Bentson Foundation makes landmark scholarship support gift at University of Minnesota

Bentson Foundation makes landmark scholarship support gift at University of Minnesota

The Bentson Foundation is giving $15 million to the University of Minnesota to reverse lower rates of undergraduate admission, retention and graduation among students with the greatest financial need. This recent gift to the University brings the Bentson Foundation and family’s cumulative giving to over $50 million, largely in support of students.

Announced by University President Joan Gabel at Friday’s Board of Regents meeting, the Bentson Foundation’s gift will not only create new opportunities for low-income undergraduate students on every campus in the University system. It will also provide significant incentive funding to encourage other donors to establish scholarship endowments that help these students by creating the Bentson Scholarship Challenge.

“Society’s persistent problem of low-income students attending and graduating from college at lower rates requires bold action,” said Judi Dutcher, chief executive officer of the Bentson Foundation. “We hope this lead gift will inspire the U of M donor community to make lasting change, as together we help put a world-class education within reach for our most financially-challenged students.”

Households making less than $60,000 a year generally qualify for federal Pell grants to help defray college costs. However, this federal aid rarely covers the full cost of attending college and often does not pay for expenses beyond tuition, such as housing, textbooks, and fees. The additional financial burden leads many under-resourced students to drop out before graduation. Nationally, only 51 percent of Pell-eligible students graduate, compared to 65 percent of their peers. For many, the financial barriers prevent them from applying to college in the first place.

The Bentson Foundation and the University of Minnesota are determined to stem this alarming trend. The new scholarships supported by this gift will be awarded to Pell grant–eligible first-year and transfer students, and will follow them throughout their undergraduate studies at the University.

By inspiring donors to establish scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance for talented undergraduates across the system, the Bentson Scholarship Challenge seeks to remove obstacles between our state’s brightest minds and their chance at a brighter future.

“The University of Minnesota is committed to making college affordable and accessible to all Minnesotans,” said Gabel. “No student should feel that their education is in jeopardy because of the cost of attending college and this generous gift will help us continue supporting access for our current and future students.”

The average unmet financial need to cover the full cost of attendance at the U of M was $9,600 in 2018, when 49 percent of students went into debt to meet that need. The Bentson Challenge program will provide funds to bridge that gap for many Pell-eligible students, removing the pressures of paying for college along with the burden of substantial debt for new graduates, the majority of whom stay in Minnesota.

For more information on the Bentson Scholarship Challenge, visit

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