The Sallie Mae Fund Launches African American College Access Campaign

New research commissioned by The Sallie Mae Fund shows that African-American families have high aspirations for college but do not know enough about how to pay for it. On the heels of this research, The Sallie Mae Fund today announced a multi-part campaign designed to improve higher education access among African-American students. The campaign kicks off this weekend with workshops in 19 cities across the country. Two scholarship programs and an interactive, tutorial-based CD on college preparation make up the other elements of the campaign.

College enrollment and graduation rates among African American students continue to lag behind the population at large. The percentage gap between the proportion of Caucasians and African-Americans without a bachelor’s degree has increased by 34 percent since 1980. To help gain insight into this trend, The United Negro College Fund’s Patterson Institute interviewed African- American students and parents in five cities nationwide concerning their preparation for college.

The survey revealed that 99 percent of African-American families believe that a college education is an important part of success in life, but almost half of all parents could not name a single source of financial aid. In addition, 70 percent of students said they wanted to receive financial aid information earlier in their high school years. These findings underscore the importance of bridging the gap between student aspirations and available resources. Of note, 60 percent of students from low socio economic backgrounds reported that they were more likely to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“The Fund’s research allows us to tailor our outreach programs to the needs of different communities,” said Kathleen deLaski, president of The Sallie Mae Fund. “Through this campaign, we want to send prospective students a clear message — college is within their reach and financial aid options are available to make it happen.”

To help students understand these financial aid options, The Fund will host 19 free “Paying for College” workshops nationwide on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2005, in partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s National Day of College Preparation. These workshops are designed to guide families through the process of preparing and paying for college. The Fund will award a college scholarship at each workshop.

The Fund also announced a commitment to renew its popular scholarship program with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) — the “American Dream” scholarship. The Fund will provide a $500,000 grant to UNCF for 2006-2007 academic year scholarships, symbolizing a continuing commitment to help financially needy African-American students realize their college dreams. Since 2003, The Fund has made $2 million in scholarships available for the “American Dream” program.

A second scholarship program — the “Writers of Passage” scholarship program — was created by The Fund in partnership with The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. The program will award $5,000 scholarships to winners of an essay contest on overcoming obstacles to attend college. In addition, The Fund will donate $20,000 to help improve student outreach and retention at each winner’s university. Applications for the “American Dream” and the “Writers of Passage” scholarship are at http://www.salliemaefund.org.

“This is a grand-slam home run for The Sallie Mae Fund and for everyone who will benefit from their generosity,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF. “The insights uncovered by the research help all of us target our resources and efforts where they’re most needed. The workshops will provide hands-on help to families whose sons and daughters are headed for college. And the scholarships they have funded will make a big dent in the financial barriers that stand between deserving students and the college education they deserve.”

Finally, The Fund is sponsoring the development of an interactive CD which features tutorials on essay writing, college applications, free access to SAT and ACT online preparation, as well as financial aid options and tips. The CD will be available in the early spring of 2006.

Via PRNewswire

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