Gates Millennium Scholars Program Awards New Scholarships to 1,000 Low-Income Minority Students
Scholarships Expand Access to Higher Education by Removing Financial Barriers to College for Talented Youth
FAIRFAX, Va. -- The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program announced its newest class of scholarship recipients. With these awards, 1,000 highly motivated low-income minority students from 48 states and the District of Columbia will be able to attend college without the burden of tuition—a barrier that often prevents qualified youth from earning their degree.
"Too many talented students of color are being forced to curtail their education and career ambitions because of financial constraints," said Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which established the GMS program in 1999. "With this scholarship, we hope these extraordinary young people can attend college, earn their degree, and go on to make an impact in their professions and their communities."
The federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance reports that 4.4 million Americans will be unable to attend four-year colleges in this decade because of financial constraints. This is particularly disturbing at a time when jobs requiring a college degree are the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy. The GMS program was created to encourage and support low-income racial and ethnic minority students who are academically gifted to complete undergraduate and graduate programs.
"GMS Scholars are an accomplished, outstanding group of youth who have managed to succeed despite the odds," said Dr. Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), which administers the GMS program in partnership with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars, and the Organization of Chinese Americans.
With leadership development opportunities, GMS aims to cultivate a new generation of leaders. Recent research reveals that Gates Millennium Scholars are more likely than non-recipients to earn good grades and are determined to complete degrees. GMS scholars are also more likely to attend four-year and private colleges and stay in school continuously. Upon the completion of their undergraduate degree, current Scholars may renew the GMS award to pursue graduate studies in mathematics, science, engineering, education, or library science.
Many GMS scholars have chosen to study issues and enter professions through which they can work to address society's inequities and improve lives. First awarded a GMS scholarship in 2000, Walter Besio is a professor of biomedical engineering and rehabilitation services at Louisiana Tech University. Besio, who grew up on an Indian reservation in northern New York state, was inspired to find a career helping the physically disabled after his brother was paralyzed in a car crash.
"Having the chance to follow my dream and complete my education has been a gift," said Besio, a GMS alumnus. "Now, as an educator, I have the opportunity to share my knowledge with students who will continue this work in the future.” Through the GMS program, Besio earned a PhD in biomedical engineering.
To date, more than 7,000 African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American and Hispanic American students have received the Gates Millennium Scholarship. By 2019, the scheduled end of the program, the $1 billion initiative will have helped more than 20,000 talented low-income students of color attend college, pursue their academic dreams, and embark upon their careers.
Candidates for the GMS award must be citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States. Students must also meet the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria, have at least a 3.3 GPA (on a 4.0 scale), and have demonstrated leadership through community service or other extracurricular activities.
This year's group of scholars was chosen from 48 states, ranging from Alaska to Puerto Rico.