TheDream.US, the nation’s largest scholarship program for Dreamers, announced today a $33 million dollar scholarship grant from Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. The grant, the largest in the organization’s history, will give 1,000 undocumented immigrant graduates of US high schools with DACA status the opportunity to go to college.
“My dad came to the U.S. when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan,” said Jeff Bezos. “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.”
TheDream.US partners with more than 70 low-cost colleges in 15 states. Dreamers receive a total of $33,000 in scholarship aid over four years to help pay the cost of tuition, fees and books. 2,850 students are currently enrolled in college under the program.
Dreamers, 800,000 of whom have received DACA status since 2012, face a variety of obstacles to college attendance. They are ineligible for federal grants and loans; get no state aid in 44 states; and must pay out-of-state or international tuition—often more than three times in-state tuition—in more than 15 states.
“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% return to their college after the first year; the national average is 72%. We expect a 75% 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.”
Marshall added: “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 United States at all. We would invite anyone who questions the value of Dreamers to please come meet some of our students. We started this program to benefit the Dreamers, their families, and the United States of America.”
Don Graham chairman of Graham Holdings Co., and co-founder of TheDream.US, added: “All of us would like to thank Jeff and MacKenzie. Many of the students who receive this aid wouldn’t be able to attend college at all without the Bezos’ generosity.
“I believe in college opportunity for everyone in the US. What’s special about the Dreamers is the extent of their motivation. It enables many of them to overcome obstacles that seem impossible to the rest of us. It’s the privilege of those who are part of this program to help them over the obstacles. Jeff and MacKenzie will be the biggest helpers of all.”
“The surest path to the American dream and contributing to the US economy is through a college education,” said Henry R. Muñoz, III, principal of San Antonio-based Muñoz & Co, lifelong Latino activist and co-founder of TheDream.US. “Jeff and MacKenzie’s gift will make this path a reality for a thousand students and create hundreds of stronger and more prosperous communities across our country in the process.”
Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, founder of Blue Origin, and owner of The Washington Post. MacKenzie Bezos is the author of two novels; her first book, The Testing of Luther Albright, won an American Book Award in 2006. They live in Seattle and have four children.
Mike and Jackie Bezos, Jeff’s parents, are also among the early donors to TheDream.US. Others include The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the Pershing Square Foundation; the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; Bloomberg Philanthropies; Pierre and Pam Omidyar; the Robin Hood Foundation; The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation; the Ford Foundation; the PepsiCo Foundation; the Coca-Cola Foundation; and Don, Bill, and Steve Graham.
The three co-founders of TheDream.US are Don Graham; Henry Munoz of Munoz and Company, San Antonio, TX; and Carlos Gutierrez of Miami, FL, former US Secretary of Commerce.