This year's Panda Cares Scholars include three hundred and fifty students from underserved communities enrolled at colleges and universities in thirty-two states and the District of Columbia. Selected for their academic achievement, strong leadership skills, and commitment to community service, the recipients are eligible to receive renewable scholarships of up to $3,500, $5,000 and $7,000 for their sophomore, junior and senior years, respectively, to help offset the cost of their college education. The scholarship and professional development program is funded by the Panda Express in-store donation program.
In 2018, Panda Cares partnered with UNCF to create the Panda Cares UNCF Scholars Program, which provides renewable scholarships of up to $2,500 to four hundred students annually. The partnership has since expanded to include two additional programs: the Panda Cares First-Year Scholars Program, which offers one-time scholarships for Pell Grant-eligible matriculating first-year college students, and the Panda Cares Scholars Program, which combines financial assistance with tools designed to prepare recipients for leadership in the twenty-first-century workforce.
"Increases in college tuition can leave students with overwhelming student loan debt or can deter students from completing their education, despite their willingness to do so," said UNCF president and CEO Michael Lomax. "Our partnership with the Panda Cares Foundation is helping overcome obstacles for many students who would otherwise face major hardships earning their college degrees — especially in light of the current health pandemic. We're very thankful for the foundation's generous contributions, which have enabled UNCF to expand this program and give many more students the finances and tools they need to excel and succeed."