All the resources currently available to states using the Kaleidoscope scholarship platform
The definitive source on scholarship program design and best practices for Kids’ Chance state organizations.
Prior to accepting any applications, each state organization should have a basic understanding of financial aid and marketing for recruitment purposes. The organization should also be aware of and use the Planning for the Future (PFF) tool to contribute, manage and retrieve information on youth and young adults that may be eligible based on the death, serious injury, or debilitating illness of a parent, as identified in the workers’ compensation field.
Setting and revisiting eligibility and judging criteria that will help vulnerable students succeed are essential steps – especially because higher education and financial aid are in a state of flux, if not turmoil, at the state and federal levels. Whether you operate with staff, volunteers, or a hybrid approach, this guide can serve as a beacon for states seeking affirmation, direction, or renewal in their approach.
All states should have a basic understanding of financial aid, how it works and how scholarships fit into the bigger picture. State scholarship coordinators may also want to understand the larger trends that are impacting their scholarship dollars.
Financial aid is defined as “all forms of financial assistance awarded to a student to pay for college.” Some of this is called “self-help” aid, such as subsidized work-study or loans. Grants and scholarships are the types of financial aid that do not have to be repaid. Sometimes students use these terms interchangeably without understanding the difference.
Grants are more likely to be offered by state, federal, and tribal institutions, even if the university is the administrator of those funds. These grants may be based on certain under-represented statuses or income levels. While they are generally need-based, such as a state grant to attend a public institution in that state, they also may have a merit component. Institutional grants are funds coming directly from the college and may be called institutional scholarships.
The distinction between state, federal, and tribal grants, compared to institutional grants/scholarships, is important because private scholarship dollars, such as those from Kids’ Chance, must interplay with these other sources. There are two possible unintended consequences of which Kids’ Chance should be aware:
In the U.S., official Cost of Attendance is based on eligible expenses defined by the federal government. Students can use financial aid toward covering the COA and each university must publicly post their COA. This excerpt is from www.StudentAid.gov:
“If you are attending at least half-time, your COA is the estimate of
The Student Aid Index is the amount that the federal government determines a family should contribute to a student’s cost of college. The SAI is calculated by the government based on the financial and situational information students provide in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In 2022, a student’s financial need can now be a negative number. A figure of zero ($0) used to be the lowest EFC but now a student’s SAI can be less than zero, indicating the most significant financial need.
States are encouraged to be flexible and forgiving in determining scholarship need if there are extenuating financial circumstances that can be verified. Do not use highly detailed budgets or reporting that require the applicant to provide information about grocery budgets, rent, utilities, car payments, credit card debt, or other personal financial information.
States may consider asking, “Are there any significant financial changes since you completed the FAFSA?” because the FAFSA is based on income data from nearly two years before the student would have applied for a scholarship. Another possible question is, “Are there any significant financial barriers not reflected in your financial aid figures?” At its core, Kids’ Chance scholarships seek to help students pay for college and were not originally based on high academic merit or drastic financial need – the parent’s injury, illness, or death was the main criterion.
The reasons for this minimum are:
Through the discovery process to create this guide, KCOA learned that some states have long-standing marketing methods with strong outreach while others struggle to find enough applicants. KCOA also discovered the delicate balance and challenge in trying to recruit the number of students to match the available funding, thus, not over-recruiting and having to reject applicants. Marketing approaches also vary based on organizational capacity and the level of cooperation with potential referral sources.
In the best-case scenarios, state organizations and affiliates have direct relationships with workers’ compensation insurers, claimant attorneys, medical providers, state workers’ compensation officials, judges, etc. These external advocates are making direct referrals between the eligible families and the Kids’ Chance representatives in the state. States that have not attempted to engage in such relationships should start there based on ample evidence that these entities are effective referral sources.
If a state organization or affiliate has geographic limits on where students can enroll in post-secondary education, states should be sure that the financial aid and scholarship personnel at the major colleges and universities where their recipients enroll are aware of Kids’ Chance.
In Maryland, the Kids’ Chance board secretary makes a Public Information Act request to the state workers’ compensation commission. A sample is included here.
In Louisiana, the Kids’ Chance scholarship program is embedded in the state bar foundation with regular access to possible advocates and people of influence.
In Nevada and Montana, Kids’ Chance organizations advocated for legislation that allows them to share information about Kids’ Chance scholarships to claimants and their families.
