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BallmerMicrosoft and its former CEO Steve Ballmer each signed big checks this week that will help send more low- and middle-income students seeking STEM degrees to college in Washington State.

Steve Ballmer and his wife Connie Ballmer gave $11 million to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, while Microsoft gave $10 million. The donations follow a $20 million gift from Seattle angel investor Gary Rubens in April, all of which was matched by state funds dollar-for-dollar.

This is just the latest extra curricular activity for Steve Ballmer, who left Microsoft last year after 14 years at the helm. He has since taught a business class at Stanford, bought the L.A. Clippers professional basketball team, invested in a former coworker’s startup and even scooped up a prime slice of Bellevue real estate.

Ballmer with Clippers star Blake Griffin. Photo via L.A. Clippers.
Ballmer with Clippers star Blake Griffin. Photo via L.A. Clippers.

Now we can add to the list helping to solve Washington’s notorious issues training enough workers to fill jobs created in the state by the booming tech sector.

Between these donations and the $25 million both Microsoft and Boeing gave to launch WSOS in 2011, the program has pretty much capped off all the funding it needed to hit its goal of sending 13,000 students to college over 10 years.

After WSOS selected its latest cohort of 1,000 students in May, it has now awarded nearly 5,500 scholarships to students seeking majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and health care.

With this funding boost, WSOS is examining things now to see if it can increase the number of scholarships per year to reach the 13,000 goal by 2021.

So far, 62 percent of students in the program have been female, 57 percent have been the first in their family to attend college, more than half identified themselves as students of color and their median household income is $47,000, according to a WSOS spokesperson.

“These investments will plug the leak in the STEM pipeline, attract more students to pursue degrees in these fields, and ensure that young people, regardless of financial status, will have an opportunity to secure a vibrant future in Washington’s innovation economy,” said Naria Santa Lucia, executive director of WSOS.

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