UT-Austin, Dell Foundation to provide $20,000 to certain Pell-eligible freshmen starting fall 2020

Neha Madhira

A partnership between UT and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation will provide certain incoming Pell-eligible freshmen with $20,000 in financial support starting fall 2020, according to a UT press release sent out Friday. 

The Dell Foundation will commit $100 million over 10 years to grant freshmen from families “with the greatest need” admittance into the Dell Scholars program, a scholarship and college completion program. 

“(The partnership) will reinforce our commitment to students and their families by providing them personally tailored support services to thousands of UT-Austin students along with life-changing scholarships for those with the most financial need,” UT President Gregory Fenves said. 

For Texas residents, the $20,000 will be added on top of the University’s Texas Advance Commitment, which guarantees financial aid to cover tuition and fees for families earning $65,000 or less each year.

The Dell family and Fenves announced this partnership in the Perry-Castañeda Library on Friday.  

“Many of these kids are first-generation college students,” Dell Foundation co-founder Susan Dell said at the Perry-Castañeda Library reception event. “Their families are unfamiliar with how to navigate the landscape of upper education, and it’s been a struggle for a lot of them. It’s been very insightful for us to hear directly from the students what some of their challenges are in college.”

These students will also receive support from UT for Me – Powered by Dell Scholars, a program designed to support students from low-income backgrounds. This program will provide financial aid to cover their cost of attendance along with a laptop computer, peer advising, textbook support and other academic services to help them complete their degrees, according to a UT press release. 

“The Dell Scholars program really changed my life,” said UT alumna Reina Olivas, who shared her experience with Dell Scholars at the announcement event. “To know that (the program) is going to be incorporated within the University, it’s really going to change even more lives than what it’s currently been doing. The more students they can help, the better. Getting to the 90% graduation rate — it’s ambitious, but I know they can do it.”

According to the release, the partnership is designed to close the gap in college graduation rates across income levels and help raise six-year graduation rates for Pell-eligible students from 73% to 90%. 

“We believe (raising the graduation rate to 90%) is an ambitious goal because if we look at, nationally, Pell Grant students graduate at far less rates than the average for college students,” Fenves said. “We have worked hard at UT over the past six years to increase the graduation rates of all students, but especially students who have Pell Grants. We still have a big gap, and so our goal is to close that.”

The University will add a new class of first-time college students every year and plans to maintain these services after 10 years by integrating them into UT’s Student Success Initiatives beyond 2030, according to the release.

 “(The program) is about providing meaningful support so they can unlock the incredible potential they have within themselves,”  Fenves said at the event. “(Olivas) was one example of what we’ll now be able to do for thousands of UT students.”