When a state organization or affiliate is trying to find more applicants, it should develop a highly targeted approach that focuses on likely sources where eligible students and their families may be discovered.
The marketing and recruitment tips listed below involve sharing information and making connections with organizations that interact with potentially eligible families.
Lastly, if these suggestions seem overwhelming, consider hiring a virtual assistant, identifying a volunteer, or securing a marketing intern to help build a statewide marketing and recruitment plan, with network contacts/lists, that the Kids’ Chance organization can maintain after the initial work is complete.
The Planning for the Future program was initiated by Kids’ Chance of America in 2015 to capture information about future scholarship candidates beginning as soon as the children were identified, ideally immediately after the report of the death or injury. The PFF initiative was intended to improve the process for eligible families to sign up to be informed about Kids’ Chance scholarships.
The PFF process is automated through an online database. Attorneys, claim representatives, and families themselves may submit a qualifying child through the PFF form on the KCOA website. State organizations and affiliates receive referrals directly from the online database once a student reaches the eligibility age, in most cases at the age of 16. One of the most difficult aspects of managing this information is that if the qualifying injury, illness, or death occurred when the child was very young, the contact information may have changed by the time a student is in high school. The PFF program ensures that data is updated quarterly.
Each state is encouraged to include the PFF link on the front page of their website: kidschance.org/planning-for-the-future
Every state organization or affiliate must follow one requirement of Kids’ Chance scholarship eligibility: the recipient must be the dependent of a worker who suffered a serious injury, debilitating illness, or death while performing their job.
Based on a review of eligibility documentation and sample Kids’ Chance applications, the recommendations below are related to eligibility.
Kids’ Chance has a history of transparency and flexibility to award as many scholarships as possible to eligible students; however, the judging and selection process is sometimes perceived as a mystery to scholarship applicants.
Based on a review of documentation and national best practices, KCOA is making the recommendations below related to judging criteria.
There are always opportunities for improvement and each state can use its own knowledge, combined with these suggestions, to determine their judging criteria and process.
Depending on the lifecycle and capacity of each organization, states may vary greatly in the level of processes and systems to provide customer service to eligible candidates through the application, review, selection, verification, notification, and award stage.
If capacity allows, state organizations may consider post-award interaction with students ranging from website vignettes to special event appearances or even alumni engagement strategies.
The guide provides a framework to help state organizations and affiliates consider their intentions and ways to maximize their awards based on the larger context of student life, higher education, data privacy, and financial aid.
Clearly state the deadline expectations. For print, use “postmarked by” or “received by” date, whichever is the policy. For online applications, state “submitted by 2023, [time] and [time zone].”
If the state allows rolling admissions, share the timeline of when applications are read, reviewed, and decided upon.
At the state and national level, the Kids’ Chance mantra of “more money for more kids” begins with having a great story and evidence of impact. The metrics and reporting by which each state and the national organization hold themselves accountable is part of the Kids’ Chance culture and is worthy of time and attention in this guide.
The Council of State Organizations challenges each state to examine what success looks like now and in the future, and how to measure it. At a minimum, states should know the general college-going statistics in their state, the number of potentially eligible scholarship families, and their own numbers about the applicants and recipients.
This section also includes a brief framework for scholarship program evaluation that can be adopted at the discretion of state organizations and affiliates, to the degree that they desire or have the capacity.
All the resources currently available to states using the Kaleidoscope scholarship platform
Everything you need to share when speaking with a family
A simple table for tracking your annual scholarship statistics
A document that students must sign if the college is to release information about FAFSA or FERPA
Suggestion and examples from around the country for engagement of scholarship awardees
A vetted template for release of photos and videos as well as use of a student’s story.
A template upon which to model your student scholarship agreement with a photo release included.
This template outlines the timeline and suggested process for your scholarship program
This short application provides common questions for your student scholarship renewals
Thank you to members of the CSO and to everyone who participated in the development of the KCOA Scholarship Guide. Special thanks to the CSO Scholarship Sub-committee for their dedication in advocating for best practices, and to the more recent CSO focus group for reviewing updates to this guide.
Copyright notice: Excerpts from Scholarships 101: The Real-World Guide to Getting Cash for College, published by Kim Stezala, and from original content developed by Ms. Stezala for the National Scholarship Providers Association Toolkit, are granted to KCOA for one-time personal use and may not be published in whole or in part in any current or future method or media without prior written permission.