By Jeanette Settembre, MarketWatch
The largest alleged scheme to falsify charity donations rocked the nation Tuesday, as federal prosecutors announced a criminal investigation surrounding college exam and admissions fraud.
Federal prosecutors allege that wealthy parents paid as much as $25 million to help their kids cheat on college-admissions exams and falsify athletic records to get them into elite schools including Yale, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Georgetown.
That money went to William “Rick” Singer’s Newport Beach college admissions company Key Worldwide, reportedly formed in 2012 to allegedly provide education to underprivileged students. Key Worldwide is a registered charity, but rather than helping underserved Oakland students get into college, prosecutors allege that it was all a scam and say Singer fabricated academic and athletic credentials and arranged bribes to help wealthy parents get their kids into prestigious schools.
The organization claims to have “touched the lives of hundreds of students that would never have been exposed to what higher education could do for them,” according to the mission statement on its website. “Many of these students have only known life on the streets, surrounded by the gang violence of the inner-city.”
The college enrollment rate for students from high income families is 83%, versus 63% for low-and-middle-income families. In the U.S., 1 in 9 low-income students obtains a BA within six years.
The reality, however, is that wealthy parents, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, were allegedly funneling money through the nonprofit to bribe officials at schools like Yale and USC. Roughly 50 people were charged in the case for using bribery.
That $25 million could have paid for 3,871 low-income students to attend community college for free for a year.
The college enrollment rate for students from high income families is 83%, versus 63% for low-and-middle-income families, according to the U.S. Department of Education . In the U.S., just 1 in 9 low-income students obtains a Bachelor’s Degree within six years.
Here are 5 organizations that grant low-income students access to higher education:
This Pomona-Calif.-based non-profit provides free services that help low-income students prepare for college while they’re still in high school. Once they get in, they offer counseling services to help ensure students graduate.
Students can apply online and be paired up with a mentor who will help them with the college application process such as essay writing, and provide scholarship opportunities and information.
Scholarships recipients are selected on a needs basis and can receive anywhere between $500 to $5,000 from Bright Prospect. Representatives will also help students apply for outside scholarships.
Bright Prospect evaluates each student’s financial aid and their family contribution based on parents’ income. Scholarships recipients are selected on a needs basis and can receive anywhere between $500 to $5,000 from Bright Prospect. Representatives will also help students apply for outside scholarships.
“We really want to help students not have to worry about taking out extra loans or working another job,” says Kevin Lumowah, manager of mission advancement and institutional funding at Bright Prospect, who says the non-profit has helped kids get into elite colleges such as Princeton, Stanford, Harvard and UCLA.
Low-income students from around the country can apply. Applications go out in April and eligible students will receive funding in October. Bright Prospect is privately funded, and has raised more than $50,000 through partnerships and individual donations between 2016 and 2017 . Donations can be made online or by mail.
Bright Prospect scored a 92.47 rating from Charity Navigator, a website that measures accountability and transparency for non-profit organizations.
Gates Millennium Scholars
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation , based in Seattle, Wash. aims to reduce financial hardship for minority families and low-income families by providing a full financial ride to those gearing up for college. To date, the nonprofit has awarded more than $900 million in funding, with an average award of $12,785 per student.
There are 1000 scholarships given out annually, and candidates must be legal residents of the U.S. with a cumulative high-school GPA of at least 3.3. A teacher or administrator must nominate a student. To be considered, students must show proof of economic hardship for consideration, and show that they are active in extracurricular activities. A total of $1,000 students are chosen each year.
iMentor pairs students in high school with a college-educated mentor to help guide them on the college application process for at least three years. The New York City-based organization partners with high schools in low-income communities where a majority of students will often be first-generation college graduates. Mentors will help prospective college students apply for scholarships and give advice and feedback on the college application process.
The program is funded through individual contributions and corporations. A donation of $100 will allow a mentee to get access to monthly career events where they can hone in on learning skills for college.
The charity scored a 90 out of 100 on Charity Navigator.
Unmet Need Scholarship Program
The Delaware-based Unmet Need Scholarship Program provides low income families with cash for college. Families with a combined annual income of less than $30,000 are eligible to apply. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $3,000 each, and are meant to supplement scholarships that fulfill unmet financial aid needs of $1,000 or more.
Students who are U.S. citizens and enrolled as full-time undergraduates at accredited universities or colleges and have a grade point average of at least 2.5 or GED average test scores between 42 and 52 may apply.
Equal Opportunity Schools
Advanced Placement courses can increase a candidate’s chance of acceptance to college. Students from low-income backgrounds are wildly under-represented in the category, however. This Seattle-based non profit organization has helped more than 40,000 low income students and students of color get into Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses since it launched 10 years ago.
The organization works with schools, teachers, advisers and students to ensure that qualified low-income students are getting placed into AP and IB classes.