Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust (M.O.S.T.)

Handbook

1000 Ridgeway Loop Rd., Ste. 100
Memphis, TN 38120

901.842.5330 | 901.842.5331 (fax)

All changes will be communicated in advance via email. If your email has changed, please send an update to info@memphisscholarships.org.

 

M.O.S.T. does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies or scholarship programs. 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

                                        I. What is M.O.S.T.?

                                        II. Who is M.O.S.T. for?

                                        III. What is the application process for a M.O.S.T. Scholarship?

                                        IV. How are M.O.S.T. Scholarships renewed?

                                        V. How are M.O.S.T. Scholarships paid?

                                        VI. Procedures for students leaving schools. 

 

I. WHAT IS M.O.S.T.?

 

Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust, or M.O.S.T., provides need-based, partial scholarships to assist with tuition costs associated with Shelby County private/independent/parochial schools. M.O.S.T. Scholarships are awarded to residents of Shelby County, TN, who        meet eligibility qualifications. Scholarships are awarded to students in PK3 through grade 8 with 90%  attendance rates, without regard  to academic achievement or standardized test scores. Beginning in high school, M.O.S.T. reviews grades, attendance, and conduct. In the spring semester of grade 8, current MOST Scholars have the opportunity to apply for M.O.S.T.'s general high school scholarship and a more selective merit-based McDonnell Scholarship. 

M.O.S.T. Scholarships may be used at any private school on M.O.S.T.'s list of partner schools.

Each year M.O.S.T. awards over $1M in scholarships to more than 350 students to attend schools their families might not otherwise be able to afford. A privately funded nonprofit, M.O.S.T. receives tax-deductible donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations, including some matching funds for K-8 scholarships from the Children's Scholarship Fund (CSF) in New York. M.O.S.T. is not a government agency and receives no government support. 

II. WHO IS M.O.S.T. FOR?

 

M.O.S.T. provides funding for financially eligible families with students in PK through grade 12 (additional scholarships to local colleges for M.O.S.T. students are available) who reside in Shelby County, TN. Students must be in attendance on the opening day of the school year to activate the scholarship. For a school that is offering virtual learning, the child must be accounted for through whatever means the school uses to take attendance. If a student leaves school mid-year, they must have attended school for at least 4 weeks (2o school days) for any portion of the scholarship to be paid.

 

FINANCIAL ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

To be eligible, a family must fall within the Annual Income Eligibility Scale for the school year for which the family is applying for a scholarship. Each year, the scale changes slightly, as it is based on the National School Lunch Guidelines.  

* Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) reported on all tax returns filed by those who are counted as family members. Note: if depreciation is taken for property, automobiles, etc., it will be added back to the AGI. 

* Any other household income not reported on the tax return, including but not limited to:

     - Unreported earned income

     - Unreported unearned income (such as Social Security or disability payments received by any household member and not reported on the tax return)

     - All government assistance (Families First, SSI, SNAP Food Benefits, etc.)

     - Child Support (either court-ordered or agreed upon between parents for all children being claimed, not just the applicant)

Knowingly providing false information on any M.O.S.T. form will result in an immediate termination of the MOST Scholarship and McDonnell Scholarship.

 

THE VALUE OF A M.O.S.T. SCHOLARSHIP

M.O.S.T. partners with private schools in Shelby County to help financially bridge the gap between tuition, less school-provided financial aid, and the family’s financial responsibility. Scholarships are calculated on a sliding scale based on family income and school tuition. M.O.S.T. families, who must pay a minimum of $500 per M.O.S.T. Scholar per year toward tuition, should keep in mind that tuition costs vary greatly from school to school. Families are responsible for the remaining balance of tuition and other costs such as school fees, school supplies, uniforms, field trips, lunches, snacks, and any expenses for other instructional or extracurricular activities or before- or afterschool care. Families should inquire about such costs and take these expenses into account when they calculate what they will be required to pay.

Note: M.O.S.T. families are required to apply for financial aid at their children’s schools, if applicable. Students will receive both school financial aid and a M.O.S.T. Scholarship.

 

PK3 through GRADE 8 SCHOLARSHIPS 

The entry points for the MOST Scholarship Program are PK3, PK4, kindergarten, and grades 1 and 2. Exceptions are made for students entering grade 3 - 8 who have been diagnosed with special developmental, learning, or emotional needs and wish to attend a M.O.S.T. Partner School that was established to address those needs. 

 

HIGH SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIPS

M.O.S.T. 8th graders are given a one-time opportunity to apply for a high school scholarship. In January, students will receive a M.O.S.T. High School Scholarship Application via email and U.S. Mail. Along with the application, students must submit their report cards for grades 7 & 8. Those who do not return the application by the stated deadline will not be given another opportunity to apply and their M.O.S.T. Scholarship will be deactivated after grade 8. The application process is designed to reinforce the idea that high school students are ultimately responsible for their own educational experiences. 

