Our commitment to post-secondary scholarships

Consistent with Eugene Lang’s promise to the original class of Dreamers in Harlem, the “I Have A Dream” program is designed to encourage Dreamers to pursue their education beyond high school and to help make this possible by providing post-secondary scholarships. 

Post-secondary scholarship support should reflect at least the cost of tuition for a resident to attend a public state or city college or university. Tuition assistance should be provided for up to eight semesters at an accredited college or for the expected period required to complete an accredited vocational school program, and should be sufficient to fill any unmet need after other scholarships and financial aid have been applied. Traditionally, this support has ranged from $500 to $8,000 per year, with the average being $2,500/year. Some Affiliates have also raised funds to offer funding not only for tuition but other costs, such as books, room and board, and computers.  Some Affiliates have made their scholarships first dollar, meaning they are a set amount and can be used for any post-secondary cost.  Note: Funding for scholarship support can come from third-party sources, such as scholarship foundations

Our post-secondary scholarship policy

In order to comply with our post-secondary scholarship policies, Affiliates must offer (or secure a partner to offer) Dreamers a scholarship commitment that is clearly outlined in the Dreamer Scholar/Parent Agreement and program enrollment materials. 

An “I Have A Dream” program’s scholarship support is not intended to substitute for, replace, or duplicate funding that a Dreamer may be expected to receive from public or private sources to cover all or part of college or vocational school tuition. Every Dreamer is required to apply for financial aid from public and private sources. An “I Have A Dream” program’s scholarship commitment is limited to the difference between the cost of tuition for a resident at a local state or city college or university and the amount of financial aid a Dreamer receives from public and private sources to at least cover tuition costs. An Affiliate may choose to cap the amount of the post-secondary scholarship and/or commit to providing a stipulated minimum amount of scholarship support that is included within or goes beyond the basic policy commitment.

Most IHDF’s scholarship support is committed for tuition expenses only. If a Dreamer is awarded financial aid in excess of the tuition for a resident, the Sponsor's tuition commitment to the Dreamer is satisfied. An Affiliate may, at their discretion, choose to arrange to pay for a portion of the Dreamer's other education-related expenses such as a Dreamer's textbooks or lab fees. Another way these costs are often assisted is through College Savings Accounts (see the next section.) 

The Affiliate must make all payments for tuition assistance or other education-related expenses directly to the accredited college or vocational school a Dreamer attends. No payments may be made to a Dreamer or any other individual.

The Dreamer may use his or her scholarship award at an accredited public or private college or vocational school. At the Affiliate’s sole discretion, the aggregate scholarship support for eight semesters of college or the expected period required to complete a vocational school program may be allocated over a longer period for Dreamers who attend programs on a part-time basis.

The Dreamer must provide the program with all information and documentation requested to determine the amount of the Dreamer's scholarship award such as grade reports, proof of registration, and copies of financial aid awards and bills from the institution the Dreamer attends.

The Sponsor may end scholarship support to a Dreamer if the Dreamer fails to maintain a passing grade point average or otherwise fails to remain in good standing in the institution or program in which the Dreamer is enrolled.

Complying with our post-secondary scholarship support policy during the formation process

In order to meet the scholarship promise, affiliates should integrate scholarship support into their budgets (see more resources on budgeting here). In order to budget sufficiently, a good rule of thumb is to reference the average cost of tuition at local public colleges, with a projected annual rate of growth of at least 5%. Resources for these calculations can be found here

The scholarship support budgeted at the start of a program should be incorporated into initial fundraising, and these funds should be held in an interest bearing account held by the Affiliate. This fund should be held separately from annual operating funds and should not be drawn upon for operat­ing expenses.

The Affiliate should have written policies that describe a Dreamer’s obligations and eligibility to receive scholarship support upon college or postsecondary enrollment, and regularly update expense projections related to the fulfillment of the scholarship promise in order to reflect the changing needs of Dreamers and the changing landscape of higher education financial aid.

A number of Dreamers may receive generous financial aid packages, reducing post-secondary expenditures. If it appears that there will be surplus funds, programs may decide to assist Dreamers with other education-related expenses, such as establishing an account for books at  the college bookstore.  If funds still remain after Dreamers have completed their post-secondary education, the program can donate them to another local program or the national “I Have A Dream” Foundation. Unused scholarship and operat­ing funds cannot be returned to donors for per­sonal use without jeopardizing the program's tax-exempt status.

About College Savings Accounts (CSAs)

We have learned important lessons from the 20,000 Dreamer Scholars we have supported since our founding. First, getting our Dreamers to college/post-secondary education is critical but not enough. Second, while our program has had a profound impact on the lives of thousands of children, there are thousands more who need our services. We must broaden our impact to ensure that more low-income students have these opportunities. 

Building on these insights, we have developed an innovative College Savings Account (CSA) program to reach more students and to ensure that they are equipped to get to and through college/post-secondary education. Our CSA program is designed to inspire and celebrate Dreamers as they climb the mountain to college/post-secondary graduation, by: 

  1. Fostering a culture of college and career amongst parents and students at an early age; 
  2. Providing students, families and important stakeholders in our Dreamers’ lives with a roadmap for how to get to and through college; 
  3. Reducing some of the financial barriers to higher education by making deposits into CSAs, providing financial literacy to families, and encouraging families to save on their own. 

Research conducted at The University of Kansas found that low and moderate income children with college savings between $1–$499 are 3x more likely to attend college and 4x more likely to graduate college.

The Power of College Savings


What Dreamer Scholars have to say

  • "Having a CSA account allows me to feel secure about the expenses that will occur when I am in college."

    —Joshua, 12th Grade Dreamer