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FAQ: Scholarships for Disadvantaged (SDS) Program

Eligibility Information

Program Requirements

Program Definitions


Completing Your Application

Eligibility Information

Are students eligible to apply for these scholarships?

The Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program provides funding to schools, not directly to students.
Students may contact the financial aid office at their schools to see if they qualify. Check out opportunities for individuals.

Is my school in the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students Program?

We won't know which schools receive the award until after the review of all applications.
We post the list of schools that receive funding on our website.

Must each school include at least 20% of full-time students from a disadvantaged background? As a whole for the school or for each discipline?

Applicants must demonstrate success based on the percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are enrolled full-time or have graduated from the school. For the most recent 3-year period, at least 20% of the school’s full-time enrolled students and graduates must be from a disadvantaged background.

Students can be either:

**Newly established schools are not subject to the three years of data requirement. Visit page 12 of the NOFO for additional information.**

  • At least 20% of the total enrollment (full-time enrolled) of the degree program during Academic Years (AY) 2016-2019 (7/1/16-6/30/19) were students from disadvantaged backgrounds; and
  • At least 20% of the total graduates (who were full-time students) of the degree program during Academic Years 2016-2019 came from disadvantaged backgrounds. Refer to pages 4-5 of the NOFO for the definition of disadvantaged background.
  • Educationally/Environmentally Disadvantaged
  • Economically Disadvantaged but all have to have a financial need

Should eligibility calculations cover just US domestic students?

Yes, a student receiving support from grant funds must be:

  • A citizen or national of the United States
  • A lawful permanent resident of the United States
  • A foreign national with a visa permitting permanent residence in the United States
  • A non-citizen national

What disciplines are eligible for Primary Care points?

On page 40 of the NOFO: Priority 2: Primary Care (2-4 Points per Funding Priority Table)

Note: Priority in primary care is limited to:

  • We'll grant you a funding priority if at least 15% of graduates practiced in primary care during AYs 2016-2019.
  • For allopathic and osteopathic medicine: use graduate data from AYs 2012-2015
  • For dentistry, dental hygiene, graduate nursing, physician assistants, and mental and behavioral health practitioners: use graduate data from AYs 2015-2018
  • Allopathic and osteopathic medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Dental hygiene
  • Graduate nursing
  • Physician assistants
  • Behavioral and mental health

Will underrepresented Asian groups be considered for priority points?

Yes. Underrepresented Asian subpopulations will be considered for priority points. Asian subpopulations (other than Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Asian Indian, or Thai). The AACM data is an acceptable data source for calculating the subpopulation.

If those who wish to include sub-populations of Asian American student data in their calculation for priority points, submit the student information as part of attachment 7.

Note: Applicants should only include an attachment if the addition of the subpopulation students will qualify them for at least one priority point.

Do racial minorities qualify as having disadvantaged backgrounds?

Being an underrepresented minority or coming from a medically underserved community does not alone qualify as coming from a disadvantaged background.

The student must meet the definition of coming from a disadvantaged background, which means they are either educationally/environmentally OR economically disadvantaged. (Details on pages 4-7 of the HRSA-20-006)

Program Requirements

What disciplines or schools may apply to the SDS program in Fiscal Year 2020? (See pages 10 -11 of the HRSA-20-006 NOFO)

If your degree is not on the list, then it is not eligible.

  • Medicine (doctor of allopathic medicine and osteopathic medicine)
  • Dentistry (doctor of dentistry)
  • Other Health Disciplines (doctor of veterinary medicine, optometry, podiatry medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and chiropractic medicine)
  • Behavioral and Mental Health (graduate degree in clinical psychology, clinical social work, gerontological counseling, marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, and rehabilitation counseling)
  • Public Health (graduate degree in health administration and public health)
  • Allied Health (baccalaureate and graduate degrees in dietetics, graduate degree in audiology, occupational therapy, speech pathology, baccalaureate and graduate degree in dental hygiene, baccalaureate and graduate degrees in medical laboratory technology, baccalaureate degree in radiologic technology)
  • Nursing associate, diploma, baccalaureate and graduate (including doctoral and Certified Nurse-Midwife) degrees in nursing (pre-nursing is not eligible). ALL Non-nursing accredited midwifery programs please select the nursing DIPLOMA option on the program specific form from the discipline drop-down box. Non-nursing midwifery funding will not affect the nursing funding allocation.
  • Physician Assistant (graduate degree in physician assistant studies)

What are the requirements to qualify for the program?

School Eligibility Requirements:

We list eligible program disciplines under the Eligibility Information section of the NOFO.

For the most recent three-year period, at least 20% of the school’s full-time enrolled students and graduates must be from disadvantaged backgrounds. (Newly established schools are not subject to the three years of data requirement).

