Jefferson City — The Missouri Department of Higher Education is accepting applications for grants to fund projects that assist low income students to attend college. A letter of intent to apply for the grant is due by Jan. 15, 2010.

The College Access Challenge Grant Program was passed by Congress in 2007 as part of the omnibus College Cost Reduction and Access Act. The Missouri Department of Higher Education administers the grant program. In 2010, MDHE will distribute about $900,000. Maximum grant amounts will be $100,000.

Not-for-profit, philanthropic organizations or consortia may apply for the grants, which must be matched with nonfederal funds (one dollar of matching funds for every two dollars of grant funds.) The grants are intended to pay for projects that provide information and outreach to students who may be at risk of not enrolling in or completing college.

Tim Hopkins, grant administrator, said about 130,000 students in Missouri meet the requirements for need-based financial aid, yet only 61 percent complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the April 1 deadline necessary to qualify for state funds.

"The grants enable groups to reach out to low-income students while they are still in high school," Hopkins said. "Many of the students believe college is not attainable for them. Successful groups start building student confidence and resources early, enabling the students to not only attend college, but to have the ability to complete their degrees."

More information and application forms may be obtained on the Missouri Department of Higher Education Website at www.dhe.mo.gov/collegeaccess.html

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