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Bill and Melinda Gates Spent Billions to Put Kids Through College—and It Worked

Life-changing news comes to high school seniors every year in a flurry of acceptance—or rejection—letters. But for a huge segment of America’s youth, financial reality puts college out of reach, regardless of academic achievement.

Bill and Melinda Gates decided this gap between low-income and affulent students was unfair, so in 1999, they started sending letters of their own. The Gates Millennium Scholars offers a full ride to kids who otherwise have no hope of shouldering the financial burden of college. As they explained to 60 Minutes reporter Scott Pelley, the couple felt they could make a difference.

After putting 20,000 kids through college with full tuition and expenses paid, they now have data to prove their hypothesis that low-income, minority students could do just as well in postsecondary education as their well-off peers.

Nearly 90 percent of the Gates Scholars have earned a degree, an impressive achievement.

Universities like Princeton are taking note, and creating what is essentially a new form of affirmative action to look for low-income, first-generation students who can bring a fresh perspective to the student body at an insitution known to most as male and white.

As Christopher Eisgruber, President of Princeton University puts it, “It’s a new way of making sure that we have the diversity on our campus to deliver on the kind of education that we care about and that the world needs.”

Watch the full 60 Minutes video here.