Applicants must be carrying out a program to recruit and retain students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including racial and ethnic minority groups.

Each institution’s program applying for the SDS Program (e.g., pharmacy, baccalaureate nursing, dentistry, etc.) must be accredited for each specific health discipline.

If not, the institution must be accredited by the relevant accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, prior to submission of the SDS Program application.

You must provide proof of accreditation as an attachment to the application. Proof can be certificates or letters with dates prior to the start of the budget/project period.

Applicants must provide proof of accreditation by a recognized body or bodies approved by the Secretary of Education. Please refer to the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation database.

Student Eligibility Requirements: “Eligible individual” means an individual who:

  • For-profit nursing and physician assistant schools
  • Public or non-profit private schools
  • Domestic faith-based and community-based organizations,
  • Tribes and tribal organizations
  • Is from a disadvantaged background
  • Has a financial need for a scholarship; and
  • Is enrolled (or accepted for enrollment) at an eligible health professions or nursing school. Must be a full-time student in a program leading to a degree in a health profession or nursing.

What are the requirements for a new school to qualify for the program? (See pages 11-12 of the HRSA-20-006)

Note: Institutions that do not qualify for the school exception below and fail to meet an average of 20% disadvantaged enrollment and 20% disadvantaged graduates for the most recent 3-year period are ineligible. They will not be considered for funding under this notice.

Newly established schools are not subject to the three years of data requirement.

Newly established schools (that is, schools that have not been in existence long enough to have three years of enrollment and graduation data), may apply for the SDS Program as long as the school had students enrolled for the academic years covering the period of 9/1/17 - 6/30/19.

Since newly established schools do not have three years of data for program enrollment and graduates, they must provide at least two years of student enrollment and at least one year of graduation data to show that at least 20% of the total enrollment and graduates are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Can multiple institutions apply to the program? (See page 13 of the HRSA-20-006 NOFO)

We allow multiple applications from an organization with the same DUNS number.

You may submit only one application per one health profession degree program (refer to section III). Institutions must not submit a single application for multiple health profession degree programs. Each application will represent one discipline.

While we allow multiple applications from an institution, only a maximum of three per institution may receive funding. Collaborative proposals are not allowed.

To apply under one application, the programs must result in the same degree listed on pages 10-11 of the NOFO.

Example: If a school has a baccalaureate and graduate degree in medical laboratory technology, they must submit separate applications.

If they do not all result in the same degree, they must submit separate applications.

If my nursing and midwifery programs are integrated (e.g., a student can get a degree in nursing and midwifery or an M.S. in midwifery), what should I select?

Apply under nursing if the program is a nursing program, meaning it’s accredited and all students are nurses.

If not, apply under non-nursing and select diploma option on the program specific form.

My institution does not require graduate students' parental tax returns. How do I show if the students are from a disadvantaged background?

Disadvantaged background means an individual comes from an educationally/environmentally OR economically disadvantaged background.

Check and see if they come from an educationally/ environmentally disadvantaged background if your institution does not have the parental data needed from individuals to determine their status.

You also can try to collect parental income data on these students.

What is the cap amount per student?

The cap of $40,000 is per student, per academic year as long as all other requirements are met.

Each student must have a financial need every year that is not exceeded.

For what may a student use the scholarship money?

The use of scholarship funds are as follows:

Note: Childcare expenses are not allowed.

  • Tuition
  • Health insurance
  • Books
  • Software
  • Laptops
  • iPads
  • Trainee travel for trainings
  • Conferences etc. (not daily commuting)
  • Stipends
  • Subsistence
  • Housing

Federal loans are routinely offered to graduate students. Should we include that in our financial aid package averages? We also sometimes receive state grants. Should we include that in total aid provided?

The NOFO does not tell applicants what sources of financial assistance to use.

It only stipulates that MOE is required, which is maintenance of effort. Applicant must maintain non-federal assistance to support program’s longevity if approved.

It is expected that non-federal sources can be used, i.e., private, state, and local funding. Financial assistance should include any grants and/or scholarships of any kind and exclude loans.

What if tuition increases over the award period? The maximum scholarship ($40,000 per student) may no longer be at least half the cost of annual tuition.

Grantee has to give a max award of $40,000 per academic year if tuition is more than $80k a year.

If a student needs less than half the cost of tuition, will they still qualify for a scholarship?

Use the instructions on pages 15-16 to calculate Cost of Attendance and Financial Need. You cannot exceed a student’s financial need and you must award at least half the cost of the annual tuition.

Unless the tuition is over 80k, then you must provide the max award of 40k. If a student does not meet both of those conditions, they do not qualify.

