Bowling Green State University
Bob (centre) and Ellen (left) Thompson have donated $121 million to Bowling Green State University with the hope of more students graduating.

An elderly married couple in the United States is providing $121 million to Bowling Green State University to help tackle the issue of college students not graduating.

Bob and Ellen Thomas, both alumni of Bowling Green, launched their scholarship program a decade ago as they first helped 15 students. The growth of the program has seen the Ohio-based college be able to provide support for 1000 students this year, with the latest expansion set to aid 450 more students.

However, the couple has outlined specific criteria the college must meet. As the scholarship revolves heavily around improving graduate rates among students, 80 per cent of the program's recipients must graduate from Bowling Green within four years.

Regarding this requirement the college must meet, Bob said: "The return on these children when they go out in the world is much stronger than a return on your money."

If this target is not met, the college must cover the tuition fees for additional semesters beyond the four years. This possibility is unlikely, though, as the average graduation rate among the scholarship recipients in four years or less is nearly 90 per cent.

Thomas's wealth comes from their previous asphalt-paving venture in Michigan, which was bought for over $400 million 25 years ago.

The lack of college completion is very prevalent in America right now, as recent data has shown that, on average, just around 50 per cent of students graduate with a degree within six years. The major downside to this majorly concerning trend is the financial hole in which the non-graduate students find themselves.

A large amount of debt needs repaying, and no college degree means they have a poorer chance of finding a well-paying job to pay off the loans. Students who drop out after more than four years in college are affected the most as the debt is inevitably very high.

The other conditions the couple in their 90s have set out include the college matching the funds and students taking care of some expenses, such as their dormitory. Also, student recipients must sign up for 20 volunteering hours a year.

Another commitment the student's part of the program must make is attending mentoring sessions. They will be expected to discuss their college studies and career prospects with their coach.

Mentoring helped a previous student, Steve Iwanek, who was involved in a car accident two years ago after a driver under the influence crashed into him and another student on the way back from a baseball game. The other student tragically lost his life in the accident.

One of the first people to reach out to Iwanek after the devastating incident was his mentor, whom the former student greatly appreciated. He said: "There's a real sense of personal care that they have for each student that is unique to them."

The mentoring sessions positively impacted Iwanek as he was recently awarded a degree and now operates as a television reporter.

Bob and Ellen's final guideline for Bowling Green is to spend the $121 million pledge by 2035. The couple prioritises immediate impact as they would like to see the benefits of their donation whilst they still have a relationship with the current college President, Rodney Rogers.

Providing their latest act is a success; they plan to donate an additional $30 million to their cause.