AUSTIN, Texas, April 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation's Dell Scholars Program today awarded 300 students across the country with $6,000,000 in college scholarship funds for a total of $37 million awarded to 1,850 scholars to date. Much more than just a check, the Dell Scholars Program is the first of its kind to include wrap-around services that help scholars and their families deal with personal problems – such as financial, legal and personal relationship issues – that might adversely affect their ability to graduate. The program also provides an online community for mentoring and peer interaction. This holistic approach is the catalyst for achieving 85% college graduation rates among it scholars, as compared to the national average of 23% for low-income, underserved students.
As the price of paying for college continues to rise, an estimated 3.2 million bachelor degrees will be lost this decade due to increased unmet costs for college ready students. Couple this with college completion rates for lower income students remaining static over the last 38 years and up to 60 percent of a low-income family's income required for four-year public education tuition, makes the opportunity for a college education a severe challenge for low-income or financially underserved students.
But financial issues aren't the only obstacle. Research shows that low-income, high-risk students are much more likely to drop out of college due to personal pressure from family responsibilities, the inability to tackle the academic challenges of college because of the work hours required to keep them there, and the ongoing financial challenges of their families. The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has created a completely unique and winning approach to not only send these students to college, but also to address these obstacles.
"What these students have had to overcome in their lives to get to where they are today is inspirational," said Susan Dell, co-founder and board chair of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. "When we are able to assist them with life's unexpected challenges, they are proving that they can fulfill their dreams of graduating from college." See their stories on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/DellScholarsProgram .
"We hope to change the way our country approaches its support for low-income, high-risk students who are more than what their numbers indicate," said Michael Dell, co-founder of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. "The track record of the Dell Scholars Program proves that combining financial assistance with mentoring and support services is a successful formula for helping these students obtain a college degree. We believe that more money doesn't necessarily mean better outcomes, which is why we put more emphasis on student retention and graduation than on even the size of the financial reward."
Selecting students who are better than their numbers indicate is part of the Dell Scholars Program success. Most Dell Scholars are from communities of color and have a lower socioeconomic status and fewer resources than the average college student. Most are first-generation college students, and all must have participated in an approved college readiness program and maintained at least a 2.4 grade point average. While they may not boast the highest GPAs or standardized testing scores, they show a propensity to succeed based on overcoming personal obstacles in their lives. The foundation uses a proprietary algorithm to select the students most likely to be successful – with added support – in college.
"After seven years of working with and mentoring Dell Scholars, we've proven that this previously high-risk segment of students can indeed succeed in college," said Oscar Sweeten-Lopez, of the Dell Scholars Program at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. "The Foundation's hope is that we can work with other scholarship programs and institutions that really want to provide what it takes for these students to thrive in college and significantly improve the college graduation rates of low-income, at-risk students."
Dell Scholars receive $20,000 each to complete their higher education over the course of six years. In addition, the Dell Scholars Program provides its students with technology, a private scholar networking community, resources, and mentoring to ensure they have the support they need to achieve their college degrees. Scholars become part of a support network for each other that is made up of themselves, their schools, families, peers and a dedicated Dell Scholar team at the Michael & Susan Dell foundation.
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About the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of children living in urban poverty around the world. With offices in Austin, TX and New Delhi, India, and Cape Town, South Africa, the Dell family foundation funds programs that foster high-quality public education and childhood health, and improve the economic stability of families living in poverty. The foundation has committed more than $700 million to global children's issues and community initiatives to date. Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.
SOURCE Michael & Susan Dell Foundation