Gates Millennium Scholars

  • Education
  • 1999

Just before the turn of the millennium, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put into operation a major college scholarship program for minority students, with an initial grant of a cool billion dollars that was later increased to $1.6 billion. Every year, the Millennium Scholars program selects 1,000 new African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or Native-American college prospects and offers them good-through-graduation scholarships (set at various levels to cover their need). These can be used at any college the student chooses. The program particularly aims to encourage minorities to enter scientific fields like computer science, math, public health, and engineering (where they are underrepresented), and any Millennium Scholar in good standing who finishes an undergraduate degree and wants to continue on to grad school in one of these technical fields will also have his or her graduate education paid for by Gates. In addition to financial aid, the program offers leadership development, mentoring, internships, and other resources to help students succeed—which collectively have yielded a rate of college graduation within six years of nearly 90 percent, more than double the average for all African Americans. Since its establishment, the Gates Millennium Scholars program has propelled more than 16,000 young Americans through their educational careers, and 28 percent have gone on to graduate school, half of them in the technical fields that Gates has particularly targeted.