Having a college degree opens doors in America. From many hundreds of hours providing financial counseling to the community, ProsperityME knows that a college degree is the key to advancing careers and increasing income. In 2016, ProsperityME partnered with FAME – the Finance Authority of Maine – to help immigrant students access funding for higher education. One-on-one counseling sessions quickly revealed a gap in available funding: asylum-seekers are not eligible to fill out FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), a resource many college-bound students rely on to help them finance their undergraduate programs. Without access to aid that can be accessed through FAFSA, Maine’s asylum-seekers are effectively blocked from attaining higher education. ProsperityME knew this wasn’t fair and began designing a solution.

ProsperityME created the PROSPER academic scholarship program in 2018 to help make dreams of college a reality for Maine’s asylum-seeking students. Since then, the program has helped five students graduate, and 12 are currently enrolled at Southern Maine Community College, Central Maine Community College, and the University of Southern Maine. The scholarship program is growing and, with donor support, ProsperityME hopes to send at least another five students to further their education in the fall of 2021.

The PROSPER scholarship is an award designed to cover tuition and books at a Maine state college for up to two years. So that students can be successful both in school and after graduation, the scholarship includes a monetary award and a support program. In addition to providing up to $10,000 in funding per student, the program pairs the award recipients with volunteer mentors who help the students enlarge their professional networks, gain internships in their fields of study, and help them build a resume before graduation.

The application period for the 2021-22 scholarship program opens in late December 2020. To be eligible for the PROSPER Scholarship, applicants must:
• Be an asylum-seeker or a college-bound immigrant student
• Be ineligible for aid through FAFSA
• Have a valid high school diploma or GED
• Live in Maine
• Plan to enroll in a Maine community college
• Demonstrate financial need

Application details for 2021-22 will be released later this year on ProsperityME’s website. If you have questions about the PROSPER Scholarship, please contact Byron Bartlett, ProspertyME’s Director of Administration, who coordinates the program, at [email protected], or go to www.prosperityme.org/scholarships. If you are eligible to fill out FAFSA, a one-on-one session with FAME or ProsperityME can help you find resources to fund your education. ProsperityME can help you develop a college readiness roadmap for you or your child.