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Gates scholars find a home on the Farm

With 136 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipients, Stanford has the third most of any university, according to a new analysis of the scholarship’s data.

UC-Berkeley and UCLA rank first and second, respectively.

The Gates scholarship, established in 1999 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to “promote academic excellence by providing thousands of outstanding students, who have significant financial need, the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

It requires that recipients have a cumulative high school GPA of at least 3.3., be eligible for the federal Pell Grant and be African American, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian and Pacific Islander American or Hispanic American.

Mary Morrison, director of funds management in Stanford’s Office of Financial Aid, estimates that 15 of Stanford’s 136 Gates scholars are graduate students.

The scholarship funds all education costs not met by financial aid and the expected family contribution, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

At some schools, this amount is quite significant because full financial aid is not provided, Morrison said.

However, since Stanford features a relatively robust financial aid program, the Gates may contribute very little financially on the Farm.
“Here, we’re already meeting the need for students except for the [work-study] job,” Morrison said. “We expect students to contribute something.”

A Gates Millennium Scholarship will pay for that “something,” covering the amount a student would earn from work-study. For undergraduates, that amount rarely exceeds $4,500.

“Particularly for Stanford students who have the Gates scholarship, I think Gates actually gives itself a lot more credit for giving more aid than they do,” said Jessica Perez, ’10, a Gates scholar from Los Angeles.

Of the 4,904 Gates Scholars currently enrolled in colleges and universities, 53 percent attend public institutions, Williams told the Daily in an e-mail.

Morrison noted that these schools do not always offer the same kind of full-need financial aid that is available at Stanford and Ivy League schools.

For students like Veronica Lane, ‘10, there is no unmet need to which the Gates scholarship can contribute.

“Stanford has such great financial aid, so there’s not much Gates can do,” Lane said. “If I had gone to a school with less financial aid, they would have played a much bigger role.”

Gates Scholars may extend their funding for a graduate degree, provided that they study computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science. Undergraduates may study any discipline.

Perez, who is majoring in English and comparative studies in race and ethnicity, does not plan to attend graduate school next year. But she is reassured by the fact that the Gates scholarship will financially support her, should she change her mind.

Because Master’s students do not have grant or scholarship financial support from universities, GMS takes on a more substantial role.

“Financial aid for graduate students is scarce, and Gates is helping solve that problem,” Morrison said. “I’m sure it makes all the difference in the world.”

“For me, the Gates scholarship has been a mixed experience because a lot of people who know about it see it as very prestigious and are very impressed by it, but at the same time, it hasn’t actually influenced my experience dramatically in college,” Perez said.

But she acknowledges that it does eliminate her need to borrow money or work. This allows her to focus on her non-profit organization, SEE College Prep, which provides SAT preparation classes to disadvantaged high school students so that they too can succeed.

Among the top 10 universities for the 4,904 currently enrolled Gates scholars are Harvard, ranked fifth, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ranked seventh.

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