Titans Fund Hopes of 2,000 DREAMers

Wealthy business execs launch a $25 million scholarship fund to help undocumented immigrants attend U.S. colleges.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Philanthropist and business leader Henry Munoz III attends Latino Inaugural 2013: In Performance at Kennedy Center at The Kennedy Center on January 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Latino Inaugural 2013)
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Emily Deruy, Fusion
Feb. 4, 2014, 12:40 p.m.

A group of wealthy busi­ness­men and act­iv­ists an­nounced a $25 mil­lion col­lege schol­ar­ship fund for DREAM­ers on Tues­day.

Gra­ham Hold­ings’ CEO Don Gra­ham, phil­an­throp­ist Henry Muñoz III, and former Com­merce Sec­ret­ary Car­los Gu­ti­er­rez are spear­head­ing a new group called TheDream.US that will help send 2,000 un­doc­u­mented young people to col­lege over the next dec­ade.

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The an­nounce­ment comes the week after Re­pub­lic­ans out­lined their im­mig­ra­tion prin­ciples at a GOP an­nu­al re­treat. But the three men said that they are im­pa­tient with the nev­er-end­ing polit­ics of im­mig­ra­tion re­form and in­tent on us­ing their money and in­flu­ence to help young stu­dents now.

Muñoz, the Demo­crat­ic Party’s fin­ance chair­man, said at the launch event that “no mat­ter what hap­pens in the city of Wash­ing­ton this year…know­ing that we’re chan­ging lives…maybe it doesn’t mat­ter so much any­more.”

The schol­ar­ships will help pay — in full or in part — tu­ition, fees and book costs. The amount awar­ded will vary de­pend­ing on the in­di­vidu­al stu­dent’s needs and situ­ation. To qual­i­fy, DREAM­ers must be eli­gible for de­ferred ac­tion, have gradu­ated from high school or earned a GED with at least a 2.5 grade point av­er­age, and they must demon­strate fin­an­cial need and mo­tiv­a­tion to suc­ceed in col­lege.

Un­like oth­er low-in­come stu­dents, the na­tion’s ap­prox­im­ately 2 mil­lion DREAM­ers are not eli­gible to ap­ply for the fed­er­al fin­an­cial aid — like Pell Grants — that helps so many young people at­tend school.

TheDream.US has partnered with 12 in­sti­tu­tions that have pledged to sup­port DREAM­er-schol­ars. Re­cip­i­ents must at­tend one of the part­ner schools, which in­clude both com­munity col­leges and four-year uni­versit­ies in Flor­ida, Texas, Cali­for­nia and the Dis­trict of Columbia, as well as an on­line uni­versity. If re­cip­i­ents at­tend one of the com­munity col­leges, TheDream.US will work with the stu­dents to help them trans­fer to one of the part­ner four-year uni­versit­ies, where they may con­tin­ue to re­ceive fin­an­cial sup­port.

The idea is for the schol­ars to achieve low-cost but high-qual­ity uni­versit­ies so that the schol­ar­ship dol­lars will stretch as far as pos­sible.

The or­gan­iz­a­tion so far has re­ceived fund­ing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Found­a­tion (which also sup­ports The Next Amer­ica), the Fernan­dez Found­a­tion, Mi­chael Kins­ley and oth­ers, and has been en­dorsed by a bi­par­tis­an group that in­cludes former gov­ernor of Flor­ida Jeb Bush, former U.S. Rep­res­ent­at­ive Newt Gin­grich, Grover Nor­quist, Eva Lon­gor­ia, Diego Luna and Michelle Rhee. Prom­in­ent un­doc­u­mented act­iv­ist Gaby Pacheco will serve as the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s pro­gram dir­ect­or.

“I have yet to speak to one Re­pub­lic­an who says ‘No, I’m not in­ter­ested,’” said Gu­ti­er­rez, who worked in the George W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. “This is right for our coun­try, it’s right for our eco­nomy, and it’s right for our so­ci­ety.”

TheDream.US has already se­lec­ted and fun­ded 39 schol­ars from 13 coun­tries. They must main­tain a cu­mu­lat­ive 3.0 GPA, re­main eli­gible for de­ferred ac­tion, and re­main con­tinu­ously en­rolled in school. The schol­ars are also eli­gible for an ad­di­tion­al $1,000 to 2,000 if they gradu­ate with a GPA of 3.5 or high­er.

“It means the op­por­tun­ity to live my dreams,” Araceli Men­dez, one of the re­cip­i­ents, said at the launch. Men­dez came to the United States from Mex­ico at age 7. She was a suc­cess­ful high school stu­dent but could not af­ford to at­tend col­lege and went to work in­stead clean­ing houses. She is now en­rolled at the Bor­ough of Man­hat­tan Com­munity Col­lege, one of the part­ner schools, and hopes to even­tu­ally be­come a pe­di­at­ri­cian.

“It seems hideously un­fair,” Gra­ham said in a video present­a­tion shown dur­ing the launch event, “to pun­ish them, and that’s what we’re do­ing.”

This art­icle is pub­lished with per­mis­sion from Fu­sion, a TV and di­git­al net­work that cham­pi­ons a smart, di­verse and in­clus­ive Amer­ica. Fu­sion is a part­ner of Na­tion­al Journ­al and The Next Amer­ica. Fol­low the au­thor on Twit­ter: @Emily_­DeR­uy

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