Courtesy Red Cloud Indian School
This year’s Gates Scholars from Red Cloud Indian School. From left: Jacob Cousin, Isabella New Holy, Justin Mesteth, Bobby Pourier and Antone Morrison. They are part of the last class of recipients.

Gates Scholarships Slow to a Trickle

David Rooks

In a recent press release, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) announced its “high-impact scholarship initiative, the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program’s 2016 awardees would be its final class of high school recipients.” The $1.6 billion “flagship program” had 53,000 applicants last year, according to that release.

Reached at her office in Washington, D.C., Ashlei Stevens, UNCF’s senior communications manager said, “It’s been life changing for most of the students, but this was it, this was the last class awards. It will see them through their doctorates, if that’s what they choose, but—yes, this was it.” Stevens said the grant was only intended to be a 20,000-student program. “But we’ll have staff maintaining the program through 2028 until all remaining awardees have concluded their scholarships.” Stevens is the GMS communications contact for UNCF, which has administered the GMS program since its inception in 1998.

Nakina Mills, Red Cloud High School director of Alumni Affairs says this will be a major hit to her school’s efforts to find funding for its graduating seniors. Red Cloud’s 2016 class alone had five Gates Scholars, with a total of 72 since the program began in 1998. “We’ll definitely have to retool our efforts,” She said the school was still working on a revised strategy for replacing the scholarship dollars for the students.

RELATED: Red Cloud Indian School: The Gates Scholar Factory

Designed solely for low income and minority students, Michael Lomax, Ph.D., UNCF President and CEO noted that: “Gates has been known for its recipients’ high graduation rates across the nation’s top institutions: a six-year graduation rate in excess of 90 percent, more than 50 percent higher than the national graduation rate for students of color. This is comparable to the success rate of students from much more prosperous families. The dividends from the foundation’s investment in the Gates Millennium Scholars Program have reached far beyond the students who have participated directly. It has strengthened UNCF’s capacity to create the next generation of leader.”

According to the press release, students awarded the scholarship have been allowed to pursue a degree in any undergraduate major and selected graduate programs at accredited colleges or universities of their choosing. Further: “GMS provides recipients with leadership development opportunities, mentoring, academic and social support as well as financial support. Gates Millennium Scholars can also request a fellowship for a graduate degree program in these academic disciplines: computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science.”

Since 1998, UNCF has employed partner organizations to aid in outreach to other minorities that help to source the student’s applications and awards, said Stevens. This has led to partnerships with the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund.

Stevens also revealed that Gates has awarded another sizable grant to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) that will further a program for Gates scholars designed to assist minority students. Stevens said a key difference will be that the annual class size will be much smaller. Instead of 1,000 students per year, it will be closer to the range of 300 scholarships per year.

“But, said Stevens, “Just like UNCF, Hispanic Scholarship Fund will continue outreach to Native students, as well as other minorities, in the same way UNCF did.”

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