Average college tuition today can be as much as $21,000 a year, so it’s more important than ever to find alternative and creative ways to pay for a degree. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic charitable and fraternal organization, gives away close to a million dollars annually in scholarships.
Keep reading to find out if you qualify and how to apply.
Who Are the Knights of Columbus?
The Knights of Columbus was created in 1882 in the basement of Father Michael J. McGivney’s church in New Haven, Connecticut. At the aim, Catholics were under oppression, and Irish immigration (which was predominantly Catholic) was at a high.
McGivney recognized the tremendous need in his poverty-stricken parish, and created the organization to help fund insurance for women and children. The priest also admitted to wanting to create an alternative for Catholic men to secret societies such as the Masons.
Today, the Knights boast two million members and have chapter throughout the world, including Mexico, Canada, and the Philippines. It is the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world today and holds influence as high as the White House and the Vatican.
In the last decade, the Knights of Columbus claims to have given over $1.5 billion in charitable donations and aid. In 2016, over $177 million was distributed, while the Knights themselves donated more than 75 million service hours.
Benefitting causes include charities such as Coats for Kids and the Christian Refugee Relief Fund. The Knights have a strong focus on family assistance as a result of Pope John Paul II’s teachings on family life.
In the 2017-2018 academic year, the Knights handed out over $700,000 to 450 students attending Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.
To receive a Knights of Columbus Scholarship, students must themselves be a Knight or be the child of an active or deceased Knight.
How to Join the Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus have membership programs throughout the fifty states and are open to Catholic men who are in union with the Holy See and who practice the precepts of the Catholic Church. Men must be eighteen years or older and willing to commit at least twenty-four hours a year in volunteer work (though they can commit much more).
To apply, those interested are asked to contact their local chapter (information is available online) and submit an application with their interest in joining and annual commitment. Local members vote and admitted members are invited to initiation.
The Knights of Columbus’ initiation rituals are secret. However, membership includes four levels (called “degrees”) that can take up to a year to advance through. Fourth Level members may join the Honor Guard, and exhibit full Knights of Columbus regalia, including a sword.
Available Knights of Columbus Scholarships
The Knights of Columbus offers over ten distinct scholarships to children of Knights or to Knights, themselves.
Fourth Degree Pro Deo and Pro Patria Scholarships
There are two separate Fourth Degree Pro Deo and Pro Patria Scholarship funds. Each awards scholarships for $1,500; students may reapply annually. The number of scholarships, however, varies according to trust earnings. Scholarships are awarded for academic achievement.
While the scholarship application process isn’t made public, students attending Catholic University may indicate their eligibility for the scholarship on the admission form. There is also a form available online for students to fill out and submit to receive an application.
Of the two Fourth Degree scholarships available, one is for students attending school in the United States, and the other (the Canada scholarship) is for Canadian students attending school in Canada.
The United States Fourth Degree Scholarship requires the applicants must be at the start of their bachelor’s degree, attending a Catholic university in the United States. He or she must also be the daughter or son of a member of the Knights of Columbus who is in good standing, a deceased member of the Knights of Columbus, or a member himself of the Knights (though it should be noted that membership and application are not limited to members of the Fourth Degree).
The Canada Fourth Degree Scholarship follows the same requirements, except that students must be Canadian and must be at the start of their baccalaureate degree at a university in Canada (Catholic university not specified). Also, the Knights of Columbus members the applicant is related to must have been a member of a Canadian Knights council.
Fourth Degree Pro Deo award (both the United States version and the Canadian version) is also open to members in good standing of the Columbian Squires, a fraternity for boys between 10-18 years. The Columbian Squires is international and run by the Knights of Columbus.
John W. McDevitt (Fourth Degree) Scholarships
The John W. McDevitt (Fourth Degree) Scholarship follows the same criteria as the Fourth Degree Pro Deo and Pro Patria Scholarships, with a few exceptions. First, there is a separate application. Second, it is only available for US students studying at US universities (must be Catholic).
Third, in addition to being the son or daughter of a member or deceased member, applicants may also be a wife or widow of a member or deceased member.
Other than these three exceptions, the scholarship is identical to the Fourth Degree program, as mentioned, providing $1,500 awards annually, the number being determined by the fund’s earnings.
Potential students may use this application order form to request an application.
Several generous benefactors left funds to the Knights of Columbus to be established in their names. Most of these are similar to the Fourth Degree scholarships already explained, but several have key differences.
The Frank L. Goularte Endowed Scholarship was created in 2000 to assist financially needy students. In addition to following the criteria of the Fourth Degree scholarships, applicants must show proof of financial need. They will be asked to submit a copy of the Student Aid Report (SAR) as well as additional supporting documents.
The number of scholarships given each year is determined by the award’s earnings.
The Percy J. Johnson Endowed Scholarship was created in 1990. Like the Frank L. Goularte Endowed fund, the Johnson fund awards aid to students who demonstrate financial need.
FInally, the Anthony J. Labella Endowed Scholarship fund was created as part of a bequest in the mid-90s from the Labella estate. This one is not specified as discriminating based on financial need.
Bishop Charles P. Greco Graduate Fellowships
While many of the Knights of Columbus awards are given to individuals pursuing their bachelor’s degrees, the Bishop Charles P. Greco Graduate Fellowships are designed for students who are enrolled full-time in a master’s degree program to be able to teach people who have intellectual disabilities.
The grant is for up to $2,000 total, and the information stipulates that it may not exceed $500 in a semester. Applicants may be the wife, widow, son, or daughter of a Knights of Columbus member in good standing or deceased, or may, himself, be a Knight.
Father Michael J. McGivney Vocations Scholarship Fund and Bishop Thomas V. Daily Vocations Scholarship Fund
The Father Michael J. McGivney and Bishop Thomas V. Daily Vocations Scholarship Funds were set up to honor the memories of two important Supremes in the history of the Knights.
The Father McGivney scholarship is awarded based on financial need, and the Bishop Daily award is based on academic merit; both are for men studying theology with the aim of the Catholic priesthood.
The scholarships are $2,500 awards to cover tuition, room, and board, and unlike many of the other Knights of Columbus scholarships, applicants do not have to be members of or the children of members of the Knights of Columbus (though preference may be given). Awards can be renewed annually.
To apply, applicants must fill out the application.
Fellowships at the Catholic University of America
The 100-year-old endowment fund established by the Knights of Columbus at The Catholic University of American in Washing, D.C. was designed to create Fellowships to support graduate students earning a master’s or doctoral degree in the arts and sciences.
The Fellowship at the CUA provides tuition for five years, as well as some additional living expenses.
Again, preference is given to--but not limited to--the wives, sons, and daughters of members of the Knights of Columbus. Please note that this application process is administered by the CUA. See the Office of the Vice Provost for more details.
Matthews & Swift Educational Trust Scholarships
In honor of Francis P. Matthews and John E. Swift, past Supreme Knights, the Matthews & Swift Educational Trust Scholarships are expressly for the children of Knights who serve in law enforcement, as firefighters, or in the armed forces, who have fallen in combat or been severely injured while on the job.
These are some of the largest scholarships that the Knights award, and cover full tuition, up to $25,000 per year, at any Catholic college. Please note that applications must be made within two years of the member’s death or permanent disability. To apply for this scholarship, please contact the Knights of Columbus Department of Scholarships in New Haven, CT.
The Knights of Columbus is a venerable institution with a long history of scholarships to support and assist students. With hundreds of thousands of dollars available annually, it’s possible that you may qualify. Good luck!