Program: Urban Education
Geography: United States

For motivated low-income students, a college degree can be a ticket out of poverty. In 2010, full-time workers with bachelor’s degrees reported a median income of $55,700—almost $22,000 above the median earned by high school graduates. And in an era of high unemployment, college graduates report higher rates of employment than their high school peers.

But for low-income students, graduating poses both short- and long-term challenges. In the short-term, tuition at a four-year public institution can consume up to 60 percent of a low-income family’s income, while eroding a student’s ability to contribute to family expenses. In the longer term, the prospect of long-term debt can be forbidding, while efforts to forestall debt by working during school contribute to higher dropout rates. As a result, college completion rates for this demographic haven’t budged in almost 40 years.

The Dell Scholars Program seeks to help determined, low-income students overcome these challenges and reach graduation with lower than average debt. As one of the only established scholarship programs in the country that provides an array of wrap-around services, we do more than hand out checks. We help students address a wide range of issues—financial, legal, personal and more—that could derail their educations. For more information about the Dell Scholars Program, please visit their website


We hope to change the way our country approaches its support for low-income, high-risk students. The structure of the Dell Scholars Program proves that this type of retention program is successful in helping these students obtain a college degree. We believe that more money doesn’t necessarily mean better outcomes, which is why we put more emphasis on student retention and graduation than on the size of the financial reward.