Scholarships for Health Professions Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds


The Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) program increases diversity in the health professions and nursing workforce by providing awards to eligible health professions schools for use in awarding scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have financial need, including students who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups. The SDS program aims to increase the: 1) number of graduates practicing in primary care, 2) enrollment and retention of full-time students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including students who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups, and 3) number of graduates working in medically underserved communities (MUCs). Schools provide scholarships, and maintain and operate a program to recruit and retain students from disadvantaged backgrounds that encourages completion of school and service in primary care and in medically underserved communities.

General information about this opportunity
Last Known Status
Program Number
Federal Agency/Office
Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services
Type(s) of Assistance Offered
B - Project Grants
Program Accomplishments
Fiscal Year 2018 In Academic Year 2017-2018, the SDS Program provided scholarships to 3,047 students from disadvantaged backgrounds, slightly below the FY 2017 target but an increase from the prior year of 2,811 scholarships. This was due in large part to fewer grants being awarded in FY 2016 as well as a significant increase in the scholarship limit per student (increased from $15,000 to $30,000), resulting in more substantial investments in fewer individuals. The adjustment to the scholarship cap was made to reflect the increasing costs of health professions education programs. The majority of students were considered under-represented minorities (URMs) in their prospective professions (64 percent). Additionally, 1,051 students who received SDS-funded scholarships successfully graduated from their degree programs by the end of Academic Year 2017-2018. Upon graduation, 68 percent intended to work or pursue additional training in medically underserved communities, and 52 percent intended to work or pursue additional training in primary care settings.
Section 737 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 293a)
Who is eligible to apply/benefit from this assistance?
Applicant Eligibility
Accredited public or non-profit private schools of medicine, nursing, osteopathic medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, podiatric medicine, optometry, veterinary medicine, chiropractic, allied health, public health, a school offering a graduate program in behavioral and mental health practice, or an entity providing programs for the training of physician assistants. 1) At least 20 percent of the total enrollment (full-time enrolled) of a program during the specified academic year must be students from disadvantaged backgrounds; and 2) At least 20 percent of the total graduates (who were full-time students) of a program during the specified academic year must have been from disadvantaged backgrounds. Faith-based and community-based organizations, Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Government and Native American Organizations are eligible to apply if all other eligibility requirements are met.
Beneficiary Eligibility
Students who are citizens, nationals, or lawful permanent residents of the United States or the District of Columbia, the Commonwealths of Puerto Rico or the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the American Samoa, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia; and enrolled full-time in health professions or nursing schools. A student who is in this country on a student or visitor's visa is not eligible.
Applicants should review the individual HRSA Notice of Funding Opportunity issued under this CFDA program for any required proof or certifications which must be submitted prior to or simultaneous with submission of an application package.
What is the process for applying and being award this assistance?
Pre-Application Procedure
Preapplication coordination is not applicable.
Application Procedure
2 CFR 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards applies to this program. 2 CFR 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards applies to this program. HRSA requires all applicants to apply electronically through All eligible, qualified applications will be forwarded to an objective review committee. Based on the advice of the objective review committee, the HRSA program official with delegated authority is responsible for final selection and funding decisions. Notification is made in writing (electronic) by a Notice of Award.
Award Procedure
Notification is made in writing (electronic) by a Notice of Award.
Contact the headquarters or regional location, as appropriate for application deadlines
Approval/Disapproval Decision Time
Approximately 120 - 180 days after receipt of applications.
Not applicable.
Depending on Agency priorities and availability of funding, during the final budget year of the approved project period competing continuation applications may be solicited from interested applicants.
How are proposals selected?
Procedures for assessing the technical merit of grant applications have been instituted to provide an objective review of applications and to assist the applicant in understanding the standards against which each application will be judged. Critical indicators have been developed for each review criterion to assist the applicant in presenting pertinent information related to that criterion and to provide the reviewer with a standard for evaluation. Competing applications are reviewed by nonfederal reviewers for technical merit recommendations. Applications will be reviewed and evaluated against the following criteria: (1) Purpose and Need; (2) Response to Program Purpose; (3) Impact; (4) Organizational Information, Resources and Capabilities; and (5) Support Requested. See most recent Notice of Funding Opportunity for detailed review criteria.
How may assistance be used?
SDS funds awarded to schools must be used to award full or partial scholarships to eligible students enrolled in health professions programs on a full-time basis. Scholarships may only be expended for tuition expenses, other reasonable educational expenses, and reasonable living expenses incurred while in attendance for the year. Student scholarship awards shall equal an amount no less than 50% of the student’s annual tuition costs up to a maximum amount of $30,000 to cover the cost of attendance. No student can be awarded SDS funds greater than $30,000 per year. The Secretary is required to make available at least 16 percent of the funds to schools that will provide scholarships only for nursing students. In addition, 25 percent of SDS funding is designated for graduate programs in behavioral and mental health practice. In making awards, geographical regions are also taken into consideration. Schools are required to agree that, in providing scholarships under this program, preference shall be given to students from disadvantaged backgrounds for whom the costs of attending the school would constitute a severe financial hardship. The Secretary may not make a grant to a school unless the school is carrying out a program for recruiting and retaining students from disadvantaged backgrounds and has met the eligibility criteria of demonstrating the success of outcome measures. Indirect costs are unallowable under this program.
What are the requirements after being awarded this opportunity?
Not applicable.
Not applicable.
Grantees are required to maintain grant accounting records 3 years after the date they submit the Federal Financial Report (FFR). If any litigation, claim, negotiation, audit or other action involving the award has been started before the expiration of the 3 year period, the records shall be retained until completion of the action and resolution of all issues which arise from it, or until the end of the regular 3 year period, whichever is later.
Other Assistance Considerations
Formula and Matching Requirements
Statutory formula is not applicable to this assistance listing.

Matching requirements are not applicable to this assistance listing.

This program has MOE requirements, see funding agency for further details. Additional Information: The recipient must agree to maintain non-federal funding for grant activities at a level which is not less than expenditures for such activities during the fiscal year prior to receiving the award.
Length and Time Phasing of Assistance
This funding opportunity provides support for a four-year project period. Student scholarships are provided in one year awards. Recipients draw down funds, as necessary, from the Payment Management System (PMS), the centralized web based payment system for HHS awards. Recipients draw down funds, as necessary, from the Payment Management System (PMS), the centralized web based payment system for HHS awards.
Who do I contact about this opportunity?
Regional or Local Office
None/Not specified.
Headquarters Office
Denise Sorrell, Division of Health Careers and Financial Support, Bureau of Health Workforce,
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 15N78,
Rockville , MD 20857 US
Phone: (301) 443-1173
Website Address
Financial Information
Account Identification
(Project Grants) FY 18$45,726,127.00; FY 19 est $45,354,203.00; FY 20 est $0.00; FY 17$43,120,389.00; FY 16$42,621,413.00; -
Range and Average of Financial Assistance
Range FY 2018: $28,000 to $650,000; Average $578,812 Range FY 2019: $28,000 to $650,000; Average $574,104 Range FY 2020: $0 Average est. $0
Regulations, Guidelines and Literature
All administrative and audit requirements and the cost principles that govern Federal monies associated with this activity will be subject to the Uniform Guidance 2 CFR 200 as codified by HHS at 45 CFR 75. HRSA awards are also subject to the requirements of the HHS Grants Policy Statement (HHS GPS) that are applicable based on recipient type and purpose of award. The HHS GPS is available at
Examples of Funded Projects
Not applicable.