Arizona philanthropist couple offer scholarships for Dreamers

Two of Arizona’s most generous benefactors, Bob and Renee Parsons, donated almost $1 million for scholarships for Dreamers who have graduated high school to attend Arizona State University (ASU).

Bob and Renee Parsons are joining other billionaire couples who are reaching out to help “Dreamers” get a higher education, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie, and Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, and his wife Melinda.

In a recent interview with ASU, the Parsonses spoke passionately about these students who were brought here as young children by undocumented family members. 

“By no fault of their own, ‘Dreamers’ are starting their pursuit of higher education at a great disadvantage,” said Bob Parsons, who founded the GoDaddy groups of companies. “America is a nation of immigrants, and it is our duty to step up and support those who are working hard to earn a better life for themselves and their families, no matter how they got here.”

Renee Parsons said: “It is our belief that everyone deserves access to quality education, and ‘Dreamers’ are no exception. In fact, they face more obstacles to obtaining a college degree than most of their peers. We are proud to support ASU’s commitment to making higher education a reality for all Arizona high school graduates.”

Three-year grant for 35 Dreamers

To help these students reach their dream of a college education, the foundation awarded a $937,000, three-year grant to the non-profit ASU Foundation. The money will provide scholarships to 35 students who have graduated from high school. Many have temporary status to live and work here through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Financial disadvantages set them back

Because of their immigrant classification, Dreamers and DACA recipients are unable to benefit from university or federal aid, work-study programs, or other government assistance programs. They also are ineligible for in-state tuition.

The Parsonses’ grant is intended to help mitigate those obstacles. It provides tuition assistance to cover extra costs through the new Parsons Scholars Program. Most of the scholarships go to students from low-income families and who are first-generation college students. To ensure their success, the program includes financial literacy training, and ongoing academic and career coaching. 

“ASU has long supported ‘Dreamers,’ a position that is congruent with our unwavering commitment to providing access to all students who are qualified to attend the university, regardless of their background or circumstance,” ASU President Michael Crow said in a prepared statement, thanking the Parsonses. 

DACA and Dreamers pump up Arizona’s economy 

Businesses and chambers of commerce like the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry  are strong supporters of efforts in Congress to find a positive, permanent solution for Dreamers. Over a thousand CEOs from small and large companies including Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Target and Walmart have called on Congress to offer them a legal path to residency. 

Numerous studies detail Dreamers’ contributions to the nation, from purchasing cars and homes to providing much needed skilled and unskilled labor.

New American Economy last year issued a report finding that DACA-eligible individuals have a more than 93 percent employment rate and in 2017 paid nearly $2 billion in state and local taxes. The report also found that Arizona’s more than 35,000 DACA-eligible immigrants account for nearly $600 million in total income. 

Victoria Harker

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