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The Importance of Scholarships for Disadvantaged Youth

With the rising rate of inflation and the high education expectations that many entry-level positions have, students, specifically higher education students, need scholarships now more than ever. This especially applies to homeless, displaced, and otherwise disadvantaged college-aged students who cannot afford college without financial aid. According to, about 85% of higher education students receive financial aid, whether they receive grants, scholarships, or work-study opportunities.

Need-Based vs. Merit-Based

Merit-based scholarships are the most popular form of scholarship awards available for students. These scholarships are awarded to students based on merit, including their grade point average, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and awards. No matter their family's income level, students can apply for merit-based scholarships if they meet other eligibility requirements.

Need-based scholarships are offered to students who display some sort of financial need. In the eligibility requirements, the award-giving body will establish a threshold for the income level of the student's family. Students will likely be required to submit their parent or guardian's financial information (e.g., their latest federal income tax return) to verify their financial information.

Why are Need-Based Scholarships Necessary?

There are several reasons that scholarship programs are necessary for the student's success, especially if the student is experiencing home insecurity, has been in the foster care system, or comes from a poverty-stricken background.

Substandard Education

It is no secret that children and teens from a family with low socioeconomic status may not have access to quality education. These students may attend overcrowded schools with insufficient funding and teacher shortages, directly impacting their day-to-day learning. Due to their access to education, these students may have lower standardized test scores and higher rates of delinquency, truancy, and withdrawals. Due to these factors, merit-based scholarships often go to students whose families can already afford to pay for college.

Unstable Home Environment

Students from impoverished and unstable backgrounds may also have difficulty performing well in school due to their home environment. Homeless students and those in the foster care system may have several different living arrangements or home placements in one academic year. Not only could this mean that the students must transfer schools more than once, but learning gaps are also likely. A constantly changing environment can also cause emotional instability for the student, impacting their schoolwork. An unstable home environment can also limit a student's ability to participate in extracurricular activities that would help them qualify for scholarships.

Few Connections

Building a network of acquaintances and social connections (sometimes called weak ties) can be instrumental for a successful college and working career. It is not uncommon for more well-off students to be considered for scholarships and grants due to their parents' connections. Unfortunately, many students in poverty will not have this advantage, limiting their scholarship opportunities. Additionally, some scholarship programs accept applications by invitation or nomination only. Their limited ability to participate in extracurriculars may also put impoverished students at a disadvantage regarding these opportunities.

Poverty Cycle

Education is usually the best way to escape poverty but achieving success through education can seem unattainable for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Unfortunately, many impoverished students will perpetuate the poverty cycle. According to the Center for Poverty Research, there is only a 13% chance of transitioning out of poverty after being impoverished for seven years or more. To transition into self-sustainability, students must be able to increase their earnings and overall income. Without need-based scholarships and grants, these students will likely graduate from college or trade school with more debt and less money.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 19 million students were enrolled in college/university in 2020. Of those students, Education Data says that only about 1.7 million will receive a scholarship to assist with their higher education expenses. It is safe to say that millions of disadvantaged students are among those that will have to turn to other resources to fund their education.

To learn more about how we are helping to provide need-based scholarships for disadvantaged students, click here.

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