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.

Scholarships for Children with Incarcerated Parents

There are now seven organizations to date that the NRCCFI knows of that plan to give scholarships specifically to CIPs. These organizations are:

  1. Scholarchips ScholarCHIPS provides college scholarships and a support network for children of incarcerated parents, inspiring them to complete their college education.
  2. Ava’s Grace Scholarship Foundation They award scholarships to children with parents incarcerated in the federal prison system.
  3. Willie the Plumber Scholarship Fund is specifically for Utah children with parents in prison or jail. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Give Back. Give Something Back is a mentoring and college scholarship organization that serves students who have faced economic hardship and other adversity, including the incarceration of a parent or placement in the foster care system. So far, Give Back has provided more than $35 million in scholarships to more than 1,500 scholars at partner colleges and universities across the country and is on track to triple that number.
  7. The CIP Initiative offers scholarships for Central Connecticut State University students that have experienced the incarceration of a close family member. Eligible students may receive up to $1,500 per academic semester for a total of six semesters. For more information, please email us at

 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.

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

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

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.

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.

Scholarships for Low Income Families

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.

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.

With an estimated 2.7 million children with incarcerated parents, these programs mark 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.

There are also 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 ( 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!

Scholarship Databases

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: