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Gates Foundation Releases Study of Higher Education Scholarship Program

Gates Foundation Releases Study of Higher Education Scholarship ProgramWASHINGTON
The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program since 1999 has offered more than 7,000 minority students “last dollar” scholarship awards for undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. programs. The program recently released a study that profiled current and past participants’ success as a result of the scholarships.
The attitudes and expectations of Gates Millennium Scholars play an important role in their success, the study found. The scholars are confident and have high educational expectations, and their determination is tied to parental and family encouragement and mentors. They see college as a way to improve their economic circumstances and attain a better life.
The scholarships play a decisive role in determining the recipients’ course of studies, according to the report. Scholars are more likely than non-recipients to attend four-year and private colleges. They are almost three times as likely to maintain continuous enrollment. Even with the scholarships, some recipients take out student loans and work to meet expenses, but at a lower rate than non-recipient applicants.
Scholars were more likely to choose an engineering degree even though it requires an advanced degree for a lasting career. Two-thirds of GMS recipients report they have no problem adjusting to the academic environment of college.
GMS recipients have a high degree of academic success. 2001 scholars had a mean cumulative GPA of 3.25. Ninety-five percent reported they are very unlikely to drop out and are strongly committed to earning a degree at their current institution. Ninety percent said they expect to earn an advanced degree.
The GMS program plans to offer 20,000 scholarships to high-achieving students of color over 20 years at a cost of $50 million a year. The undergraduate award is renewable through graduate school programs in math, science, engineering, library science and education. The last dollar scholarships fund all of a student’s unmet tuition and fee needs after taking into account grants and federal and state student aid.
The program is open to African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Pacific Islander Americans and Hispanic Americans who are citizens or legal permanent residents and nationals of the United States. Recipients must be Pell Grant eligible, have at least a 3.3 GPA and show demonstrated leadership abilities.
Scholars are selected based on their GPA and the degree of difficulty of their course of study; their demonstrated leadership potential; their motivation, tenacity and initiative; and their persistence or potential for success in degree completion among other qualitative factors. The average high school GPA for entering college is 3.79, and the overall average college GPA is 3.4.
Of the current scholars, almost 1,000 are first-year students, about 3,600 are continuing undergraduates and more than 400 are graduate students. The ethnic/racial breakdown of the current scholars is 1,850 African Americans, 1,551 Hispanic Americans, 1,047 Asian Pacific Islander Americans and 554 American Indians/Alaska Natives.
Two-thirds of the scholars are females. About 45 percent of the scholars attend private schools, and 55 percent attend public institutions. The average annual scholarship size for undergraduate recipients is about $8,600, and for graduates is about $11,000. Award recipients got lower SAT scores than did non-recipient applicants, offering further evidence that standardized tests have many alternative means of predicting academic success, said one of the study’s researchers.
Most GMS scholars attend large, urban public high schools with high dropout rates. However, 65 percent of scholars attended a high school with four or more AP classes offered, and most attended schools with an equitable distribution of African Americans in more difficult courses and a low participation rate in special education classes.
The GMS program plans to comprehensively study the scholarship recipients to analyze short- and long-term educational, civic and personal outcomes. Additionally, a panel of higher education research scholars will author seven research papers on the program and its participants. They will be compared to non-recipients who applied for the program to measure the impact of the scholarships.
The GMS scholarships are administered by the United Negro College Fund, in partnership with the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars, Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Organization of Chinese Americans.
— By Ben Hammer

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