The University of Chicago has announced a $100 million gift from an unidentified alumnus to establish an undergraduate scholarship program and launch a $400 million student aid fundraising initiative.
The gift, the largest in the school's history, will be used to establish the Odyssey Scholarships program, an initiative to reduce student loans among undergraduate students whose families demonstrate low or moderate income and high financial need. Under the program, students whose annual family income is less than $60,000 could have their loans replaced entirely by grants, while families whose income is between $60,000 and $75,000 could see their loans cut in half. The program also will enable about fifty incoming freshmen to participate, by invitation, in an eight-week summer enrichment initiative; those students will be exempt from work-study during their first year so they can engage more fully in the college experience. The gift is entirely expendable over fifteen years.
Scheduled to go effect in the fall of 2008, the scholarship program is expected to benefit almost 1,200 undergraduates, representing almost 25 percent of the entire college enrollment, at any given time. "This gift ensures that the most talented students, no matter their economic circumstances, will have the opportunity to benefit from the uniquely powerful and rigorous Chicago education," said university president Robert J. Zimmer.
In a statement, the donor, who wished to remain anonymous, referred to the enduring influence of his Chicago education. "Although I fell far from the academic vine," he said, "my education in the college convinced me (in a way that no event or person has yet to undermine) that I was in fact...somehow a worthy citizen of an ancient and honorable community of scholars. The self-esteem that comes from a sense of citizenship in that tradition...has been the simple fixed point of the Archimedean comedy of my personal and professional successes."