USAID has shown its commitment to support the program of scholarship for academically qualified Pakistani students, who aspire to continue higher studies, but due to lack of financial resources are unable to continue. It has supported scholarships for meritorious but financially disadvantaged students since 2004 through USAID-funded Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Program (MNBSP) Phase-I to assist the Government of Pakistan's efforts to raise enrolment in Pakistani universities and meet international standards. Phase-I of the program at a cost of US$ $10.63 million was implemented in 11 top public and private universities of Pakistan and 1,807 scholarships were given in fields of Agriculture and Business only. Many of the graduates of this initial phase of MNBSP (Phase-I) were the first in their families to complete a higher education degree and nearly half now support their families through respectable jobs.
In 2013, USAID launched second phase of the program at a total estimated cost of US$23.1 million. Under Phase-II, 3000 scholarships are added whereas 50 percent of the scholarships are reserved for the female students. In addition to eleven existing partner universities, 19 additional public sector institutions are also included, bringing the total to 30 partner universities across Pakistan. To emphasize on girls' education, four female universities i.e. Lahore College for Women University, Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi, Sardar Bahadur Khan Women Quetta, and Shaheed Benzair Bhutto Women University Peshawar have also been included under the program. Overall, ten universities from Punjab, five from Khyber Pakthukhwa, three from Balochistan, four from Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), six from Sindh, one from Gilgit- Baltistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir are implementing MNBSP Phase-II making it a nationwide program.
New disciplines such as Engineering and Technology, Medicine, Nursing and Social Sciences have also been included under the gamut of the program. New component of Phase-II is the Capacity Building Trainings and Workshops, which has been incorporated to enhance and build capacity of the officials of the participating institutions and HEC for the operational and financial management of MNBSP. Selected students under the program are also trained through career path workshops to prepare them for future job challenges and make them aware of market trends. The program also works on strengthening its alumni network.