 

McDONNELL SCHOLARSHIPS 

Each year M.O.S.T. identifies approximately five rising 9th graders who exhibit outstanding academic promise, leadership, and character and have distinguished themselves among their peers by demonstrating attitudes and behaviors that mark them for success in secondary school, college, and life. The McDonnell Scholarship is in addition to the general high school scholarship and is valued at up to $2,500 per year. Awards will be made based on grades, teacher recommendations, an in-person test and writing assessment, and an interview in the M.O.S.T. offices. Rising 8th graders who are interested in being considered for the McDonnell Scholarship will mark as such on the general high school scholarship application.

Parents and guardians of high school scholars (general and McDonnell) must continue to qualify financially based on the same income eligibility scale as families of younger students. 

 

STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

The only exception for new applicants relative to age is an older student (entering grades 3 through 8) who has had a recent individually administered psychoeducational evaluation that determines the child has an intellectual or developmental disability, dyslexia, attention deficits, autism spectrum disorder, or a defined social-emotional need and is looking to attend one of the following M.O.S.T. partner schools or programs. The family of a child with special needs must still qualify financially for a scholarship based on the same income eligibility scale as other applicants. A recent written document of a professional’s diagnosis and recommendations must be included with the application. Special-needs students in high school are given leniency relative to the GPA requirements.

III. WHAT IS THE APPLICATION PROCESS FOR A M.O.S.T. SCHOLARSHIP?

 

To be eligible for a first-time scholarship, a student must be entering PK3, PK4, kindergarten, or grades 1-2. Also eligible: Students entering grades K through 8 who have diagnosed special needs and will attend a M.O.S.T. partner school that specifically addresses that need. Current M.O.S.T. Scholars’ younger siblings who are entering PK3, PK4, kindergarten, and grades 1- 2 (or older siblings with special needs who are entering grades 3 through 8) may be added to the M.O.S.T. scholarship program without applying through the lottery.

During February, M.O.S.T. accepts online pre-applications for the scholarship lottery for admission to the M.O.S.T. program in the fall of the following school year. All qualified pre-applications are treated equally. M.O.S.T. receives more pre-applications than it can fund each year; new scholarships are awarded by lottery.

All families are notified via email whether they have been selected in the lottery or placed on the waiting list. To claim their scholarships, the selected families must submit a New Student Application by the given deadline, specific documentation showing their financial eligibility, and a copy of the birth certificate for the child(ren) for whom they are applying. The waiting list is not carried over from year to year, so if a person’s name is not selected from the waiting list by July 31, they may reapply the following February if they still qualify based on residence, income, and age(s) of their child(ren).

Once a M.O.S.T. family has selected a partner school and started the admission process, they are required to apply for the school’s financial aid program, if such a program exists.

NOTE: If a family is offered a M.O.S.T. scholarship but does not submit the required documents by the stated deadline or cannot find an appropriate school by July 1 of the same year, M.O.S.T. reserves the right to withdraw the scholarship offer. In addition, if a family who receives a new scholarship already has a child or children enrolled at any of our partner schools, the family must be in good financial standing with the school(s) for the scholarship to be activated.

IV. HOW ARE SCHOLARSHIPS RENEWED?

 

REQUALIFYING FOR A SCHOLARSHIP FROM YEAR TO YEAR

For students in PK4 through grade 11, the parent/guardian must submit a Requalification Form each spring to reapply for the following school year. The requalification process is similar to the application for first-time scholarships, though renewing families do not go through the lottery process. Families will be notified in mid-February via email when it is time to submit the Requalification Form. The parent/guardian must complete and submit the Requalification Form and all pertinent financial documents to M.O.S.T. by the stated deadline to guarantee the student’s scholarship for the following school year.

A complete requalification packet for each school year will include:

     - A complete, signed and dated Requalification Form.

     - The family's previous year tax return(s), including the Schedule C if self-employed, and copies of all previous year's W-2s and/or 1099sIf more than one person in the household (spouse, child, grandparents, or others in the household) files a tax return, ALL returns must be submitted. 

     - Documentation of all government assistance (Families First, SNAP Food Benefits, Social Security, etc.) received during the tax year by all who are counted in the household. 

     - Documentation of child support received during the tax year for all children, not just the applicant. If support is court-ordered, submit the official document showing how much was paid during the tax year. If support is made through an agreement between parents, the paying party should write and sign a letter detailing how much was paid during the tax year.

     - Any other income received by anyone in the household and not included above.

     - A copy of the birth certificate for each new student [younger sibling(s) or older sibling(s) with documented special needs] applying for a scholarship.

 

The parent/guardian who is applying/reapplying must be able to prove that he or she is financially responsible for all individuals counted as part of the household by showing them listed on the tax return or on documentation of government aid.

     - If a child is listed on someone else’s tax return, we must either count that person and their full income as part of the total household income or see documentation of the financial support that is provided by that person for that child. We cannot provide scholarship assistance to, or count as part of your household, a child who is listed on someone else’s tax return unless that person is providing significant financial support to the child. If there are extenuating circumstances, contact the M.O.S.T. office.

