Written by:  Eva Delair and Shannon Ellis

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 able to provide a few specific resources for CIPs and their families as well as some general college scholarship information.

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 (avasgrace.org). 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 (https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa). 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 (https://apps.collegeboard.com/cbsearch_ss/welcome.jsp).

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!

Scholarships for Low Income Families


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

Abercrombie & Fitch Scholarship Program

In conjunction with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Abercrombie & Fitch offers a scholarship program to African American students from low-income families. The scholarships value is $3,000 and like the Unmet Need Scholarship Program, it is intended to be used as a supplemental scholarship. The scholarship is available to first year students enrolled a four-year university and can be awarded annually for up to four years.

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 young

people who show financial need, have overcome obstacles, have worked to improve their community, and might be overlooked by traditional scholarships.

Children of Incarcerated Parents Scholarships


Available to FL residents in 11 counties in Florida: Brevard, Broward, Indian River, Lake, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Sarasota, Volusia, St. Lucie, Duval and Collier. Students signing the contract agree to maintain good grades, be drug-free and crime-free and meet with mentors they are assigned, and upon high school graduation, will receive college scholarships.

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.

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

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.

Peanut Scholarship Fund at Southern Illinois at Carbondale

The Peanut Scholarship Fund: This fund was established to assist a good student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale who has financial difficulty because one or both parents have been involved in crime. This includes parents who are incarcerated or who because of being victims of crime are unable to provide financial support. The fund recognizes the nickname of a young man in this situation.

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.

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: