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U.S. Automakers Dole Out Big Bucks in College Scholarships

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American car makers Ford and General Motors loom large as longtime providers of middle-class jobs, so their historical commitment to education makes perfect sense. After all, educated workers are a boon to any employer, particularly a specialized industry such as motor vehicle production.

These companies were so involved in worker education that each, at one point in its history, even created its own school: The Henry Ford Trade School, founded in 1916 in Detroit, Mich.; and the General Motors Institute, which opened in Flint in 1919. The former merged with a junior college in the early 1950s and is now known as Henry Ford Community College, while the GMI morphed into today's Kettering University.

Both automakers continue their dedication to training and education in automotive-related and other fields by offering a plethora of scholarship programs each year. The offerings are many and varied, and are often presented in conjunction with other entities. Here is a sampling of the types of scholarships Ford and GM make available to those fulfilling the particular program requirements.

The venerable automaker offers a slew of college scholarships through its Blue Oval Scholars program, and the company worked with such varied organizations as the Future Farmers of America and the Alliance for Women in Media to award more than $1 million in scholarships to worthy students in 2012 alone.

Through the Ford Foundation, which endeavors to increase diversity in higher education, the company offers hefty fellowships to predoctoral, dissertation, and postdoctoral program participants -- featuring annual stipends of between $20,000 and $40,000. The awards cover multiple areas of study, as you can see from this list of last year's Scholar Award List.

The company generally contributes money to organizations that distribute scholarships, choosing not to disperse the funds itself. For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Endowed Scholarships are administered by the EEOC, and the funds allotted to each of 37 different schools are given out by those schools -- with preference to eligible GM employees and their children.

The automaker's newest award is the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, conceived and implemented by the GM Foundation in conjunction with Buick in 2011. Since the program's inception, almost $16.5 million has been given out to over 3,300 students. A total of 1,100 awards are given each year, with 1,000 of those being a one-time scholarship of $2,000.

The other 100 students chosen will get an astounding $25,000 annually in four-year renewable scholarships -- with an additional year available for those enrolled in a five-year engineering degree program. One condition is that graduates must plan to pursue a career in an automotive-related field -- not an onerous requirement considering the generosity of the award.

Though applying for scholarships takes time and dedication, awards like the ones provided by Ford and GM can mean the difference between graduating from college debt-ridden or, in some of these programs, entirely debt-free. For those already planning to pursue careers in the majors stipulated by these scholarships' guidelines, taking a good look at what these two automakers have to offer will be time well spent.

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Amanda Alix

Foolish financial writer since early 2012, striving to demystify the intriguing field of finance -- which, contrary to popular opinion, is truly what makes the world go 'round.

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