Barack Obama’s Alma Mater, Occidental College, Launches Scholarship In His Name


September 29, 2017


Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Before Barack Obama attended Columbia University and Harvard Law School, the then future first African American president of the United States was a student at Occidental College from 1979-1981. The small private liberal arts college, located in Los Angeles, California, was where young Obama found his passion for social and political causes. 


Pictured: Barack Obama, Occidental College (1980); Photo by: Lisas Jack 

Now, nearly 40 years after Obama first entered Occidental College as a freshman, the college has named a scholarship program in his honor. On Wednesday, the school announced its new Barack Obama Scholars Program, which seeks to “empower the next generation of leaders in active pursuit of the public good.” 

Starting fall 2018, the program will cover all costs (including tuition, room, board, books and other expenses, such as travel and summer internship programs) for four years for two undergraduate students. As stated on the school’s Barack Obama Scholars Program website: 


“This fully funded program will provide students with the opportunity to pursue a path both academically and beyond the classroom that supports their ambition to make a difference. Scholars can pursue any field of study Occidental offers. In the first year, students will be matched with faculty advisers to help them shape their personalized plans.”

With hopes of raising $40 million to endow and expand the program, the college intends to eventually offer a fully-funded financial package to 20 students a year. The program has raised $7 million so far. According to the New York Times, the “goal is to create a big enough endowment to fund not only scholarships but post-graduation fellowships for students who head into low-paying fields.” 

Photo credit: Thomas Grauman/Occidental College 


“My years at Occidental College sparked my interest in social and political causes, and filled me with the idea that my voice could make a difference,” Obama said in a statement. “And throughout my time in public service, I’ve tried to use my voice to bring people together, in common effort, around the idea that we could give every young person in America the chance that America gave me.” 

Click here to learn more about the Barack Obama Scholars Program. 

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