It has been a tough few years, physically, mentally and financially.

For students graduating high school this summer, the race is on to secure financial aid and scholarships to lighten the monetary load of higher education and it’s more important than ever in the current financial climate.

Average student debt at graduation in 2020 ranged from $18,350 in Utah to $39,950 in New Hampshire, and new graduates’ likelihood of having debt varied from 39 percent in Utah to 73 percent in South Dakota, according to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICA). In 19 states, average debt was more than $30,000, and it was more than $35,000 in six states.

“Despite flattening levels of student loan debt in recent years, the debt of graduating classes has remained near an all-time high, and the debt borrowers hold continues to make their lives financially perilous,” noted TICA president Sameer Gadkaree.

To ease some of the financial burden for families, PEF, along with some individual divisions and regions, offers scholarships to members, retirees, and their families.

PEF scholarships

PEF’s statewide Joseph Scacalossi Scholarship has helped students since 1988, when it was founded as a tribute to a state Department of Labor member who helped form PEF and fought for the rights of his members in Manhattan.

The Joseph Scacalossi scholarship program is merit-based and open only to dependents of PEF members, PEF retirees and deceased members. Applicants must be high school seniors or college freshmen. Each year, 10 students are awarded $1,000 annually for up to four years.

The preliminary application is due March 18, 2022. It can be accessed online here. Upon verification, a final application will be mailed to students, which is due back April 30, 2022.

The Jean DeBow Women in PEF Scholarship was created to honor the memory of former Vice President Jean DeBow. There will be one scholarship award of $1,000, given annually at the PEF Convention, for an active female PEF member, who is pursuing an accredited post-secondary education in any field. Click here for details.

Scholarships are also sometimes offered by individual PEF regions and divisions.

Contact your regional office or your council leader for information about divisional and/or regional scholarships and deadlines for applying. Click here for PEF regional office contact information.

Union Plus

Since 1991, the Union Plus Scholarship Program has awarded more than $5 million to students, assisting more than 3,400 families with higher education costs.

Current and retired members of participating unions, their spouses and their dependent children are eligible for the scholarship. The union member must complete at least one year of continuous union membership by May 31 of the scholarship year.

The Union Plus scholarship is competitive and applicants are evaluated according to academic ability, social awareness, financial need and appreciation of labor. A GPA of 3.0 or higher is recommended.  Applications must be received on or before noon Eastern Standard Time on January 31.

Scholarship awards range from $500 to $4,000 and are one-time cash awards.

PEF is SEIU Local 4053.

SEIU scholarships

SEIU Lottery Scholarships

Fifteen $1,000 scholarships are awarded annually and are renewable for up to four years of study. In addition, SEIU provides 33 scholarships of $1,500 for one year of study.

The Bonnie Ladin Scholarship

The Bonnie Ladin Scholarship is available to SEIU members, their children and local union staff who are attending the National Labor College. Bonnie Ladin was an organizer at SEIU for 20 years and played an integral role in building SEIU to make it the union it is today. In honor of her tremendous contributions to the labor movement, SEIU created a scholarship in her name.

SEIU Jesse Jackson Scholarship

One $5,000 scholarship renewable for up to four years is given to a student whose work and aspirations for economic and social justice reflect the values and accomplishments of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

SEIU Moe Foner Scholarship

One $5,000 nonrenewable scholarship is available to students who are pursuing a degree or training in the visual or performing arts, and who believe the arts are a vehicle to advance social change.