Making the Grade: Financial Help for Students from Low-Income Families

According to the United States Census Bureau, this country has 34 million people living in poverty. The struggle can become overwhelming when people are fighting to survive financially.

Assistance for everything from free food, avoiding eviction, and obtaining financial help for students from low-income families is available. The trick is knowing where to look. Read on for information on how to find financial aid for students in grades K-12.

A Better Chance

The Better Chance organization assists students of color in accessing middle school and high school educational opportunities. Applications are accepted between February 1st to April 15th for admission into one of the member schools.  Decisions are made by the middle of June.

Better Chance reviews all applications they receive and selects students they believe will succeed in their schools. Their College Preparatory Schools Program (CPSP) places students in 4th through 9th grade into selecting more than 300 select public, independent day, and boarding schools.

This is not a scholarship program; it is a service that assists families navigating admissions for college preparatory schools. This allows students to receive a higher academic level of education.

Better Choice services helping families obtain financial aid and scholarships are free.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

The Jack Cooke Foundation’s main focus is assisting academically strong students with financial needs. They strive to eliminate systemic racism.

Their commitment is to fight the economic and educational inequality faced by low-income families of color. Recipients are part of a network of almost 2,800 Cooke scholars. The foundation offers three programs:

Young Scholars Program

This program provides educational mentoring and financial support to students. This is available for those in 8th through 12th grade.

College Scholarship Program

This program is for high-achieving high school students. The student must desire to attend the best four-year universities and colleges. The program provides up to $40,000 per year.

Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

This is a program available to students enrolled in community college. If they want to earn a bachelor’s degree, the scholarship will provide up to $40,000 per year.

Children’s Scholarship Fund

In the United States, about 80% of 4th-grade students are not proficient in reading. The Children’s Scholarship Fund has been providing scholarships to children since 1998, helping a total of 185,000 students in need of assistance. Their programs provide financial aid for students from low-income families, allowing those children to be successful and move out of the cycle of poverty.

Individual State Programs Offer Financial Help for Students From Low-Income Families

Each state offers programs that provide financial assistance for low-income students. Here is a sample of the programs available:

  • Arizona School Choice Trust provides scholarships to low-income families so their children can attend private schools at the primary and secondary level (Grades K-12)
  • Parents Challenge offers tutoring, cognitive skills training, plus scholarships to Colorado Springs students to attend private schools
  • Delaware KIDS Fund awards scholarships to K-12 students, including special needs students
  • Black Student Fund in Washington DC assists African-American students, including with scholarship grants, so students can complete high school and go on to college
  • C. Opportunity Scholarship Program awards scholarships to K-12 low-income students attending private schools
  • The Shepherd Foundation assists families needing financial assistance for their children to attend Catholic schools at both the elementary and high school level
  • Step Up For Students awards scholarships to children from low-income families in Florida
  • Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund assists high school students in Chicago from economically disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Empower Illinois assists families state-wide with an income at or below 300% of the federal poverty level by providing scholarships to K-12 students living in a focus district
  • Iowa School Tuition Organization Tax Credit provides scholarships to low-income students attending private schools
  • School CHOICE Scholarships, Inc. awards scholarships for K-6 students from low-income families located in Jefferson County and Louisville, Kentucky
  • Louisiana Scholarship Program assists low-income students entering kindergarten and also students attending public school who have a C, D, or F grade
  • Louisiana Tuition Donation Rebate Program assists students from families with an income no exceeding 250% of the federal poverty line who are entering kindergarten or are enrolled in a Louisiana, public school
  • The Wright Foundation in New Jersey awards scholarships that are income-based for 7th-grade students attending school in the counties of Middlesex, Passaic, Hudson, Essex, and Union for attending boarding schools in the Mid-Atlantic and New England

The above is just a small sampling of scholarships shown on the website. There are several programs available to students attending Catholic schools and those with special needs.

College Possible

College Possible coaches students in high school from low-income backgrounds on how to make college possible. The organization is one of the largest non-profit college access organizations in the United States. The students they mentor have a 98% college attendance rate.

The ability to obtain a college education is often hindered by race and income. College Possible believes that children should be able to achieve their full potential, and they advance this objective by offering support, including personal development, financial planning, and academic preparation.


The iMentor program provides low-income students with mentors. The mentors encourage students to complete high school and college education.

Mentors work one-on-one with a student and begin when the student is in high school. Mentoring usually lasts 3-4 years. Some mentors stay with their children through both high school and college.

Although the program focuses on San Francisco Bay, Chicago, and New York City, it does assist students nationwide.


OneGoal is a unique program that recruits teachers within high schools. The program focuses on students who are from low-income families with academic performance below their potential.

The three-year program begins during the student’s junior year of high school and ends when they complete their freshman year of college. The program provides the student with assistance in applying for both college and financial aid. It also provides students with the academic support necessary to help them succeed.


Focusing on the college application and scholarship process, QuestBridge assists high-achieving, low-income high school juniors and seniors.

College Prep Scholars Program

Their College Prep Scholars Program provides high school juniors with the knowledge and confidence to apply for admission to top colleges.

As a College Prep Scholar member, your student has a notable distinction of being a competitive admission candidate. That application also carries over to National College Match when they become a high school senior.

College Prep Scholars may receive the following awards:

  • Full scholarship to a college summer program at UChicago, Emory, Yale, and more
  • Quest for Excellence Awards to help the student enhance their college application, including $1,000 for a new laptop
  • Exclusive access to QuestBridge National College Admissions Conference, which is an online invite-only event with workshops and a college fair
  • College essay feedback
  • Campus visits and other opportunities
  • Guidance and resources for the college application process
  • Access to an online community providing peer-to-peer support

College Prep Scholars are five times more likely to receive a full 4-year scholarship through the National College Match Program.

National College Match Program

National College Match awards full scholarships that include room and board available to low-income high-academic high school seniors. The program allows students to apply for free to the nation’s best colleges. They also receive consideration for early admission and a full 4-year scholarship program worth more than $200,000.

Students who receive a Match Scholarship receive a financial aid package through their college that covers:

  • Fees and Tuition
  • Supplies
  • Books
  • Travel Expenses
  • Room and Board

Also, this program has no parental contribution and no student loans. The package may include a student contribution such as federal work-study, summer work, or student savings.

Low-Income Living

A low-income student is anyone from a family with an income 200% below the federal poverty line. As of 2021, the U.S. poverty line begins at $12,880 per year for a one (1) person household and increases $4,540 for each additional person in the family. For a 5-person family, the total is $31,040 per year.

Due to the pandemic, many families are dealing with low-income challenges for the first time. This may include visiting a food pantry. In 2020 Feeding America provided 4.2 billion meals to families between March and October, and almost 40% of those families were there for the first time.

When living below the poverty line, you must face the challenges of seeking low-income financial aid. Having a vehicle to get to work, knowing how to apply for food benefits, and filing for unemployment are the basics.

Check out local organizations such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill when in need of assistance. You can even apply for free Lifeline government cell phone access if staying connected is a problem.

Children from low-income families encounter difficulties achieving academically. In addition to financial aid for daily living expenses, help your student move ahead academically by seeking students’ financial aid.

Help Your Student Move Ahead

By obtaining financial aid, so your children can attend academically strong K-12 schools, you are laying the foundation for them to attend college. There are also a variety of resources available to students from low-income families who desire to attend college.

Information is available online for both K-12 and college-level financial help for students from low-income families. Helping your student achieve academically while avoiding onerous debt puts them on a path to life above the poverty line.