Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust (MOST) gives families in the community the opportunity to send children to the private school of their choice. Memphis businessman Bob Solmson founded MOST in 1998 based on the belief that all children deserve an equal chance at an education setting that best fits them, regardless of their ZIP code or financial circumstances. MOST is the only privately funded program of its kind in Shelby County, working with 61 school partners to provide school choice opportunities to 500 scholars annually thanks to individual, foundation, and corporate contributions.
MOST is part of the Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) national network of scholarship-granting organizations. The CSF network empowers families in need with the ability to choose the K-8 schools that best meet their children’s needs, regardless of their ability to pay or where they live. Locally, MOST has awarded nearly $20 million in need-based scholarships to 3,300 students in pre-K through 12th grade.
MOST is open for new scholarship applications every February. Prospective parents can apply through MOST’s website Feb. 1-28. Students must reside in Shelby County. A household income scale determines eligibility along with other factors. Once applicants prequalify they then go into a lottery. Families are notified in March if they have received the scholarship.
Students can apply beginning in pre-K through first grade; students up through eighth grade diagnosed with special needs also can apply. Once a student receives a MOST scholarship, they remain in the program through eighth grade as long as their family remains financially eligible.
In high school, the scholarship application is merit-based, including an essay, recommendation and GPA checks.
The 60+ private schools MOST works with cover the gamut of institutions in the Memphis area. MOST strives to provide as many opportunities to parents as possible. “It’s parents’ choice,” said Leanne McQuown, executive director of MOST. “It’s the right of parents to choose what is the best fit and learning style for their child and then have the access to obtain it.”
MOST guides families but it’s their responsibility to enroll and obtain acceptance. The MOST scholarship doesn’t cover the full cost of tuition, but it is a big help for families. MOST provides $1 million in scholarships per year to 500 scholars and has a waiting list. An annual golf tournament provides some of those much-needed funds, but individual donations and grants play an important role in making those scholarships a reality.
There is a variety of donation levels available online at memphisscholarships.org, ranging from $12 – an amount that funds a MOST Scholar for a day – up to $2,100 – an amount that funds a MOST Scholar for a school year. Of course any amount is appreciated, and donations are easy to make online. CSF matches some of the donations. Many partner schools offer financial assistance. It’s also important to note that all MOST parents are required to pay part of their children’s tuition.
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