Living the American Dream (Scholarship): Miami-Dade College Offers Free Tuition for High School Graduates

How do you spell 'miracle'? For certain Florida high school seniors, it could be spelled exactly like Miami-Dade College. For many of these students, higher learning seems like an unaffordable and unattainable goal as they lack the financial means to further their education and expand their future opportunities. This is about to change, however, for graduates of Miami-Dade County schools, thanks to the aptly-named American Dream Scholarship (ADS).

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By Harrison Howe

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'A Miracle in Education'

In March 2011, Miami-Dade College President Dr. Eduardo Padron made a life-changing announcement from the school's Wolfson Campus: at a time when state scholarship funding is threatened with cuts, the country's largest nonprofit higher learning institution in terms of enrollment (160,000 students in 2010) was handing resident high school graduates the first two years of a college education for free.

Yes, you read that right. Free.

The American Dream Scholarship equals about $6,500, enough to pay for 60 credits at Miami-Dade College. Half of the required credits for many bachelor's degrees, paid in full. What's more, the American Dream Scholarship can be used in conjunction with other aid; the ADS will pick up the remaining tab after other scholarships have been applied.

While eligible students must show good grades and at least a 3.0 GPA, their SAT scores will not be a factor in receiving the scholarship. Besides the GPA, the only other requirements of students are that they show proof of residency in Miami-Dade County and apply for federal financial aid.

Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of the American Dream Scholarship is that, unlike many other scholarships, there is no set number of students who can receive the award. Few colleges and universities make full scholarships available to all incoming students, but all resident high school graduates who meet the requirements are eligible for the ADS.

No small wonder some call the American Dream Scholarship a 'miracle in education'!

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Funding the Future

The American Dream Scholarship is funded by philanthropists and local businesses, in part as a celebration of Miami-Dade College's 50th year, which resulted in a record amount of donations. With $15 million already secured for the program, it is expected that the college can offer this unique and life-changing scholarship for the next several years.

The benefits of such a scholarship are twofold. It not only provides the chance for high school graduates who might not have had the opportunity to further their education, it also encourages high school seniors to work harder and prepare for college. In addition, it will allow students to concentrate more on their schoolwork once they get into college. 'Using this scholarship, I can actually focus more now on my studies instead of tuition and the issues that come with it,' student Adley Calixt told WPLG Local 10 in March.

The effects of the American Dream Scholarship can also be far-reaching. Many use Miami-Dade College as a start-off point for further education in top universities and from there to successful careers in the medical, corporate, engineering and law fields. The ADS allows for students who might not have had the opportunity to realize their potential to get the jump-start they need.

So for the 2011 graduating class of public, private, charter and even home schools in this South Florida county, the future - or at least the next two years of it - seems secure.

Scholarships for vegetarians and duck callers? Read more about other unusual scholarships offered throughout the U.S.

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