Knowingly providing false information on any M.O.S.T. form will result in an immediate termination of the M.O.S.T. scholarship.

 

ADDING SIBLINGS

Younger siblings of students already receiving a M.O.S.T. scholarship do not have to submit a new student pre-application or go through the lottery. Families can add younger children as they enter PK3, PK4, kindergarten, or graded 1-2 simply by adding the child’s name and other requested information on the Requalification Form and attaching a copy of the child’s birth certificate (required) and photograph (optional) to their requalification paperwork.

 

GRADE POINT AVERAGE (GPA) EXPECTATIONS FOR HIGH SCHOOL SCHOLARS 

Students receiving a general high school scholarship are expected to maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher. McDonnell Scholars are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher, with a goal of meeting the requirements for a Tennessee HOPE Scholarship and other similar scholarships.

If any high school student receives a final semester grade of a D or an F, the scholarship will be up for review.

Note to parents: If you are not sure if your child is returning to the same school and he/she is possibly transferring to another M.O.S.T. partnering private school, please complete the requalification process at your child’s current school so we have your documents prepared, if needed.

 

PARTNER SCHOOLS: Once families have returned completed requalification packets to M.O.S.T., we will request a completed School Commitment Form (SCF) for each re-enrolling student and for each new sibling. Schools should complete an Exit Form for students who will not be returning to the school for the following year (graduating from highest grade, moving out of town, transferring to another school, etc.).

M.O.S.T. was founded to help bridge the gap between tuition, less school-provided financial aid, and a family’s financial responsibility. Families are required to apply to the school for financial aid. The M.O.S.T. scholarship does not preclude families from receiving financial aid from the school. All financial aid provided to families is required to be documented on the SCFs.

V. HOW ARE SCHOLARSHIPS PAID?

 

M.O.S.T. makes scholarship payments directly to the schools twice a year – at the end of September and by the end of February. Before M.O.S.T. will make a payment, Partner Schools must confirm that M.O.S.T. families are current with their portion of tuition payments and that scholarship recipients have at least a 90-percent attendance rate via Scholarship Verification Reports.

VI. PROCEDURES FOR STUDENTS EXITING SCHOOLS OR PLACING STUDENTS ON A ONE-TIME HOLD

 

* For M.O.S.T. to provide payment for any portion of a scholarship, the child must have attended school for at least four weeks (20 school days).

*Expulsion: A student who is expelled from a school automatically loses his or her scholarship. Only that portion of the scholarship attributable to the days that the child was in attendance will be paid.

*If a school becomes aware that a student will not be returning (at any point during the school year or during the summer), the school must complete an Exit Form. If the school knows the student is transferring to another private school, please provide the name of the new school, as the scholarship may be transferable.

M.O.S.T. will not transfer a scholarship if a family has any financial obligation to the first school.

 

STUDENTS TRANSFERRING SCHOOLS

Scholarships for students may be transferred to other M.O.S.T. partner schools unless there is a debt owed to the original school. However, students cannot transfer from one school to another more than three times during the time they participate in the program (not including a school closure or when a student graduates from a school’s highest grade).

To initiate a scholarship transfer, the parent/guardian should request that the original school completes an Exit Form and that the new school completes a School Commitment Form. It is the family’s responsibility to let the new school know that the student has a M.O.S.T. scholarship and to request that both schools send these forms to M.O.S.T. They should follow up with the schools and verify that M.O.S.T. has received the forms. M.O.S.T. is not responsible for scholarships lost because of a school not submitting the proper paperwork.

When a student transfers to a new school mid-year, the scholarship will be prorated between the two schools based on attendance at each. The annual scholarship might increase or decrease based on the new school’s tuition and, if applicable, any school financial aid.

Because M.O.S.T. pays scholarships in two lump sums early in each semester, M.O.S.T. may have to reclaim some of the funds paid to the original school if a student leaves mid-year. Scholarship funds to be reclaimed will be calculated in 5-percent increments and, in most cases, will be based on a 10-month school year. For example, if a student with a $3,000 scholarship leaves a school on November 11, M.O.S.T. will reclaim 65% of the total scholarship amount, since the student only completed about 35% of the school year at that school. However, since M.O.S.T. would have already paid 50% of the total scholarship amount in October, M.O.S.T. will reclaim the funds by deducting them from the next scholarship payment to that school or by requesting a reimbursement check from the school.

 

PLACING A SCHOLARSHIP ON HOLD

Because of the merit-based component of our high school programs, scholarship holds for students in grades 8 through 11 are not permitted. Scholarships for students in PK3 through grade 7 may be placed on hold one time for up to one year if the family decides to send their child to a public school, a home school, or a non-partnering private school. To put a scholarship on hold, the parent/ guardian must notify M.O.S.T. in writing with a signed and dated letter or an email from his or her personal email account within one week of leaving their school and request the hold with a description of the situation. The maximum duration to keep a scholarship on hold is one year from the date that the student last attended classes. It is up to the parent/guardian to contact M.O.S.T. before the hold period expires to discuss re-enrollment in the M.O.S.T. program.