AUSTIN, Texas — The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation is donating $100 million to the University of Texas at Austin with the goal of closing the gap in college graduation rates across income levels, the school announced Jan. 30.
The partnership between the two organizations will also ensure Pell-eligible students have access to resources to help them complete their degrees at the same rates as higher-income peers. Federal Pell Grants are awarded to students with a high level of financial need. The school said more than two-thirds of those students come from families with incomes of $30,000 or less each year.
The gift is being committed to the university over a span of 10 years.
Starting in the fall of 2020, incoming Pell-eligible freshmen who come from families with the greatest need will join the Dell Scholars program.
"Each Dell Scholar will receive a financial award of $20,000 over his or her time in college that can be applied to the cost of attendance, including room and board, transportation, supplies, and other expenses," the school said. "For Texas residents, that funding will come on top of the university’s Texas Advance Commitment, which guarantees aid to cover the full cost of tuition and fees for Texas families earning $65,000 or less each year."
UT's own research shows students from lower-income families graduate at a lower rate than the student population as a whole.
The six-year graduation rate for all UT students reached nearly 86% last year, while the graduation rate for Pell Grant-eligible students from lower income families was only about 73%.
UT said it aims to raise the six-year graduation rates for its Pell Grant recipients to 90% and believes the Dell Foundation grants can make that happen.
Michael and Susan Dell spoke at the school's announcement event Friday. Susan Dell said the partnership helps "students who have been a huge part of our hearts for decades."
She said many of the students they've helped through the Dell Scholars program are first-generation college students who find themselves asking, "How am I going to afford my textbooks? How am I going to balance my academic responsibilities now?"
"Their families are unfamiliar with how to navigate the landscape of upper education and it’s been a struggle for a lot of them," Susan Dell said.
Michael Dell said at the event there are more factors than just finances that keep many from graduating and that he and Susan Dell want to "come up with ways to solve for those factors."
That's why those in the program will also receive support from "UT for Me – Powered by Dell Scholars." Among other things, this support will offer financial aid coaching, tutoring and textbook assistance, a laptop and internship and career planning services.
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