, and national organizations in the secular movement. “There are thousands of scholarships for religious students, but only a few for nonreligious students,” said Secular Student Alliance Executive Director Kevin Bolling. “These scholarships help reinforce student leaders who are putting their humanist values into action on a daily basis.”
With an application deadline of July 31, 2022, the scholarships are available to full-time students enrolled in high school or college in the United States and are designed to support students who, in addition to pursuing excellence in their academic studies, are also activists for secular values on their campus and/or in their community. “Secular students are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they’re the leaders of today,” said Evan Clark, executive director of Atheists United, a group that joined others to form a scholarship for a student enrolled in Southern California. “We need to take every opportunity we can to support the secular student movement.”
“We want to recognize and reward students for their activism in helping make their campuses and communities better for everyone,” continued Bolling. “Every year, I am amazed at what nonreligious students are accomplishing in their communities. Not only being activists for state/church separation, they are also tackling issues of women’s inequality, LGBTQ+ civil rights, racial justice, homelessness, and climate change. We should all be proud of the upcoming generation of humanists and nonreligious students.”
I want to personally thank and celebrate local American Humanist Association groups that are sponsoring secular activist scholarships for students in their state or region as part of SSA’s annual scholarship program:
- Florida Humanist Association
- Humanists of Sarasota Bay
- Humanists of North Central Florida
- Atheist Community of Polk County
- Central Florida Freethought Community
Please share the SSA’s scholarship opportunities with secular students you know and remind them to apply by July 31, 2022. You can learn more about SSA’s year-round work to prepare students to be leaders in their communities and how you can get involved at secularstudents.org. And consider sponsoring one or more SSA scholarships in the future to continue to support our growing movement.