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La Liga de Las Americas

Gates Millennium Scholars program shows results and receives $58 million expansion to groom next generation of public health leaders


Fairfax, VA: As part of its work to increase college access and opportunities for more students in the United States, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided an additional $58 million to expand the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program to enable more students to pursue a graduate degree in public health. Through the GMS program, students can pursue their academic and career goals without the financial barriers that make it difficult for so many young people to attend and succeed in college.


The Gates Millennium Scholarship program has already helped more than 10,000 high-achieving students of color from low-income backgrounds throughout the country to prepare for success in a wide range of undergraduate fields and in graduate programs for education, science, math, engineering, library science, and public health.


“The field of public health will welcome these promising students as the next generation of professionals confronting new and unprecedented challenges,” said Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), which administers the GMS program. “And people across the country – the ‘public’ that public health serves – will benefit from their education and their leadership.”


While most of high school students in the United States have aspirations to attend and graduate from college, less than a third actually obtain a bachelor’s degree. Skyrocketing academic costs are among the barriers that make it increasingly difficult for millions of students to pursue higher education, particularly low-income and minority youth:


  • Only about 17 percent of African-Americans and 11 percent of Latinos 25-29 years-old have a bachelor’s degree.

  • Only one in ten low-income students can expect to earn a bachelor’s degree.

  • Nearly 4.4 million students who graduate from high school this decade will not be able to attend a four-year college because they cannot afford it.


The GMS investment for public health is designed to increase the number of minorities pursuing graduate degrees in areas like epidemiology, biomedical science, tropical disease, public health practice, and nutritional science, and support the effort to confront local, national, and global public health challenges. Thus far, scholarships provide support to 18 graduate students of public health attending institutions of higher learning throughout the country.


“The level of educational attainment with the greatest impact on a person's quality of life is a college degree,” said Jim Shelton, program director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We and our GMS program partners are firmly committed to addressing inequities in college access by providing support for low-income and minority students to continue their education.”


According to a recent evaluation of the GMS program, scholarship recipients are more likely to attend and complete four-year colleges, and spend more time on academics, leadership activities, and community service, as compared to non-recipients. Eighty percent of Scholars have completed their post-secondary education within five years, as compared to 49 percent of a similar group of low-income, high-achieving minority students.


To date, the GMS program has funded post-secondary education for Scholars in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and outlying areas who have enrolled in more than 1,300 colleges and universities. Through the life of the program, a total of 20,000 students will receive scholarships to pursue both undergraduate and graduate studies.


The Gates Millennium Scholars program, a $1 billion initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was launched in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The world’s largest private scholarship effort in the world, awards are given to African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American and Latino-American students who demonstrate academic excellence, community service and strong leadership skills. The scholarship funds college costs not covered by other programs and scholarships and can be renewed for up to five years for undergraduate study in any field, two years of graduate, and four years of PhD study in approved fields. On August 1st, 2006, GMS opened the 2007-08 nomination process. The deadline is January 12, 2007. www.gmsp.org.


Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people have access to a great education and to technology in public libraries. In its local region, it focuses on improving the lives of low-income families.


Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-chairs William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates. More information is available at www.gatesfoundation.org.






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