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New Scholarships to Make College Success a Reality for D.C. High School Students

Investment will support D.C.’s pledge to “Double the Numbers” of students who successfully graduate from high school and complete college by 2010

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Julie Rosenthal
D.C. College Access Program
Phone: 202.248.8449

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The D.C. College Success Foundation and the D.C. College Access Program (DC-CAP) today announced an investment of nearly $122 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support dramatic improvement in the number of young people who graduate from high school and college in Washington, D.C. More than 2,000 low-income students in Wards 7 and 8 will receive “D.C. Achievers” scholarship awards and additional support over the next 10 years to ensure they graduate ready to succeed in college.

This investment will support the District’s effort to double the number of students in the high school class of 2010 who successfully complete college within five years, and triple the number for those in the class of 2014. In Wards 7 and 8, where only one in three students finishes high school within five years and only one in 20 high school graduates earns a college degree within five years, this investment will help open doors of opportunity for young people by removing financial barriers to higher education and providing the necessary support for them to succeed academically.

“The District of Columbia, through many public and private partners, is demonstrating a strong commitment to increasing student achievement and helping ensure that our graduates are prepared for success,” said D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty during today’s announcement at Ballou Senior High School, whose students will be among those benefiting from this investment. “These scholarships will make a tremendous difference in nurturing the potential of so many students who never believed that they would complete college.”

The D.C. College Success Foundation will award the first D.C. Achievers scholarships to approximately 175 juniors this spring at six D.C. high schools: Anacostia Senior High School, Ballou Senior High School, H.D. Woodson Senior High School, Friendship Collegiate Academy Public Charter School, Maya Angelou Public Charter School – Evans Campus, and Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School.

“Working together to provide the right academic support and financial access, the D.C. Achievers program and our partners are helping bring the reality of a college degree to thousands of deserving D.C. students,” said Herb Tillery, executive director of the D.C. College Success Foundation.

Students will be selected for the D.C. Achievers scholarships in the spring of their junior year based on indicators that measure resilience and demonstrated commitment to education—giving a chance to those whose circumstances have not allowed them to demonstrate their potential through standardized test scores and GPA. Once selected, the students will have access to an extensive support program including a summer college prep experience, an assigned college preparatory advisor to provide college access programming, mentoring and academic support throughout their junior and senior years of high school, and additional mentoring support once they enter college.

“We are making important progress in improving the quality of our education system and ensuring that students are achieving at higher levels,” said DCPS School Board President Robert Bobb. “The D.C. College Success Foundation and the D.C. Achievers program will be important partners in transforming our schools and helping achieve our shared goal of doubling the number of D.C. students who succeed in college. In order to realize this goal, we will continue to build strong partnerships with committed organizations and businesses throughout the city that share our belief in the power and potential of our young people’s future.”

The D.C. Achievers effort will build upon the early success of DC-CAP in providing counseling and support to students in the District’s public high schools. DC-CAP will administer key program elements of D.C. Achievers for the College Success Foundation. Additionally, $10 million of the total investment will be provided directly to DC-CAP as a challenge grant to launch their $40 million capital campaign. The campaign will allow DC-CAP to serve the 23 percent of District high school students who now attend District charter schools and increase scholarships available to students across the city.  

“This investment will allow DC-CAP to play a vital role in doubling the number of students who complete college—increasing the level of support in some of the schools where we need it most and allowing DC-CAP scholarships to reach even more students,” said Don Graham, chairman of the DC-CAP board. 

This initiative is supported by the commitments made in a Memorandum of Understanding, which includes the mayor, the D.C. Board of Education, the superintendent of the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS), the D.C. State Education Office, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other partners. These organizations have come together in a public-private partnership to support the goal adopted by the District of Columbia to multiply the numbers of students who graduate from high school and attend and succeed in college.

“We are grateful for the mentoring guidance and financial support this generous investment will offer to students who might otherwise not be ready or able to attend college,” said DCPS Superintendent Dr. Clifford B. Janey. “This investment fits perfectly with what DCPS is already doing and highlights the need for the entire community to get involved in making sure our students succeed.”

The College Success Foundation leads the Washington State Achievers program, which has awarded college scholarships to more than 3,800 low-income students, many of whom are the first in their families to go to college. A recent study of the program found that nearly three-fourths of Washington State Achievers Scholars in its fifth class enrolled directly into four-year colleges and about 75 percent are expected to earn a college degree.  

“Throughout the country and in D.C., educators, business and community leaders are taking important steps to reverse the tragic trend of low academic expectations and low support for our nation’s students,” said Allan Golston, president of U.S. Programs for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We believe D.C. Achievers will build on the successful local college access efforts and tremendous partnerships, as well as benefit from the lessons learned in Washington State, and provide support for students who need it most by removing financial barriers and ensuring more students are prepared to succeed in college.” 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is focused on improving America’s low graduation rates and expand educational opportunities for all high school districts. It has invested more than $13 million in Washington, D.C. and more than $1.5 billion nationwide to improve the education of more than a million young people. 

The College Success Foundation
Formerly known as the Washington Education Foundation, the College Success Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization formed to provide economically disadvantaged and underrepresented students the educational and financial incentives necessary for them to attend the post-secondary institutions of their choice. It has awarded over 3,800 scholarships since its inception. The College Success Foundation manages the Washington State Achievers Scholarship Program, the Costco Scholarship Fund, the Chateau Ste. Michelle Scholarship Fund, the Washington State Governors Scholarship for Foster Youth, and the Leadership 1000 Scholarship Program.

D.C. College Access Program
D.C. College Access Program (DC-CAP) is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to encouraging and enabling D.C. public high school students to enroll and graduate from college.  In partnership with the D.C. Public High School System, DC-CAP provides direct counseling and financial assistance to more than 12,000 high school students. The overwhelming majority of students served by DC-CAP in its 17 College Information Resource Centers (CIRCs) are from low-income, minority, single-parent households and many are the first in their families to attend college. DC-CAP has awarded approximately $10,000,000 in Last Dollar Award scholarships since its inception, and in fall of 2006, will be tracking and counseling nearly 5,300 college students.

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