The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation will invest $100 million over 10 years to provide support and financial assistance for low-income students attending the University of Texas at Austin, the university announced last week.
Eligible incoming students at UT Austin will be automatically enrolled in the Dell Scholars program and receive a $20,000 scholarship that will be applied over the course of their college tenure to cover cost of attendance, including room and board, transportation, supplies and other expenses,” according to the announcement.
Students will also receive a laptop computer, as well as access to additional advising, career coaching and other support.
To qualify for the scholarship, students must be eligible for the federal Pell Grant program, which is awarded based on financial need.
The new initiative is the latest expansion of the foundation’s Dell Scholars program which offers “support to help students overcome academic challenges, increase financial literacy and navigate the personal circumstances that impact their college experience, according to the Dell Scholars website.
“It’s easy to assume that it’s money that keeps students from graduating from college,” said Janet Mountain, the executive director of the foundation. “We know that it’s often other personal challenges — challenges that are mostly solvable with the right support at the right time — that derail students from achieving a degree.”
For Texas residents attending UT Austin, the scholarship through the Dell Scholars program will be in addition to the university’s Texas Advance Commitment — an effort that guarantees financial aid to cover the full cost of tuition and fees for students coming from families earning $65,000 or less.
Since the launch of the Dell Scholars program in 2004, the foundation reported that it has helped to grow graduation rates for low-income students to more than four times the national average. The program has supported 5,000 students across the nation, and more than 2,400 graduates since its inception. The current graduation rate for Dell Scholars students is at 80 percent within six years.
The new partnership will “bring those efforts to scale at UT Austin,” according to the announcement.
“When Michael and I opened the doors of our family foundation in 1999, one of the first big initiatives we launched was the Dell Scholars program,” Susan Dell said in the press release. “From the very beginning, it has been incredibly important to us that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to graduate from college — and that mission continues to this day.”
After starting with freshman in the fall of 2020, the program will continue to add and fund new students each year for at least 10 years, after which time UT Austin has committed to raising additional funds to maintain the program there.
“As a result of our groundbreaking partnership with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the University of Texas at Austin is poised to increase opportunities for thousands of talented students whose potential to achieve will be met with unprecedented commitment, resources and support,” UT Austin President Gregory Fenves said in a statement.
The partnership announcement comes as higher education affordability continues to be a top priority for universities. Educause included affordability in several forms on its annual Top 10 IT Issues list.