Changing the outlook for higher education, one diploma at a time

We believe that every student deserves the same opportunity to graduate from college. For students from low-income backgrounds, college enrollment marks the first step toward a bachelor’s degree and along with it, a lifetime of new opportunities. Yet in the United States today, only one out of five of these students reaches graduation within six years, and there is a widening gap in college completion rates by income level.

It’s hard to imagine how these students could overcome significant systematic barriers and personal challenges to make it all the way to graduation day. On a national scale, there is no question that there’s still significant progress to be made. But believe it or not, this is a hopeful, even celebratory story — because every day we see students beating the odds in their journey to a degree.

That brings me to today, as we announce the 17th class of Dell Scholars.

We couldn’t be more excited to welcome 500 new students to the Dell Scholars family, an inspiring network of more than 5,300 students with nearly 2,500 college graduates among them. What these students have achieved is incredible, and it’s striking to realize that every one of our graduates had their own personal struggles and triumphs along the path to a degree. Over the years, our students have shown us that there are many ways to go about beating the odds!

Learning from those experiences, our advisors work to provide a support system that every Dell Scholar can turn to, regardless of their individual circumstances. It’s an approach that helps us adapt to the needs of each student, whether they need help with academic challenges, financial literacy, or even managing the personal circumstances that impact their time in college. Knowing someone has your back can go a long way, and Dell Scholars graduate at four times the national average compared to their peers.

What we’re learning at Dell Scholars is helping inform how students are supported across the country. Through GradSnapp, the technology underpinning our work has been adopted by nearly 50 college success programs including charter networks, scholarship programs, and other nonprofits that have adapted Dell Scholars practices in their own models. And starting this fall, all Pell-eligible students at The University of Texas at Austin will receive support services through UT for Me – Powered by Dell Scholars. Designed to close the graduation gap across income levels, the program also aims to prove a model that could be adopted by other higher education institutions nationwide.

Tackling college completion rates on a national scale is a huge challenge. But making big changes is all about stacking up small victories. Every student deserves the opportunity to graduate from college, and the support to get there — a vision that is fulfilled as individual students reach graduation day, one diploma at a time.

Check out this video to hear more from the students and alumni who are bringing our vision to life.