Federal Funds Help Low-Income Students 'Move Mountains'

Jefferson City — The Missouri Department of Higher Education today awarded $731,018 to nine groups for programs that help low-income students attend college.

More than130,000 students in Missouri meet the requirements for need-based financial aid, but only about 80,000 students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the April 1 deadline needed to qualify for funds.

College Access Challenge Grants were created by Congress in 2007 to help low-income students take advantage of opportunities for a college education.

Missouri received about $900,000 to distribute this year, based on the number of residents living below the poverty line. Close to $300,000 remains to be distributed; another request for proposals will be issued later this month. The maximum grant award is $100,000.

A St. Louis-based program called College Bound received the maximum grant amount. Since its creation in 2006, College Bound has helped 80 students attend college. Founder Lisa Orden Zarin says the students "are nothing short of heroic" for rising above the obstacles posed by a life of poverty to prepare for, apply to and attend college.

"Students from low income, first generation families have all the capacities to succeed in college but they need three times the support to get there. Imagine trying to focus your energy on the future when you're hungry or worrying about being evicted," Zarin says. "College Bound's role is to meet our students where they are and be there for them, whether that means filling out applications, providing a meal, or driving them to visit a college. All students can develop the resolve to move mountains, they just need the resources."

Other recipients and their awards include: