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Why a Big Give for “DREAMers” Should Make You More Hopeful About Elite Philanthropy

Author: Sue-Lynn Moses

There’s a fair amount of cynicism out there about the philanthropy of America’s wealthy elites, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to giving for education. Long before John Paulson dumped $400 million on America’s richest university, the rap was that the rich either give to charter schools and ed reform groups that advance their pro-market ideology or to elite alma maters that don’t need the money.

Whatever the merits of that narrative, a big gift last month went largely unnoticed that stands as a reminder of just how diverse education philanthropy is these days: A combined pledge of $30 million to fund college scholarships for immigrant DREAMers from former Washington Post publisher Donald E. Graham and the Pershing Square Foundation, which was started by the hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman and his wife Karen. The gift to TheDream.US scholarship fund comes with a challenge to the philanthropic community to open their checkbooks to enable more DREAMers a shot at earning their degrees. At a minimum, it means that 1,200 immigrant students in DACA or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) limbo will have the opportunity to chase after their educational dreams.

Right now, these kids don’t qualify for federal student aid or federally funded grants such as the Pell Grant, making a degree more of a pipe dream rather than a real possibility. Which is why private funding is so important. And although theDream.US is a relatively new fund, it isn’t wasting any time helping immigrant youth pay for college.

Related: The Big Money Behind a New College Fund for Immigrant “DREAMers”

Earlier this year, the Pershing Square Foundation pledged $10 million to theDream.US. This new gift of $15 million brings its total commitment to $25 million to help educate of the most marginalized young people in the United States.