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Colleges and Universities Education Kent County News

DSU to study higher education barriers with Sallie Mae gift

Katie Tabeling
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At Delaware State University’s scholarship ball, Sallie Mae announced it would donate $1 million, which would include $125,000 for scholarships. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DELAWARE STATE UNIVERSITY.

DOVER — Delaware State University raised $3 million for scholarships at its annual scholarship ball last week, including a $1 million grant from leading private student loan lender Sallie Mae to fund a research fellowship to study barriers to completing a college degree.

The Persistence and Completion Pilot Program is targeted for a three-year study to identify barriers to a student returning to college and finishing his or her studies. The end goal of the program would be to develop policy recommendations and best practices to encourage student re-engagement at colleges across the country.

DSU President Tony Allen noted that studies from the Institute for Black Economic Mobility at McKinsey & Company have shown that significant and non-traditional investments at HBCUs, which naturally generate a Black talent pipeline, could increase Black workers incomes by around $10 billion. It could also reduce the student loan debt by $300 million.

“When I think about the millions of talented students who stop going to school because of unexpected family obligations or financial challenges that simply could not be overcome, it is a loud alarm to us all that we should be doing more,” Allen said in a statement. “Sallie Mae is answering the call, and I am hoping many other education solutions providers will join them.”

The fellow’s research findings will be presented at a future DSU Philanthropy Symposium to offer outcomes and recommend solutions that can be broadly considered and implemented at historically Black colleges and universities, as well as other colleges.

Included in the $1 million contribution is scholarship funding and further support for DSU’s current completion program. The state’s only HBCU offers an eight-week accelerated course format to encourage former students to finish their studies and receive the diploma. The program also includes success coaches to walk students through the process as well as academic and professional development.

For scholarships, Sallie Mae contributed $125,000 to help cover tuition, fees, and unexpected costs for DSU students who show financial need.

The National Student Clearinghouse issued a report this year that found that 40 million people in the United States have some college credits but no degree in 2021, an uptick from 2019. In the 2021-2022 academic year, 80,000 less students re-enrolled and 7,000 less students completed their first ever undergraduate credential in the same year they enrolled.

The report also found that Black students who have some credits and no degree were less likely to earn a degree within one year of re-enrolling. The rate was 23% of Black students compared to the national average of 26%.

“We know the promise of a higher education comes from earning a degree, yet too often, underserved and underrepresented students face obstacles that cause them to stop-out or drop out altogether,” Sallie Mae CEO Jon Witter said in a statement. “Our mission-aligned partnership with DSU aims to remove barriers to degree completion so that more students have the resources they need to cross the finish line.”

In addition to Sallie Mae’s contribution, DSU celebrated the single largest contribution made by an alumni in its history. Steve Ewing, who owned a car dealership franchise of Wade Ford in Atlanta, Ga., presented a gift of $1 million. He also chairs DSU’s newly established Athletic Transformation Committee.

“My parents gave me all the tools to be successful, but I am a better man, a better person because of Delaware State University,” Ewing said at the scholarship ball.

Retired Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson also donated $600,000 to DSU and promised another $1 million as the university grows. Johnson’s venture, SodexoMagic, is the food provider for DSU.

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