How do other foundations define financial need for the purpose of scholarships? Do state savings programs come into play?

We posted this question in our online Member Discussion Community, where members are always welcome to ask questions, share successes, and respond to fellow members.

Here are the responses:

Response 1

We provide scholarships to high school students and struggle with the same issue. Our approaches have evolved over the years. Eligibility for our scholarship program is based on poverty levels (I can give you tons of details on the mechanics of how we run the numbers). Once we are comfortable that an individual qualifies for the scholarship program, we work on determining the amount of the scholarship itself. We fund only the gap in funding that remains after all other sources of funding available are taken into consideration (we like to say that “our dollars are last in”). Students apply to us through schools, so we are able to lean on the business offices of the schools to do much of the legwork in terms of verifying sources of income, other scholarships, etc.

Response 2

Given the current economic environment, we believe most students are facing some sort of financial need. Yes, there are lots of other financial aid programs out there and it behooves students and their parents to explore as many funding sources as possible. We ask a simple question on our application: “Please describe how you are funding your college education.” From their narrative, we can usually tell how great their need is. But then, financial need is only one part, and not the critical part, of our selection criteria.

Response 3

I’m in my eighth year of serving on a large foundation scholarship committee. This particular organization awards approximately 15 scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students enrolling or enrolled in a college or university and who resides in Massachusetts.

Scholarships are awarded based on the committee’s evaluation of each student’s “verifiable” financial need based on family tax returns, as well as other non-financial factors.

Response 4

We have a computer program developed for us that gives us an estimated Pell and EFC (Effective Family Contribution). We determine which high school seniors to interview and to receive grants based on their EFC, interview, the number of renewal students we have, and the estimated total amount of grants that will be given.

Response 5

We contribute money to one very qualified nonprofit. They screen students and determine eligibility. Then they use our funds as they see need. Their purpose is to identify high GPA students with high potential, while in high school, and who live in underserved areas.

So we “outsource” the funding of scholarships to an organization that is in complete alignment with our mission, because we do not have the capacity to manage all the operations support that is required if we administered our own program.

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