UNCF: Gates Millennium Scholars Program Has Moved Thousands of Students Through College

Program Successfully Administered by UNCF for Nearly Two Decades


A recent 60 Minutes interview featuring the education philanthropy of Bill and Melinda Gates highlighted the impact of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, an initiative UNCF (United Negro College Fund) has administered for 18 years.  UNCF is grateful for the major achievement of enabling over 20,000 students of color from low-income backgrounds to get to and through college successfully.

UNCF is the nation’s largest scholarship granting organization for students of color and the single largest recipient of the Gates’ philanthropy to date. Through the GMS Program, UNCF has been able to make groundbreaking contributions to the awareness of and to change the country’s thinking about giving financially disadvantaged students the education and resources they need to be successful in college and in life.

Analysis by UNCF’s Frederick D Patterson Institute proves investments in students by the Gates Foundation and other scholarship grantors are worthwhile: UNCF scholarships do not merely enable students to meet college expenses, but they measurably increase the likelihood that recipients will persist through college and graduate.

Eighteen years ago, when the first awards were issued, a large portion of the higher education sector questioned whether high ability, students from low-income backgrounds could be successful in attending competitive colleges and universities.  Through UNCF’s decades of work with similar students at HBCUs, the organization knew for a fact that given the financial, academic and social support that other students took for granted, the students it serves could not only succeed but soar.

With UNCF’s success in administering the GMS Program and others like it, two things are clear.  First, if given the resources, students of color from low-income backgrounds can attend whatever college they choose, succeed and become part of a diverse new generation of leaders. The graduation rate for UNCF scholarship recipients is 9 points higher than the national average for all students at four-year college. Further, GMS scholars have attended 1,742 colleges and universities, 47 percent have earned STEM degrees and almost 15,000 have completed a bachelor’s degrees. Over 60 percent of those degree recipients have pursued a master’s or professional degree.

And second, the kinds of resources needed to scale transformational programs that achieve these results are now known, tested and proved.  Today, UNCF manages almost a half-dozen similar type programs, whose combination of scholarship and wrap-around supports are assuring students get to college, graduate and pursue great careers, graduate degree programs or develop entrepreneurial ventures.

“The real legacy of the program is in the lives of the over 20,000 young people, their families and in the communities in which they live,” stated UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael Lomax.  “It is our fervent hope that their achievements will inspire a whole new generation of students of color from low-income backgrounds who aspire to higher education, and in particular HBCUs. Further, we are optimistic that the Gates Foundation’s leadership and example in making a world-leading investment in young people will continue to prompt others to do the same.”


About UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF awards more than $100 million in scholarships annually and administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in.” ® Learn more at www.uncf.org.