Former Washington Post owner backs scholarships for undocumented students

Katie Callahan Contributor
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The nation’s largest fund for undocumented students brought into the United States illegally as children is now backed by former Washington Post owner Donald E. Graham, the Post reports.

Through the creation of “TheDream.US,” a $25 million fund, Graham, along with Democratic activist and philanthropist Henry R. Muñoz III and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, would provide college tuition to 1,000 students this next year.

“I’m not wise enough to know what is the right immigration policy for the United States of America,” Graham told the Post. “I know these students deserve a chance at higher education.”

The estimated number of undocumented students who graduate from high school each year is 65,000. Because they are in the country illegally, they do not qualify for Pell grants or federal financial aid. Some universities, like the University of California-Berkley, give scholarships to undocumented students, and 17 states allow them to receive in-state tuition rates.

“We do not have the money to pay a whole lot of people’s tuitions to highly selective colleges,” said Graham, who sold the Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos last fall. “Our mission is work-related programs at low cost but relatively high quality.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Inter-American Development Bank, Patty Stonesifer and Michael Kinsley have also provided grants.

The $25,000 scholarships may be redeemed at pre-approved colleges in New York, Texas, Florida and the District of Columbia. The only online college that accepts the scholarships — Mount Washington College — is owned by Kaplan, which is a part of Graham’s company, Graham Holdings.

Thirty-nine students have received scholarships already, TheDeam.US said in a statement. The average age of these students is 21, and students from this group come from 13 different countries. Their average GPA is 3.5. Students who pursue nursing, education, computer science, and business are the central focus of the fund.

Candy Marshall, president of TheDream.US, told the Post that this fund gives students the opportunity to not only get into college, but out of it.

“[W]e don’t want to put students in situations where we’ve started them in college and they’re working three or four jobs to try to pay for the rest, and they don’t succeed,” Marshall said to the Post.