P.E.O. International Scholarships for Women

P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) provides scholarship funding for the education of women since it was founded by seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in 1869. The P.E.O. functions like a women's organization and welcomes women of all races, religions, and backgrounds and remains nonpolitical.

What Is P.E.O.?

P.E.O. has 250,000 members in chapters across the United States and Canada, who call their organization a sisterhood and are passionate about encouraging women to realize their potential "in whatever worthwhile endeavor they choose."

Over the years, P.E.O. has become one of those organizations that is best known by its acronym P.E.O. rather than what those initial letters stand for.

For much of its history, the meaning of "P.E.O." in the organization's name was a closely guarded secret, never made public. In 2005, the sisterhood unveiled a new logo and an “It’s OK to Talk About P.E.O.” campaign, seeking to raise the public profile of the organization while maintaining its traditions of secrecy. Before then, the organization's avoidance of publicity, and the secrecy of their name caused it to be considered it a secret society.

In 2008, the sisterhood revised its website to indicate that "P.E.O." now publicly stands for "Philanthropic Educational Organization." However, the sisterhood acknowledges that "P.E.O." originally had a different meaning that continues to be "reserved for members only," and so the public meaning is not the only one.

P.E.O. was originally rooted in the philosophy and institutions of the Methodist Church which actively promoted Women's Rights and Education in America during the 1800s.

Who Has Benefited From P.E.O.?

To date (2017) more than $304 million has been awarded to over 102,000 women from the organization's six educational philanthropies, which includes educational scholarships, grants, loans, awards, special projects and stewardship of Cottey College.

Cottey College is a fully accredited, private liberal arts and sciences college for women in Nevada, Missouri. Cottey College occupies 14 buildings on 11 city blocks and offers two-year and four-year programs for 350 students.

More Information About the Organization's Six Scholarships

P.E.O. has awarded Educational Loan Fund dollars totaling more than $185.8 million, International Peace Scholarships totaling more than $36 million, Program for Continuing Education grants totaling more than $52.6 million, Scholar Awards totaling more than $23 million and P.E.O. STAR Scholarships totaling more than $6.6 million. In addition, more than 8,000 women have graduated from Cottey College.

P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund

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The Educational Loan Fund, referred to as ELF, makes loans to qualified women who seek higher education and need financial assistance. Applicants must be recommended by a local chapter and be within two years of completing a course of study. The maximum loan in 2017 was $12,000 for bachelor's degrees, $15,000 for master's degrees and $20,000 for doctorate degrees.

P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship

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The P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship Fund, or IPS, provides scholarships for international women who want to pursue graduate studies in the United States and Canada. The maximum amount awarded to a student is $12,500.

P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education

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The P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education (PCE) is designed for women in the United States and Canada who interrupted their education for at least two years and wish to return to school to support themselves and/or their families. There is a maximum one-time grant of up to $3,000, depending on available funds and financial need. This grant may not be used for living expenses or to pay past student loans. It is intended to help women secure employment or job advancement.

P.E.O. Scholar Awards

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P.E.O. Scholar Awards (PSA) provide merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctorate degree at an accredited university. These awards provide partial support for study and research for women who will make significant contributions in their varied fields of endeavor. Priority is given to women who are well established in their programs, study or research. The maximum award is $15,000.

P.E.O. STAR Scholarship

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The P.E.O. STAR Scholarship awards $2,500 to graduating high school seniors wishing to pursue post-secondary education. Eligibility requirements include excellence in leadership, extracurricular activities, community service, academics and potential for future success. Applicants must be 20 or younger, have a GPA of 3.0, and be a citizen of the United States or Canada. 

This is a non-renewable award and must be used in the academic year following graduation or it will be forfeited.

At the discretion of the recipient, funds may be paid directly to the recipient or to the accredited educational institution. Funds used for tuition and fees or required books and equipment are usually non-taxable for income tax purposes. Funds used for room and board might be reportable income for tax purposes.

Cottey College

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Cottey College's mission statement reads: "Cottey College, an independent liberal arts college, educates women to be contributing members of a global society through a challenging curriculum and a dynamic campus experience. In our diverse and supportive environment, women develop their potential for personal and professional lives of intellectual engagement and thoughtful action as learners, leaders, and citizens."

Cottey College has traditionally offered only the Associate of Arts and the Associate of Science degrees. Starting in 2011, Cottey began offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in the following programs: English, environmental studies, and international relations and business. In 2012, Cottey began offering a B.A. degree in psychology. In 2013, Cottey began offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in business and liberal arts.

The college awards several types of Cottey College academic scholarships, including:

  • Trustees' Scholarship: $9,000 per year
  • President's Scholarship: $6,500 per year
  • Founder's Scholarship: $4,500 per year
  • Achievement Award: $3,000 per year

Grants and loans are also available.

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Peterson, Deb. "P.E.O. International Scholarships for Women." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/peo-international-scholarships-31566. Peterson, Deb. (2023, April 5). P.E.O. International Scholarships for Women. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/peo-international-scholarships-31566 Peterson, Deb. "P.E.O. International Scholarships for Women." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/peo-international-scholarships-31566 (accessed June 8, 2023).