Nowadays, college degrees are more important than ever. Data estimates that 65% of job offerings require at least an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. And with college grads averaging a salary double than that of their non-degree-holding counterparts, getting that higher-level education is essential. But getting into, paying for, and graduating from college is also no easy task. It’s only made more difficult for low-income students.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 66% of low-income students attend community colleges and for-profit institutions, which often have lower graduation rates. In California, “those from low-income families are only about half as likely to enroll in a four-year college as their higher-income peers.”FIND YOUR COLLEGE >>
Luckily, numerous organizations dedicate themselves to promoting low-income students, helping them to access and pursue the education they deserve. By reviewing school policies, working with students to create plans, finding scholarship opportunities, rewarding good grades, and also advocating for equal opportunity, these organizations work hard to ensure that those with low-income backgrounds won’t be looked over or treated unfairly when it comes to education.
In this list, we’ll shine the spotlight on eight incredible organizations that have a passion for equality, college success, and bright students.
EOS ensures that each student receives the opportunity to be placed in challenging but rewarding classes. The organization works to have high school teachers talk with students one-on-one about educational opportunities and the benefits of AP classes. EOS has doubled and even tripled the number of students taking higher-level courses with partnered schools. When pushed academically, students can discover just what they’re capable of and they’re inspired to reach for higher goals.
Equal Opportunity Schools has a number of initiatives that help students including the EOS-KOO Initiative, Rising STEM Scholars Initiative, African-American Male Initiative, and Radically Imagining School Equality. By working with schools, advisors, teachers, and students, EOS is changing the way education looks at low-income students.
With bases on the east and west coasts of the United States, the mission of MDRC is all about “developing and testing solutions to the wide range of challenges that confront low-income individuals, families, and children.” The scope of the organization does extend beyond students. Their Aid Like a Paycheck program—in partnership with TICAS—focuses on effectively utilizing the student’s financial aid during college.
By distributing the aid money on a fixed, bi-weekly basis, the program helps the student achieve a healthy balance of time and dedication between school and a job. Such a balance eases stress and gives students more time to study and do their homework. That improves both their grades and graduation rates.
MDRC also helps students and their families with informative resources, work and income security, options for at-risk youth, health, and more.
EdTrust seeks educational justice for all students, especially low-income students and students of color. They work with educators, students, parents, policymakers, and civic leaders to transform and better the school system. In addition, they promise equality-driven, data-centered, and student-focused services. By analyzing local, state, and national data, EdTrust takes a hard look at opportunity gaps and also works diligently to close them.
This passionate organization works at the state and federal level to ensure equity in education. They help shape and re-shape policy by constantly monitoring the latest trends, offering solid data, and also looking for problems and their solutions. EdTrust also currently offers resources to help with gaps that came about due to COVID.
QuestBridge wants to revolutionize the way universities recruit talented low-income youth. They offer students unique opportunities in the form of programs, scholarships, and networks.
For high school seniors, there’s QuestBridge’s National College Match. It’s a college and scholarship application process that helps low-income students gain admission to the nation’s most selective schools, but also help them get access to much needed financial aid. For juniors, there’s the College Prep Scholarship, an opportunity to get a leg up on college applications. Additionally, QuestBridge offers the Quest for Excellence Awards which is a program that encourages and rewards those who achieve academic success.
QuestBridge believes that low-income is not a limiting factor of intelligence or capability. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a hindrance towards students seeking a college education. The organization is partnered with nearly 50 colleges and universities to aid those students who are generally underrepresented in the higher education sphere.
NCAN utilizes four strategies to assist states, schools, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropists to provide better education access to low-income and underrepresented students. Their strategy of capacity building seeks to ensure that those who help students are well-trained and well-informed. By utilizing benchmarking, NCAN standardizes data that will help monitor, compare, and also improve progress. Collective impact encourages groups that help support postsecondary completion rates. Lastly, their policy strategy fights to properly represent low-income and other disadvantaged students.
NCAN focuses on issues like rising tuition costs, confusing applications for colleges and financial aid, and the lack of resources that all work against qualified students from pursuing higher education. NCAN also takes its mission to the national level where they advocate for equality, diversity, and positive change in education.
This New York-based organization matches students from low-income communities to mentors. They want to empower students to graduate high school, attend and graduate college, and achieve their goals. Students work with their mentor one-on-one, both in-person and online, to develop a strong relationship, encourage college interest, and also navigate the application process. Mentor-student matches connect for three to four years. Mentors even connect with their students during their first year at college, with the additional option of sticking with the program until college graduation.
iMentor not only helps students strive towards finding the best college for them, but also bolsters life-long skills such as critical thinking, self-advocacy, and curiosity. Though primarily working with New York public schools, iMentor has also helped students nationwide achieve success.
OneGoal, as its name suggests, has a singular mission: to make college graduation possible for all students. This teacher-led organization aims to identify low-income, under-performing students and aid them towards graduation and higher education. OneGoal hires, trains, and supports dedicated teachers who wish to help students reach their full potential.
OneGoal also works with students to increase college options, breakdown enrollment processes, and establish academic, social, and financial foundations. The University of Chicago evaluated OneGoal and found that the organization increased college enrollment and persistence by 10-20% in students in their program.
The organization works with students from high schools in the Bay Area in California, Chicago, Houston, Massachusetts, Metro Atlanta, and New York. Families and their students can find a wide range of resources right on OneGoal’s website.
This organization is dedicated to college success for low-income students by offering them support and coaching. Coaches guide students in preparing for college by meeting with them in after-school sessions. The junior curriculum serves to introduce students to college life through campus tours and summer programs, while the senior curriculum helps students apply for colleges, financial aid, and scholarships. It also helps to oversee their transition to higher-level education.
Coaches guide the students through the college process, ensuring that they are prepared, educated, and eager for college. They even stay in contact with their students all the way through college graduation, providing support and encouragement throughout their education.
In 2021, College Possible merged with their 20 year partner, Austin-based College Forward. Together, the organization can help students in more places than ever before. In addition to College Forward areas, College Possible helps those in Chicago, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Omaha, Oregon, Philadelphia, and Washington.
These are only some of the many organizations out there that help low-income students attend and afford college. Even if these organizations don’t partner with your high school or operate in your area, you likely have options. Research can be a good start, but you should also take time to schedule a meeting with your high school guidance counselor. They can help point you in the direction of other awesome organizations, options for low income students, and additional resources. They may even have connections within the organizations that could help you further!
If you’re struggling to afford college, there are options. For example, did you know there are thousands of scholarships available to students every year? Some are based on merit, some are based on need, and others are based on quirky things like the color of your hair! Check out what awards you could be eligible for on College Raptor’s Scholarship Search Tool.