$100 million gift from Dell Foundation will help low-income University of Texas students graduate from college

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A $100 million gift from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to The University of Texas will aim to increase graduation rates among low-income students eligible for Federal Pell Grants. (Courtesy University of Texas at Austin)

A $100 million gift from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to The University of Texas will aim to increase graduation rates among low-income students eligible for Federal Pell Grants. (Courtesy University of Texas at Austin)

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation announced Jan. 31 a new partnership with The University of Texas aimed at helping boost graduation rates among low-income students.

The Dell Foundation committed $100 million over 10 years to provide assistance for students who are eligible for Federal Pell Grants, which are awarded to students from families with financial need. According to a UT release, more than two-thirds of Pell recipients come from families with incomes of $30,000 or less each year.

In a video posted to the UT website, UT President Gregory Fenves said the program will provide $20,000 scholarships for Pell-eligible students at the university with the most financial need, in addition to a personalized support system with tutoring and financial counseling.

According to the media release, that financial award of $20,000 stretches over the student’s entire time in college and can be applied to cost of attendance, which includes room and board, transportation, supplies and other expenses.

In four years, Fenves said, the program will grow to serve 8,000 Pell-eligible students, equivalent to roughly 20% of UT’s student body.


“This program will be life-changing for generations of Longhorns, and I couldn’t be prouder,” Fenves said in the video.

The new program will be modeled on the foundation’s Dell Scholars program, which, according to a statement from Susan Dell, was one of the first initiatives of the foundation after it was launched in 1999.

Since the Dell Scholars support program's inception, it has worked with more than 5,000 students nationwide, according to its website, and helped students graduate at four times the rate of their peers.

At UT, the new program has set a goal of increasing six-year graduation rates for Pell-eligible students from 73% to 90%. The overall six-year graduation rate at UT was 85.6% in 2019, according to the university, and its four-year graduation rate was 69.8%.

The new program will begin this fall at UT and will add a new class each year, according to the media release. After the 10-year period of the initial $100 million gift ends, UT said in the release it “has committed to raising funds to maintain these services.”

In 2019, UT announced it would expand its financial aid program to cover the cost of tuition for students from families making up to $65,000 per year and provide some amount of guaranteed aid for students from families making up to $125,000 per year.

The $160 million for that program was authorized by the UT System Board of Regents and came from the Permanent University Fund, money generated by the UT system’s ownership of 2.1 million acres of land in West Texas.
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