Leftto right, QC SEEK student Paola Peña, President Matos Rodríguez, QC graduatestuQueens College

Graduating debt-free from four years of college, even affordably priced state and city schools, seems nearly impossible.

But thanks to a generous $1 million gift from the Give Something Back Foundation, 50 lower-income students will get the chance to attend Queens College for four years of tuition-free study, including room and board.

The donation was made Wednesday morning at a ceremony at Queens College in Flushing.

“As many of you know, Queens College opened its doors close to 80 years ago, right in the middle of the Great Depression,” said Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “So, you might say that educating students who are facing financial challenges is part of our DNA.”


Queens College is the first public college in the state to be chosen by Give Something Back for the $1 million gift.

Matos Rodriguez added that thanks to the foundation’s generosity the college is now in a position to help more students facing challenges — “such as being raised in a foster home or having an incarcerated parent or coping with the cycle of family poverty — but have the drive and desire to pursue a college education.”

Last year, New York-based Mercy College, a private school, received a $1 million gift.

RELATED: New York governor proposes free tuition plan at state colleges

Give Something Back founder Robert Owen Carr said Queens College was a logical choice for the foundation’s gift.

“Queens is a leader in supporting low-income students, and that is what we do,” he said.

Queens College was recently ranked by the Equality of Opportunity Project as being among the top 1 percent of schools ​that help lower-income students.

The Give Back Foundation selects scholarship recipients — Pell Grant eligible students -- in the ninth grade to help prepare them for college. Scholars are given mentors and are required to have a minimum 3.0 grade point average in high school, take college preparatory courses and demonstrate strong character throughout the duration of the program.

After graduation, Give Back scholars attend one of its partner universities or colleges in Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Founded by Carr in 2003, Give Back is a nonprofit dedicated to awarding scholarships to academically driven students of modest means who might not otherwise attend college.

Carr’s inspiration to fund educational opportunities for students of modest means began with a $250 scholarship from a women’s club in his hometown that helped him attend The University of Illinois at Urbana —Champaign.

To date, Carr’s Give Back organization has enabled more than 1,000 scholarship students togo to college debt-free by committing an upfront investment of more than $14.5 million.

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