By Elaine Owen, Editor ~~
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, have donated a $33 million scholarship grant to TheDream.US, the nation’s largest scholarship program for “dreamers” — young immigrants whose protections against deportation for being threatened. According to the organization, the donation will allow 1,000 undocumented immigrant graduates of U.S. high schools with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status the opportunity to attend college.
The grant is considered the largest donation in the organization’s history.
In an email statement, Bezos said, “My dad came to the U.S. when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan. He landed in this country alone and unable to speak English. With a lot of grit and determination – and the help of some remarkable organizations in Delaware – my dad became an outstanding citizen, and he continues to give back to the country that he feels blessed him in so many ways. MacKenzie and I are honored to be able to help today’s Dreamers by funding these scholarships.”
According to TheDream.US, Dreamers are typically ineligible for federal grants and loans but their education in U.S. public schools through grade 12 is legally guaranteed. Some undocumented students assume that they cannot legally attend college in the U.S. However, there is no federal or state law that prohibits the admission of undocumented immigrants to U.S. colleges, public or private. No federal or state laws require students to prove citizenship in order to enter U.S. institutions of higher education. Yet institutional policies on admitting undocumented students vary. They are unable to receive state aid in 44 states, including Georgia.
However, TheDream.US provides each participant with a total of $33,000 in scholarship aid over four years to help pay the cost of tuition, fees and books. The organization works with more than 70 low-cost colleges across 15 states and 2,850 students are currently enrolled in colleges under the program.
“Our students are highly motivated and determined to succeed in college and in life. We’re a three-and-a-half-year-old program, so we don’t yet have graduation rates,” said Candy Marshall, president of TheDream.US. “But our scholars are thriving academically; 94 percent return to their college after the first year — the national average is 72 percent. We expect a 75 prcent graduation rate. This is extraordinary—extraordinary for any students; extraordinary for the colleges they attend; and extraordinary for students from low-income families in particular. Everyone who believes in education and is a friend of the Dreamers would like to thank Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos for this magnificent gift. It is a shot in the arm for Dreamer students at a time when some are questioning whether they should be in the U.S. at all.”
Bezos, who recently became the world’s richest human ever, also founded Blue Origin and owns The Washington Post. MacKenzie is an author of two novels who received an award for one of her books in 2006.
TheDream.US is co-founded by Don Graham, Henry Munoz and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.