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Bee Thao

Bee Thao entered the U this fall with a McGuire Scholarship.

Access Minnesota

The U delivers on its commitment to educate promising, qualified students regardless of their ability to pay

By Kermit Pattison

From M, fall 2006

Bee Thao has seven siblings; the cost of college would have put a major financial burden on his machinist father and seamstress mother. But thanks in part to a privately funded McGuire Scholarship, Thao will enter the University of Minnesota this fall without having to worry about huge debts or working long hours.

"It takes the load off my parents because they don't have to worry about paying for my education," says Thao, a graduate of Arlington High School in St. Paul. "That takes a load off my mind, too, and helps me concentrate on my studies."

Thao's case underscores the U's commitment to provide access to all qualified and promising students regardless of their ability to pay. This effort is bolstered by a handful of private programs such as the McGuire and Wallin scholarships, and by the U's Founders Opportunity Program, which guarantees tuition assistance for all new students who are Minnesota residents and are eligible for federal Pell grants.

The Twin Cities campus is among the top public institutions in grant assistance to students with family incomes below $30,000.

"It demonstrates that the University of Minnesota really wants to be accessible to low income students," says Jim McCorkell, executive director of Admission Possible, a non-profit that steers economically disadvantaged students toward college.

U president Bob Bruininks has made scholarships a top fund-raising priority. "I want to make sure that all students with the desire and ability to succeed at the University of Minnesota have the opportunity to do so," he says.

Privately funded scholarships and opportunities like the McGuire, Wallin, and Founders Opportunity programs help the U preserve access for low-income students, despite rising tuition costs. According to a recent report, the Twin Cities campus is among the top public institutions in grant assistance to students with family incomes below $30,000.

The University has increased financial aid in step with the growth of tuition. Even so, loan volume for students at all four campuses rose from $160 million in 2000 to $330 million in 2005. Scholarships help reduce the level of debt that students accumulate.

McGuire and Wallin Scholar Louis Adams, a freshman from Minneapolis, also sees another benefit. "It gives me more fuel in my tank to do better in school," he says. "I already have the drive, but it gives me more because it shows donors and the U care about students."