Google and the Associated Press have joined forces to offer a scholarship program for student journalists administered by the Online News Association. The AP-Google Journalism and Technology Scholarship program will offer six undergraduate or graduate students $20,000 scholarships for the 2012-13 school year.

From the press release:

“The program is targeted to individual students creating innovative projects that further the ideals of digital journalism. A key goal is to promote geographic, gender and ethnic diversity, with an emphasis on rural and urban areas.”

Applications are now open. Only U.S. citizens are eligible (see eligibility requirements). The deadline is January 27, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

This is a strong partnership in the online news space. The AP is one of the largest and most influential news organizations in the world, with a clear need to prepare the next generation of journalists. The Online News Association is the largest membership organization of digital journalists. Google, the seeming outlier in this group, seeks to organize the world’s information. Without new, high-quality information, there would be nothing for them to organize.

For years, AP and Google struggled over content licensing issues, but the parties eventually reached an agreement. The announcement of this joint scholarship indicates that the two organizations see cooperation as the best option for the future of news content on the Web.

Google has ramped up development of its news offerings this year, introducing a new Google News interface, badges to add a game element to news reading, and location-based local news on mobile devices.

jon mitchell