A $5 million gift from the co-founder of Netflix will fund a new program at Bowdoin College to improve the graduation rates of low-income students, first-generation students and students traditionally underrepresented on college campuses.

Bowdoin College announced the gift by educational philanthropist Reed Hastings on Monday.

Hastings serves as CEO of Netflix, which he co-founded in 1997 as a mail order DVD rental company. It is now one of the leading companies in online video distribution, with 104 million members in over 190 countries.

Hastings is a member of the Bowdoin College Class of 1983.

At Bowdoin, the THRIVE program “offers comprehensive academic programming as well as support and skills development for participating students prior to matriculation,” the college stated in a press release. “THRIVE builds on Bowdoin’s ongoing success in increasing the diversity of its campus across multiple dimensions. In fact, the entering Class of 2021 is the most culturally diverse and socioeconomically representative class in Bowdoin’s history. Through THRIVE, Bowdoin will do even more to ensure student success.”

“Many studies, and our own experience, clearly show that incredibly talented and successful students from low-income families or who are the first in their families to attend college — students we actively seek and who are coming to Bowdoin — often have more difficulty transitioning to college and taking full advantage of all we have to offer,” said Bowdoin President Clayton Rose in a press release. “We need to ensure that Bowdoin is the place where these students have the kind of comprehensive experience that allows them to excel here and to graduate on time, ready to pursue full and rewarding lives and careers. Simply put, Reed, who is a passionate advocate for education, is making it possible for us to pursue this necessary work. We are tremendously grateful to him for his vision and generosity.”

The release quotes Hastings as stating: “Making sure that these great students have the opportunity to fully experience a college education and to graduate on time is a critical challenge facing higher education. Clayton and I share the same goals for Bowdoin, and I am delighted to be able to help the College to develop the programming and capabilities to make this a reality.”

Hastings will join with a group of four educators as part of the THRIVE Advisory Group.

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