First Opportunity Scholars

  • Posted June 23, 2023

Consider these important facts:

In 2020, most high school graduates will be non-white. However, compared to whites, only a small percentage of Hispanics and African-Americans who enroll in college complete a bachelor’s degree within six years. Private colleges and universities serve First Opportunity students roughly the same percentage as four-year public institutions but have higher retention and graduation rates.

Give students their first opportunity:

The First Opportunity Scholars Program aims to provide financial aid to needy students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds and new students. This program seeks the support of corporations, foundations, and individuals to invest in the future of deserving and motivated students who dream of a high-quality college education.

Your investment in the future:

The 16 institutions in the MCF consortium are among Missouri’s leading independent/private colleges and universities, providing donors with a tangible, effective, and meaningful way to help students with financial needs achieve their educational goals.

First Opportunity Scholarships: Bridging the Gap to Higher Education

Higher education has always been critical in achieving long-term success and financial stability. Unfortunately, not all students have equal access to this opportunity. Students from low-income families, first-generation college students, and those who attend under-resourced schools often face significant barriers when it comes to accessing higher education.

To address this issue, many organizations and institutions have created “first opportunity scholarships” to help bridge the gap for these students. But what exactly is a first-opportunity scholarship, and why is it essential to reach these students?

What is a First Opportunity Scholarship?

A first-opportunity scholarship is a type of financial aid designed to help students who are the first in their families to attend college or come from low-income backgrounds. These scholarships aim to support tuition, fees, books, and other expenses associated with attending college.

In addition to financial support, many first-opportunity scholarships also provide mentoring, academic support, and career guidance to help students succeed in college and beyond. By providing these resources, first-opportunity scholarships can help level the playing field for students who may have had different opportunities than their peers.

Why is it Important to Reach First Opportunity Scholars?

There are several reasons why it’s crucial to reach first-opportunity scholars:

  1. Increased Access to Higher Education: First-opportunity scholarships can help break down the financial barriers that prevent many low-income and first-generation students from attending college. These scholarships can increase access to higher education for underserved populations by providing financial support and resources.
  2. Improved Social Mobility: Education has long been recognized as a critical factor in social mobility. By providing first-opportunity scholarships, we can help level the playing field for students who may have had different opportunities than their peers. This can lead to improved economic outcomes for individuals and families and increased social mobility.
  3. Diverse Perspectives: First-opportunity scholars bring a unique perspective to higher education. We can ensure that our universities and colleges are more diverse and inclusive by reaching these students. This can lead to a more prosperous learning environment for all students.
  4. Addressing the Skills Gap: Many industries face a skills gap, meaning they need more qualified workers to fill available jobs. By reaching first-opportunity scholars and providing them with the resources they need to succeed in college and beyond, we can help address this skills gap and ensure that our workforce is prepared for the future.


First-opportunity scholarships are an essential tool in addressing the inequities that exist in higher education. By providing financial support and resources to underserved students, we can increase access to higher education, improve social mobility, promote diversity and inclusion, and address the skills gap. We must continue to invest in these scholarships and reach as many first-opportunity scholars as possible.

The Missouri Colleges Fund (MCF) has provided scholarship gifts since 1952 to ensure that private higher education in Missouri is affordable for students from diverse backgrounds and financial needs. One of the MCF’s main initiatives is to enhance education for first-generation, low-income students by supporting private colleges and universities.