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It isn't easy being a college kid during a recession. Tuition is going up while student services are going down — and that, of course, assumes that you were lucky enough to be accepted to matriculate in the first place. So what is an environmentally minded, financially strapped student to do?

Fortunately, despite the added pressures of the shaky economy, funding for environmental studies majors seems relatively stable. Julian Dautremont-Smith, who serves as associate director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, says environmental nonspecific scholarships are increasingly being awarded to students like Oberlin's Lucas Brown, who plans to pursue green business during his year as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Meanwhile, traditional environmental scholarship sources are showing little sign of suspending funding for the 2009-2010 academic year.

Sharon Smith, a program director for the Earth Island Institute, says the organization's prestigious Brower Youth Awards have not been directly impacted by the economy. "As a whole we have had to get more creative about fundraising and finding ways to meet our needs with fewer resources," she says. "But we anticipate the program to go on as planned." Similarly, Mia Ibarra, who works as a program manager for the Morris K. Udall Foundation, says the Udall Scholarship — which is sustained through a trust fund established by Congress — would continue to support 80 students, as it has in years past.

Still, as more families struggle to keep up with tuition rates, the pool of applicants for environmental funding opportunities will likely grow and broaden. While the total number of applications to the Udall Foundation stayed steady between 2008 and 2009, Ibarra says the foundation received nominations from 25 new colleges and universities, "which potentially means that students are looking harder for funding [this year]." Meanwhile, Aimme Sands, the public relations manager for Annie's Homegrown, says the company anticipates an increase in applicants for the coming cycle of its Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship this fall.

While the competition is sure to be particularly steep this year, now is the right time to seek out the funding you need to realize your brilliant (future) environmental career. The 10 sites listed below include some of the most prestigious and best-paying environmental scholarships available — so read up, dust off your résumé and start applying!

 

1) Annie's Homegrown Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship

Best-known for its bunny-adorned boxes of organic mac-n-cheese, Annie's Homegrown also maintains a strong commitment to sustainable agriculture. Each year, it awards monetary scholarships ($2,500 and $10,000) to outstanding undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing food- and agriculture-related degrees.

2) Brower Youth Awards (Earth Island Institute)

"Dave was extreme before your daddy was born," or so says the promotional video about renowned environmentalist David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club and founder of Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters and the Earth Island Institute (among many other accomplishments — like three Nobel Peace Prize nominations). Brower died in 2000, but his legacy lives on in the Brower Youth Awards, an annual award given to six young environmental activists and students (age 13-22). Winners receive $3,000 and a weeklong gathering in San Francisco that includes participation in the Bioneers conference and an overnight backpacking trip.

3) Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Education Scholarship

Open to minority students living and studying in Missouri, this $1,000 renewable award supports scholars pursuing a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degrees including civil, mechanical, agricultural or environmental engineering, geology, biology, wildlife management, environmental chemistry or environmental law.

4) Dr. W. Wesley Eckenfelder Scholarship

Civil, chemical or environmental engineers and environmental science students can apply for this annual scholarship of $3,000. The scholarship recognizes Dr. Eckenfelder — a trailblazing scientist named by Environmental Protection magazine as one of three "20th Century Pollution Control Pioneers."

5) Garden Club of America Scholarships

The GCA helps to spread its love of gardening and civic improvement to future generations through a series of botanical scholarships. It offers support to working professionals (e.g. landscape architects and horticulturists) and students alike, including three scholarships ($2,000 each) focused exclusively on environmental studies during the summer months.

6) National Environmental Health Association Scholarship

Environmental health and public health students (grad and undergrad) are eligible for $1,000 in support toward their tuition and fees during their junior or senior year. This scholarship was designed to encourage students' "early commitment" to the field.

7) Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Journalism

You don't need stellar reporting skills to know the world of print journalism is in serious trouble. Still, the need for compelling, beautifully crafted nonfiction lives on. Middlebury College's Environmental Journalism Fellowship does its part to ensure the continued legacy of storytelling by shepherding 10 writers at the beginning of their careers through an "ambitious reporting project in print, Web-based or radio journalism." The fellowship provides $10,000 in living and reporting expenses, plus in-person trainings and ongoing support throughout the yearlong program.

8) Morris K. Udall Scholarship

As a member of the Arizona House of Representatives in the 1960s, Morris Udall pioneered several pieces of important conservation legislation, including the Alaska lands act of 1980 (aka ANILCA), which doubled the size of the national park system. Now, the Udall Foundation provides annual scholarships of $5,000 to 80 undergraduates who are studying environmental studies, and Native American and Alaska Native students who are studying tribal public policy or native health care. In addition to monetary funding, students fly to Tucson, Ariz., for a weeklong leadership conference.

9) Switzer Foundation Fellowship

Exceptional environmental grad students from New England and California are welcome to apply for the Switzer Environmental Fellowship program. Accepted fellows receive a one-year $15,000 award toward their graduate study, as well as leadership support and networking opportunities with their peers.

10) Windstar Environmental Studies Scholarship

In addition to being a talented, soulful singer/songwriter, John Denver was committed to protecting the natural environment. In 1976, he paired up with Thomas Crum to found the Windstar Foundation with the hope of "[inspiring] individuals to make responsible choices and take direct personal actions to achieve a peaceful and environmentally sustainable future." In 1997 — the same year as Denver's untimely death — the Windstar Foundation launched an annual environmental studies scholarship, which awards two $500 scholarships to undergraduate juniors and seniors and one $1,000 scholarship for a graduate student.

MNN homepage photo: SteveMcsweeny/iStockphoto

Correction: In the original version of this article, David Brower was indentified as the founder of the Sierra Club. The article has been updated to change his relationship with the organization.