Bill and Melinda Gates Announce New Millennium Scholars Program to Bridge the Gap in Access to Higher Education
Gateses team up with three major minority scholarship funds to eliminate financial barriers to college degrees
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
SEATTLE -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced the formation of the Gates Millennium Scholars program, a 20-year plan to provide financial assistance to high-achieving minority students who are in severe financial need and otherwise would be excluded from higher education. The program will be administered by the United Negro College Fund, with the support and participation of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the American Indian College Fund.
"This is a historic effort to improve the diversity of higher education," said William H. Gray, III, president and chief executive officer of The United Negro College Fund. "All of society benefits when the doors of education are opened to a group of kids who wouldn't otherwise get the chance. It's our vision to raise a new generation of leaders and we are grateful that Bill and Melinda Gates share this vision -- and are acting on it."
The program goal is to foster a generation of leaders that represent the full talents of society by providing access to higher education for minority students who have achieved academic standards and shown leadership promise, but are in financial need. The program will begin in the fall of 2000 and provide financial assistance to 1,000 new students per year, over a 20-year period, with an annual investment of $50 million. At any given point, 4,000 students per year will be Millennium Scholars.
"It is critical to America's future that we draw from the full range of talent and ability to develop the next generation of leaders," said Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "The Millennium Scholars program is intended to ensure that we build a stronger America through improved educational opportunities."
The difficulty of financing a college education is a major challenge to many minority high school graduates. Numerous high-achieving students often find the financial costs associated with college make it hard to enroll, and difficult to complete an undergraduate or post-graduate degree.
"With this program we will reduce the financial obstacles that prevent many deserving students from fulfilling their potential," said Foundation co-founder Melinda Gates. "If we can ease the financial strains many students encounter, hopefully they can focus their full efforts on academic pursuits."
Scholarships will be offered every year through the completion of the student's program of undergraduate study. Awards will be renewed annually and Scholars will be expected to maintain a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.0 or better.
Students pursuing advanced degrees in math, science, engineering, education and library science will receive continual financial support for post-graduate studies.