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College and Children of the Incarcerated

College and Children of the Incarcerated

Resources updated December 9, 2013

Written by:  Eva Delair and Shannon Ellis

Updated by: Jeremy Lopez and Erica Poole


The college application process can be daunting, but even more than that is the prospect of paying for the ever-rising costs of higher education. At the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated, the third most common request is for information on scholarships for children with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated parents (CIPs). We have been unable to provide very many specific resources for CIPs and their families. This is primarily because there are few organizations that provide scholarships for this specific segment of students preparing to or attending higher educational institutions.

There is only one organization to date that the NRCCFI knows that plans to give scholarships specifically to CIPs. This organization is Ava’s Grace Scholarship Foundation ( They will begin awarding scholarships in the spring of this year (2012) to children with parents incarcerated in the federal prison system. With an estimated 2 million children with incarcerated parents, Ava’s Grace is the beginning of a very important resource for families with incarcerated members. We hope that many other organizations will recognize CIPs as a category of underserved students and begin to offer similar scholarships as well.

While there are few  resources specifically for CIPs, there are a plethora of resources open to all college students that may be especially helpful for CIPS.

One basic place to start is with the Free Application for Student Aid ( This is a government program that must be filled out in order for your (or your student’s) school to provide any need-based financial aid.

College Board, the organization that brings Advanced Placement (AP) tests and the SAT has a scholarship search (

CIPs are a diverse group and can be represented in every community, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group but the data available to us does suggest that they are disproportionally poor and children of color. So, there are some criteria in scholarships that may fit with the demographics of some CIP’s. We hope the list below is helpful.

And, advice from our children of incarcerated parents advisors suggests that you consider using your experience as a CIP in college application essays … it has helped many of our young people!

American Dream Scholarship

Established in partnership with the United Negro College Fund, the American Dream Scholarship Program is open to African Americans with financial need. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, with a minimum 2.5 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale), who meet Pell Grant eligibility criteria, and are enrolled full time at approved, accredited, undergraduate institutions. Scholarships range from $500 to $5,000

Cappex Scholarships

Just as Fastweb and Zinch allow students to create a profile and apply for scholarships so does the Cappex website. It allows students to create profiles and be matched with scholarships according to relevance to the students profile information.

Children Impacted by crime Scholarships
The Children of Inmates Scholarship Fund and the Children as Victims Scholarship Fund will award annual scholarships to students who are pursuing a college education.

Creative Corrections Scholarship

The Creative Correction Scholarships are scholarships that deal with youth whom are attempting to gain entrance into college and have an incarcerated parent. It is a non-profit organization founded and ran by a former warden and former corrections staff. Most recently the organization awarded 31 scholarships to individuals from 17 different states.


This website gives students the opportunity to apply and find available scholarships but also helps in applying for financial aid. The website gives step by step process in what a student shoulddo in the process of applying for college. It also has a frequently asked questions section that allows students to gain information they are unsure about.

Gates Millennium Scholars

To reduce financial hardships faced by children of low income families. Aimed at African American, Hispanic American, Native American/Alaskan Native, and Asian Pacific Islander American, this scholarship helps students from low income families complete their undergraduate degrees. Students who complete their undergraduate degree may then ask for additional funding for graduate school if they plan to major in education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, or science.

Google Scholarship

Set up to aid low-income undergraduate and graduate students of Hispanic origin that are pursuing a degree in computer science or computer engineering. Students must be a junior or a senior undergraduate or graduate student, a U.S. citizen, attend a college or university full time, and maintain a 3.5 GPA

Horatio Alger Jr. Scholarship

The Horatio Alger Jr. Scholarships is awarded to students that show financial need for college. In order to qualify students must be in attendance full-time at a high school with a GPA above 2.0. They must also show a strong inclination to attain a bachelors degree.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s scholarship

These scholarship programs are designed to encourage and support outstanding students who work hard, demonstrate a strong will to succeed, and have financial need. Our scholarships provide financial assistance and academic support to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students.

Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund

In furtherance of the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Mt. Baker Community Club awards college scholarships to deserving neighborhood students of color who might not otherwise achieve their dream of a college education. We seek out and give highest consideration to youngpeople who show financial need, have overcome obstacles, have worked to improve their community, and might be overlooked by traditional scholarships.


ScholarCHIPS is a non-profit organization that raises scholarship funds to directly help students of incarcerated parents. The organization was founded by Yasmin Arrington whom dealt with the issue personally. Students can apply online at the website and others may donate online via the website as well.

Scholarships for Low Income Families

Sallie Mae Scholarships: First In My Family Scholarship

The First in My Family Scholarship Program, developed in partnership with the Hispanic College Fund, offers scholarships to Hispanic-American students who are the first in their family to attend college and have financial need. The program is open to Hispanic Americans who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents enrolled as full time undergraduate students at approved, accredited institutions. Students must have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale). Scholarships range from $500 to $5,000.

Unmet Needs Scholarship

As a part of the Sallie Mae Scholarship Funds, the Unmet Need Scholarship Program is available to low-income families with a combined income of less than $30,000. This scholarship ranges from $1,000 to $3,800 and is intended as a supplemental scholarship to fill an “unmet” financial aid need of $1,000 or more. It is available to students who are U.S. citizens, enrolled full-time as an undergraduate at an accredited college or university.

Willie the Plumber Scholarship

The Willie the Plumber Scholarship was founded by a former Utah inmate with the goal of supplying scholarships to children in Utah with incarcerated parents. The scholarship program is backed by the Community foundation of Utah. The program gives out scholarships yearly to those who qualify and students can apply on the website. The recipients are listed on the websites as well as a link to donate to the scholarship fund.

Zinch Scholarships

Similar to Fastweb the Zinch scholarship engine serves as a search engine for available scholarships. This website allows one to create a profile in which you can be matched with available scholarships. The website also allows students to apply to the available scholarships on the website and if not can serve as a link to the scholarships website.

Here are a few databases where you can search for scholarships and refine your search with keywords, such as: incarcerated, low income, single-parent households, overcoming unique obstacles:

Hispanic Scholarship Fund:

United Negro Scholarship Fund:

Fast Web:

U.S. Department of Education Scholarship Search:

Department of Defense Education Activity: