The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is donating $100 million to UT Austin to support students from lower-income families.
The money, which will be granted over 10 years, is the largest donation the university has ever received that will go directly to students.
“One of the reasons we’re so excited about this partnership is because UT Austin has also already demonstrated a clear commitment to these types of students,” Janet Mountain, the foundation’s executive director, said.
Last year, the UT Board of Regents expanded the Texas Advance Commitment program to offer free tuition to students from families who make less than $65,000 adjustable gross income a year (with other federal requirements).
The Dell donation takes that support a bit further. About 2,000 students receiving federal Pell Grants, which are awarded based soley on financial need, will receive support like tutoring, financial aid coaching and help career planning. Those with the highest financial need will also get scholarship money, estimated at $20,000, for room and board, supplies and other expenses.
“From the very beginning, it has been incredibly important to us that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to graduate from college – and that mission continues to this day,” Susan Dell, chairman of the foundation's board, said in a statement.
The Dell Foundation says this is more of a partnership than a grant and that it will essentially be working with the university to replicate its Dell Scholars program.
For 16 years, the program has provided scholarships and “personalized, real-time services” to help students overcome challenges, Mountain said.
“We’ll have Dell Foundation staff integrated into all our staff and providing services for students,” UT President Greg Fenves said. “We’ll be working with each individual student on what their needs are, what barriers they’re encountering in their studies here, [and] how to overcome those barriers.”
That integration could help more lower-income students overcome challenges.
“We are going to find a way to deliver those specialized services to all Pell Grant students at the University of Texas," Mountain said, "so it becomes a standard way that the university services students and not just dependent on being selected for a particular group or special program."
The graduation rate for Pell recipients at UT is about 73%. Fenves says the goal with is to get that up to 90%, closer in line with the graduation rate for students from higher-income families.
Six years ago, nearly to the day, the foundation announced a $50 million commitment to build what is now the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas.
Mountain said this program fits in line with its mission to help children living in urban poverty.
“Even prior to this grant, the Dells have had a long-time commitment to the issue of student success,” Mountain said. “[They] have invested over $269 million globally in coming alongside students from lower income backgrounds.”
While the Dells’ generosity and improved graduation rates are nice, Fenves said, “what’s really most important is the thousands of individual students this will impact and what they will be able to do with a degree from the University of Texas for themselves, for their families and their communities."
This story has been updated.