A student may be disadvantaged as far as education and environment, but not economics. Does the student need to include financial information? Does it need to be FAFSA, or is there another way to determine income? (Program Specific Instructions section of the HRSA-20-006)

The definition of educationally/environmentally disadvantaged means an individual comes from an environment that has inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to enroll in and graduate from a health professions school, or from a program providing education or training in an allied health profession.

The following are provided as examples of an educationally/environmentally disadvantaged background. These examples are for guidance only and are not intended to be all-inclusive. Each academic institution defines the below mentioned “low” rates based on its own enrollment populations. It is the responsibility of each applicant to clearly delineate the criteria used to classify student participants as coming from a disadvantaged background. You can find the most recent annual data available for the following four examples below on your state’s Department of Education website under the high school’s report card.

Other examples of an educationally/environmentally disadvantaged background include:

Even when using educationally/environmentally disadvantaged to qualify an individual as disadvantaged, you still must verify the student has a financial need. Therefore, financial information will still need to be collected. Refer to pages 15-16 on how to calculate financial need.

  • The individual graduated from (or last attended) a high school that has a low overall student average SAT score, based on most recent annual data available.
  • The individual graduated from (or last attended) a high school that—based on the most recent annual data available— had either a:
    • Low percentage of seniors receiving a high school diploma; or
    • Low percentage of graduates who go to college during the first year after graduation.
  • The individual graduated from (or last attended) a high school with low per capita funding.
  • The individual graduated from (or last attended) a high school where—based on the most recent annual data available— many of the enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
  • The individual is the first generation in his or her family to attend college.

Program Definitions

How does HRSA define “Competing Continuation”? It appears under the Award Information section of the NOFO.

Apply as “Completing Continuation,” if you are a current SDS grantee, if not; apply as “New.”

What if you don’t have a National Provider Identifier (NPI) number? Is this a requirement to apply for the program?

The HRSA-20-006 NOFO states: “You are required to have all trainees in eligible health professions to obtain National Provider Identifier (NPI) numbers to aid long-term assessment of the program’s impact on access and delivery of quality health care services. Eligible trainees who receive HRSA funds as a result of this award must apply for an NPI for the purpose of collecting HRSA-20-006 post-completion employment demographics, and you are required to report the NPI numbers for all individuals participating in the program to HRSA.”

The grant application – Section F under "Primary Care" – asks for number of full-time graduates for AY15-18. However, it also asks for the number of graduates serving in primary care for AY16-19. Can you explain?

First question: Ask the applicant to give the number of full-time graduates for AY 15-18.

Second question: Ask for the number of graduates serving in primary care, which is a one-year follow-up for those students.


Medically underserved area designations change sometimes yearly on HRSA maps. How can we determine if students worked in those areas over the past three years?

We update designations of medically underserved communities periodically; the designation in place at the time of application is the designation you should use Find Shortage Areas.

The area is a MUC as long as it has a designation of Health Professional Shortage Area, Medically Underserved Area, Medically Underserved Population, or Governor’s Certified Shortage Area for Rural Health Clinic purposes.

As an umbrella term, MUC also includes populations such as:

Note: Use the designation at time of application.

  • Homeless individuals
  • Migrant or seasonal workers
  • Residents of public housing

Our school is not a Title IV school. Therefore, we do not have FAFSA information. Is there a work-around? How will that affect our ability to be competitive?

In HRSA-20-006, we determined financial need only by the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Students must complete a FAFSA, and the school must use Dept. of Ed financial aid guidelines on how to calculate need.

Completing Your Application

How do I upload my institution's bio sketches?

Upload biographical sketches under attachment 2, not the SF-424 RESEARCH & RELATED Senior/Key Person Profile form. Biographical Sketches must include:

In addition, each biographical sketch must include:

  1. Senior/key personnel name
  2. Position Title
  3. Education/Training
  4. Section A (required) Personal Statement.
  5. Section B (required) Positions and Honors
  6. Section C (optional) Peer-reviewed publications or manuscripts in press
  7. Section D (optional) Other Support
  8. Project Role
  9. Organization name
  10. Department
  11. Address
  12. Phone number
  13. Fax number
  14. Email

What activities do we include in the MOE (e.g., scholarships, aid, equipment, recruitment trips, etc.)?

Maintenance of Effort – With respect to activities for which a SDS grant awarded, the grantee shall agree to maintain expenditures of non-federal amounts for disadvantaged students at a level that is not less than the level of such expenditures maintained by that grantee for the fiscal year before the fiscal year for which the grantee receives an SDS grant.

Where do I find the SF-424B form – Assurance for Non-Construction Programs?

The SF-424B Form Assurances for Non-Construction Programs is no longer part of the Application Package. As noted on pages 31-32 of the NOFO, organizations applying for federal financial assistance as of January 1, 2020, must validate the federally required common certifications and representations every year in the SAM. Your renewal in may take five days or longer, so we advise you to start now.


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