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Sisters Temitayo and Oluwatosin.

Founders scholarship recipient Temitayo Akinsanmi (left) and her sister, Oluwatosin, who plans to transfer to the U after completing one more year of general-education requirement courses at a community college. This year, the U extended its Founders Opportunity Program--established in 2005--to transfer students.

Helping to make the U more accessible

The Founders Opportunity Program helps low-income University of Minnesota students with their tuition and fees

By Pauline Oo

April 5, 2006

When asked why she picked the U, freshman Temitayo Akinsanmi is quick to respond: study abroad.

"I have so many opportunities to go to other countries for study aboard here," says Akinsanmi, who left Nigeria in 1998 to settle in Brooklyn Park with her mother and sister. "And [the student advisers] actually encourage study abroad. People are more helpful here [than at the other schools I looked at]. They're willing to answer questions, show me the resources, and tell me about all the programs that are available."

Although it will be a couple of years before she pursues learning aboard, Akinsanmi is happy with the decision she made to come to the U. The chemistry major has classes that challenge her, a job with dining services that teaches her what it takes to feed a horde of hungry students, and financial aid that helps pay the bills. In addition to two University scholarships that total $1,000, Akinsanmi receives $3,800 from the U's Founders Opportunity Program.

Established in fall 2005, the program matches all Pell awards that an incoming student from a family earning less than $50,000 a year receives. The Pell Grant is the largest of the federal grant programs available to students who demonstrate need as determined by their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The maximum Pell grant is $4,050. Incoming freshmen and transfer students from Minnesota who complete the FAFSA prior to enrolling at the University are automatically considered for the Founders program. Freshmen are eligible for four years of support; new transfer students, up to two years of support.

"The Founders scholarship is a commitment to keep the doors to this University and the unique education it offers open to talented students from all walks of life," says University President Bob Bruininks. "[It is one of many ways] we are renewing our commitment to access that is part of our land-grant heritage."

Helping students come to the U

In addition to the University-funded Founders Opportunity Program, the U offers its students a host of merit- and need based-financial aid from private sources. Today, nearly 6,000 U students receive privately funded scholarships.

In the next three years, University administrators foresee the Founders Opportunity Program benefiting 4,500 students--with minority students making up 30 percent of the scholarship recipients. Currently, about 175 students qualify for the program, which is funded by University and private resources.

"If I didn't have the Founders scholarship, I think I would have to work full time in order just to pay the tuition and my room and board," says Akinsanmi. Tuition and fees on the Twin Cities campus total $8,902 this year, and the total cost of attending the University is estimated at around $18,000 annually.

Luther Lampert
U student Luther Lampert.

Freshman Luther Lampert's $3,900 Founders scholarship also goes toward tuition and fees, but more than that, the financial aid is abetting his goal to make the family's history books.

"The only other person in my family who went to college was my dad, but he only went for part of a year," says Lampert, who's toying with the idea of pursuing medicine. "My mom didn't go to college, my sister didn't graduate high school, and my brother got his GED 10 years after dropping out."

Lampert, who is also receiving the President's Distinguished Student Scholarship, says he was inspired to go to college because of his parents--and because he doesn't want to live paycheck to paycheck.

"I want to have something better for myself," he says.

To learn more about the Founders Opportunity Program, visit the Office of Admissions. For more information about other student scholarships at University of Minnesota, see financial aid.