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GoDaddy founder gives University of Baltimore $5 million to help some students, vets pay tuition

The founder of GoDaddy.com is giving $5 million to the University of Baltimore to help community college graduates and military veterans cover the cost of tuition, the school announced Monday.

University President Kurt Schmoke said that the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, a nonprofit foundation run by the family of Baltimore native Bob Parsons, will donate $1 million a year over the next five years to a scholarship fund to help an estimated 250 students a year pursue a degree at the four-year university.

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Parsons, 69, founded GoDaddy, an Internet domain name registration service, in 1997 and sold most of it in 2011. Raised in Highlandtown, Parsons joined the Marine Corps and served and was wounded in Vietnam. He later attended University of Baltimore on the G.I. Bill. He graduated with a degree in accounting and became a technology entrepreneur. Forbes values his fortune at $2.7 billion.

“A college degree is a game changer,” Parsons said in a statement. “It opens the door to more career opportunities, higher paying jobs and a happier life.”

The University of Baltimore will use the Parsons foundation’s gift to establish a scholarship fund Schmoke called “Complete for Free,” which will cover the gap in tuition costs faced by some community college graduates and military veterans who receive financial aid through the federal Pell Grant program.

The Pell Grant program offers aid to undergraduate students “who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor’s graduate, or professional degree,” according to the U.S. Department of Education. But, Schmoke said, Pell Grants fall short of covering the cost of tuition at the university.

“This is a major gift," Schmoke said. "It’s the largest gift we’ve received dedicated to scholarships.”

The scholarship fund will be available to students who graduate from the state’s community colleges and are eligible to receive funding through the Pell grant, Schmoke said. Military veterans who have completed 60 credits worth of classes at a state community college also will be eligible for the funding.

Schmoke said making the funding available to more veterans was part of the stipulation behind Parsons’ donation.

Several community college presidents joined Schmoke to talk about the importance of offering aid to the state’s community college graduates.

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Howard Community College President Kathleen Hetherington said many families are hit with “sticker shock” as they look to further their education at four-year colleges.

“For students, the things that stand in their way for success are time and money,” Hetherington said. “These students will be going full-time, so that will accelerate their time to their degree and they’ll have the money available to pay for the second two years. That is quite incredible.”

Dr. Jay Perman, the newly appointed chancellor of the University System of Maryland, spoke of how he’d received a full scholarship to medical school, which his family wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford.

“I know what this means to these young people,” said Perman, thanking the Parsons family for the donation. “Because these young people will get a letter that says ‘Congratulations. Your education is paid for.’”

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