Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie announced Jan. 12 that they had donated $33 million to the organization TheDream.US to fund 1,000 college scholarships for undocumented youth.
“My dad came to the U.S. when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan,” said Jeff Bezos in a press statement. “He landed in this country alone and unable to speak English. With a lot of grit and determination – and the help of some remarkable organizations in Delaware – my dad became an outstanding citizen, and he continues to give back to the country that he feels blessed him in so many ways.”
“MacKenzie and I are honored to be able to help today’s Dreamers by funding these scholarships,” said Bezos, the third-richest man in the U.S., with a net worth of almost $73 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
TheDream.US is the nation’s largest scholarship program for undocumented youth, who are also known as Dreamers. The organization said in a press statement that the Bezos’ donation was the largest it had ever received.
The couple – who are also owners of The Washington Post – made the donation in the midst of a fierce political squabble between the Trump administration and members of Congress on the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals program. Trump rescinded DACA – an Obama-era initiative providing relief from deportation and work permits to undocumented youth – last September. He gave Congress six months to pass legislation which would permanently protect Dreamers from deportation.
But – following a verbal battle with Democrats at the White House last week – the president announced Jan. 14 that a deal on DACA was largely dead.
TheDream.US partners with more than 70 low-cost colleges in 15 states. Through its program, Dreamers receive a total of $33,000 in scholarship aid over four years to help pay the cost of tuition, fees and books. 2,850 students are currently enrolled in college under the program, according to a statement issued by the organization.
Undocumented youth face a variety of hurdles to enrolling and remaining in college. They are ineligible for federal grants, loans, and scholarships, and must pay much-higher out-of-state tuition. Forty-four states provide no financial aid for undocumented students.
In California, undocumented students pay in-state tuition at the University of California’s nine campuses, and also at California State University campuses.
“Our students are highly motivated and determined to succeed in college and in life,” said Candy Marshall, president of TheDream.US, noting that 75 percent of the program’s students are expected to graduate.
“This is extraordinary— extraordinary for any students; extraordinary for the colleges they attend; and extraordinary for students from low-income families in particular,” said Marshall.