Obama Peace Prize Money Funds Scholars

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Proceeds from President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize award are being used by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund to further its goal of helping one person in each Latino household become the first in the family to receive a college diploma. HSF received $125,000 from Obama and earlier this week it announced its first class of 12 Obama scholars, each of whom received $2,500.

The fund wants to raise college degree attainment rates from the current 19 percent of the U.S. Latino population to 60 percent by 2025.  Officials believe that by helping one person in each household, others in the same family will want to follow.

The fund’s strategy, rolled into an initiative called Generation 1st Degree and unveiled at HSF’s first annual Education Summit Tuesday, is aligned with the Obama administration’s recent efforts to focus on college completion rates – in particular at community colleges – as a means of job creation and rescuing America from its economic downturn.

To be named Obama Scholars, the 12 recipients had to be current full-time students with at least a 3.0 grade point average and were chosen based on essays describing their interests in pursuing a science career.

Though Generation 1st Degree’s scholarship numbers are not yet known, an HSF spokesperson said the initiative plans on dramatically increasing the 4,700 scholarships – totaling about $28 million – that were awarded last year. 

Honing in on first-generation college students is hardly a new principle for the San Francisco-based HSF, which says two-thirds of its roughly 50,000 scholarship recipients over the past 35 years were the first in their family to go to college.