Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, have donated $33 million to fund 1,000 college scholarships for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients through a nonprofit organization, according to a statement issued by TheDream.US on Friday.
"My dad came to the U.S. when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan," Jeff Bezos said in a 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."
The gift is the largest in the organization's history and will allow some of the 800,000 DACA recipients who have graduated from U.S. high schools to attend one of 70 low-cost colleges across 15 states.
Each student will receive $33,000 in scholarships over the course of their four-year bachelor's degree. The money can also go toward school-related fees and books for classes.
The program is only in its third year so it does not have graduation rate numbers. However, Candy Marshall, president of TheDream.US, said 94 percent of currently enrolled students returned to college after completing their first year. The national average is 72 percent.
"We expect a 75 percent graduation rate. This is extraordinary — extraordinary for any students; extraordinary for the colleges they attend; and extraordinary for students from low-income families in particular," Marshall said.
DACA recipients are allowed to stay in the U.S. and work. However, they are not eligible for federal grants or school-related loans. Currently, six states allow members of this group to receive state aid in order to attend college or university.
One of TheDream.US founders is Don Graham, who was the publisher of the Washington Post at the time Bezos bought the newspaper.