The $100 million gift by the Dell Foundation to the University of Texas was a 10-year commitment to providing funding and services for Pell Grant recipients.
The $100 million gift by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation will provide $20,000 financial aid for the University of Texas at Austin’s most needy freshmen.
Higher education experts say that the gift is one the largest in the country and directly supports Pell Grant recipients.
The Dell Foundation has been a long-standing advocate for low-income student success. Friday’s announcement said that every incoming UT freshman eligible for the Pell Grant for the next 10 years would have “personalized services,” including a new laptop and tutoring. Pell Grant is a federally-funded, need-based grant.
Pell Grant recipients with severe financial needs will receive $20,000 checks. This calculation will be based upon “expected family contributions” of less than $1,000.
Janet Mountain, the executive director of Dell Foundation, stated that there would be approximately 2,000 Pell-eligible students who arrive at UT this autumn, and all of them will have to access the personalized services. How many will be eligible for the additional funds is unknown. The application process is not required; the university and the foundation will determine which students are eligible for orientation.
Mountain stated that “not only making it to college but also through it has always been a significant aspect of this foundation.” “The ultimate mission of the foundation is to provide more opportunities for urban children growing up in poverty.”
This announcement comes after the university recently tried to make free tuition more accessible to students with low incomes. The university increased the family income threshold for free tuition from $30,000 – $65,000 in July. This aligned its policies with Texas A&M and Texas A&M and inspired the Dell Foundation to help Longhorns facing financial hardship.
The average tuition cost at UT for this academic year is over $28,000. This includes housing, tuition, and other expenses such as transportation and textbooks. A maximum of $6,195 is available under the Pell Grant. This amount can vary each year.
According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s most recent financial aid data, more than 9,000 UT students received Pell grants in 2017.
The cost of university can make it difficult to graduate. Mountain stated that only 20% of low-income students graduate college within six years. The graduation rate for low-income students at UT is 73%. However, the university and Dell Foundation are working to increase that rate to 90%.
Alyssa Garza (20 years old) is a UT student and aspiring aerospace engineer. Garza stated that UT was not a pipedream thanks to the Pell Grant, the university’s $40,000 Impact Scholarship, and the $40,000 scholarship from Cockrell School of Engineering.
She stated that even with sufficient financial aid to cover tuition, housing, and other expenses, daily living can be difficult. Garza stated that a parking spot on campus cost her hundreds of bucks, and she had to pay $20 for the gas each week.
Garza stated that she currently has $50 for her two-week stay. This makes it difficult to go to the movies or eat out. She doesn’t have the money to pay for a study abroad program, but she would like to go this summer to meet class requirements. She said that an extra $20,000 would have been helpful for living expenses, but Garza, a sophomore, is not eligible for the program.
Garza stated, “Just because my school is paid for doesn’t mean I have money.” “I still need to consider future purchases and find the cheapest option. It’s not as extravagant as people think.
Other support services Dell offers to Pell-eligible Pell students include career planning, financial literacy assistance, and mental health counseling. These programs will draw on the existing UT personnel and resources, but they will eventually be a separate team of approximately 15 people who are fully committed to each Pell student.
Students can use this team as a resource for academic and other emergencies. The program will provide emergency funds and access to them.
Mountain stated, “I think people would be shocked to learn how often the final straw is so simple as your car breaking down, and you need $250 for it to be fixed. “The idea behind emergency funds is that students can come to us and say they have a crisis right now. We have the flexibility to meet that need.
Mountain stated that the university had committed to raise funds to continue the program after 10 years. The foundation is also looking at an endowment to keep the program going.
Greg Fenves, President of UT, stated that there is a long-term strategy to improve the success rate of students. It’s ambitious, but we are excited to do this.
The Dell Foundation, Austin, has its college scholarship program. It has served more than 4,800 students. Mountain stated that the foundation was founded nearly two decades ago and had a long history of counseling with cash — a “proven model.”
Michael Dell, a student at UT, founded the foundation in 1984 with Susan. Its charitable ventures are spread around the globe and focus mainly on fighting poverty through education.
Experts in higher education said that the Dell gift to low-income students could shift how colleges approach financial aid.
Jonathan Fansmith, an American Council on Education director, stated that alumni often give large sums of money to their alma maters without restrictions. These institutions often use the funds to subsidize the costs of supporting students with low incomes.