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Since 2019, hundreds of District high school graduates have matriculated at more than a dozen U.S. colleges and universities for little to nothing as part of DC College Access Program (DC-CAP)’s University Partnership Scholarship.
Once they arrive on campus, these students receive various forms of support from a DC-CAP advisor, an on-campus retention specialist and fellow University Partnership scholars living and studying on campus.
Now in its fourth year, the University Partnership Scholarship will fund the education of students attending 14 partner universities, each of which has a proven track record of successfully retaining and graduating students of color.
At University of Massachusetts (UMass) Lowell, incoming University Partnership scholar De’Andre Gore will not only have DC-CAP and university officials in his corner, but his older brother Tyson Minor, a senior at UMass and a member of the University Partnership Scholarship’s first cohort.
Gore said the current scenario will lay the foundation for a successful outcome.
“Jumping into college is not something everyone does coming out of high school,” said Gore, a Dunbar High School graduate who’s pursuing a degree in business administration.
“I got my brother and other people at the University of Massachusetts,” he continued. “It’s difficult but I’m prepared for that challenge. You shouldn’t totally rely on your support system but it’s something that you need. If I’m struggling, my brother can help me study.”
Each year, high school seniors in the District apply for financial assistance from DC-CAP that bridges financial gaps in their college education.
DC-CAP’s scholarship programs, including the DC-CAP Scholarship and University Partnerships Scholarship, often allow students to enroll in any four-year institution of their choice and receive between $20,000 and $25,000 in financial support. Through the STEM Ready Scholarship Program, students at three District high schools, from the time they start ninth grade, sharpen the skills needed to enter STEM-related fields and earn scholarships.
The University Partnership Scholarship’s funding model leverages DC-CAP funds in addition to universities’ contributions, Pell Grants and the DC Tuition Assistance Grant to ensure that students receive as much aid as possible, and in some cases a full-ride, to attend one of the partner universities.
This year, 200 University Partnership scholars will start their freshman year, many of whom with few to no dollars in student loans.
DCCAP is currently accepting applications for the DC-CAP Scholarship and University Partnership Scholarship. Ideal applicants show a record of high achievement and meet the admissions requirements of the partner universities.
Throughout the University Partnership Scholarship’s existence, students have received $4 million in scholarships and DC-CAP has established relationships with 14 predominantly-white universities and historically-Black institutions of higher learning.
At this time, nearly 500 District high school graduates receive year-round retention support services including tutoring and mental health resources, to ensure they complete college on time.
“It’s exciting to see how in less than four years, our program has grown and how much we have been able to assist families and siblings,” said Tosha Lewis Hughes, DC-CAP’s interim president and CEO.
“Our first University Partnership Scholarship recipients graduate next year and we’re seeing the difference it makes in their lives,” she said. “We’re providing meaningful financial aid and scholarship support so they graduate with little to no student loan debt.”
Next spring, Minor will graduate from UMass Lowell with a bachelor’s in finance and administration. He expressed his desire to establish a career in human resources and management. To meet that goal, he’s currently networking and exploring internship opportunities.
As one of the first University Partnership Scholarship recipients, Minor learned how to break out of his shell and immerse himself in campus life. He also saw firsthand the toll that college takes on students who lack support.
For Minor, the best aspect of being a University Partnership scholar involved the lack of anxiety he has about his college finances. Though he works to purchase books and toiletries, among other items, Minor doesn’t often have to worry about the major expenses.
That freedom, he said, will translate into his career choices when he acquires his bachelor’s degree free of debt.
“There are students who have a balance on their accounts and can’t take classes next semester without paying their balance,” Minor said. “I’m glad I don’t have to think about outrageous debt. After college, I can find a thing I’m interested in and spend time investing in myself without worrying about a financial burden. The college aid changed the game.”