The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says it will add $58 million to expand its $1 billion Millennium Scholars program to target low-income and minority students seeking a graduate degree in public health.
It's the first time the foundation has added money to the scholarship program since it was established in 1999.
The program has already given scholarships to more than 10,000 students for undergraduate education in their choice of major and for graduate work in the areas of public health, education, science, math, engineering and library science.
The foundation says it will help 20,000 students over 20 years.
The United Negro College Fund administers the Gates Millennium Scholars program, which has given money to students in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and has helped send them to more than 1,300 colleges and universities.
One of the world's largest private scholarship efforts gives grants to African American, Native American, Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander and Hispanic American students who earn top grades, plus demonstrate community service experience and leadership skills.
The new scholarship money will be used to increase the number of minorities pursuing graduate degrees in epidemiology, biomedical science, tropical disease, public health practice and nutritional science.
The Gates Foundation spends most of its money on fighting diseases around the world and on public health, so the scholars could potentially end up working for the foundation in its other projects.
Millennium Scholarships can be renewed for up to five years of undergraduate study in any field and two years of graduate study plus four years of Ph.D. work in approved fields.
The program opened applications for the 2007-2008 school year on Aug. 1. The deadline for applying is Jan. 12.
— The Associated Press