U Guarantees Tuition and Fee Coverage for Qualified Students


Nearly a third of Founders Opportunity Program recipients will be students of color

Higher education has been the “great equalizer” for decades – the best possible path people could take to overcome class, race or ethnic inequalities.

That’s the path I chose. Since my father was a sharecropper and my mother a domestic, during high school I worked the night shift as a press operator at a factory to scrape together enough money to attend




University in and continued to work other jobs throughout my college career.

But today you’d be hard-pressed to pay for college with what you earn as a press operator. In 1970, a student had to work just 24 hours per week at minimum wage to cover the average cost of college tuition and fees. Today, a student needs to work 60 hours per week to cover those costs.  

That’s why I’m so happy to share the news that the University is expanding its major new scholarship initiative, the Founders Opportunity Program.

The program, which we introduced last year for freshmen
Minnesota residents who demonstrate a need for financial help by qualifying for a federal Pell grant, is being expanded to include transfer students.

Once the program is fully phased in, all Pell-eligible undergraduate students from
Minnesota will be guaranteed aid to cover 100 percent of tuition and required fees – for four years for freshmen and two years for transfer students. 

We’re expecting that more than 4,500 low and moderate-income undergraduates from
Minnesota – nearly a third of them students of color – will benefit from this expanded commitment. This should provide some help to a majority of University students from families with incomes of less than $50,000 per year.

The bottom line is that this new financial scholarship package will cover all of the $8,902 in tuition and fees on the Twin Cities campus or the comparable cost to attend one of our other campuses – more than double the maximum Pell grant of $4,050.

As you know, higher education costs have risen steadily in recent years, making it a lot more difficult for people of modest means to attend – particularly in
Minnesota .

Our state was once a leader in college attendance by low-income students. But our ranking has fallen in recent years. We’re hoping that the Founders Opportunity Program – and other private scholarship opportunities such as the one announced in January by the William and Nadine McGuire Foundation – will help reverse that trend.

The nearly $4 million gift from the McGuires will allow the University to create a pilot program intended to provide four years of financial help for as many as 120 underserved students. When combined with Founders Opportunity scholarships, up to 90 percent of students’ total cost to attend the University will be provided for.
In addition, the McGuire gift will also allow the

College of

Liberal Arts to expand mentoring, advising and academic experiences for these students so they can succeed at the University.

We think this is the best news students from low- and middle-income families have had in years. And it places the

University of

Minnesota at the forefront of colleges nationwide in providing need-based support for students.
To date, we’ve raised more than $107 million toward the $150 million goal of our Promise of Tomorrow campaign – the largest scholarship drive in University history. We’re now providing scholarships to more than 1,000 more students than we did two years ago before this fund-raising initiative began.

Education helped change my life and I can guarantee you that it beats sharecropping. I went on to earn a Ph.D. in crop physiology and later came to the

University of

Minnesota , where I now serve as senior vice president for system academic administration.

I’d urge each of you to spread the word about these scholarship programs to your family and friends and how the

University of

Minnesota is working to ensure that students of color and others from lower socio-economic circumstances have access to the best education. 

Please visit our Web site at www.umn.edu and click on the Founder’s Opportunity Program icon to learn more about these exciting scholarship opportunities.


  • robert

    Robert Jones is senior vice president for system academic administration at the University of Minnesota.

About Robert J. Jones

Robert Jones is senior vice president for system academic administration at the University of Minnesota.

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