For all the talk about former President Barack Obama's Ivy League alma maters — Columbia University and Harvard Law School — he actually spent the first two years of his higher education life, from 1979 to 1981, attending Occidental College in Los Angeles.

For Occidental, or Oxy as it is known, Obama has long been its little-known claim to fame. That may be about to change for this 2,000-student private liberal arts college founded in 1887.

Occidental announced Wednesday the creation of the Barack Obama Scholars Program, a $40 million endowment intended to cover the $70,000 annual tab of tuition and board for 20 students a year.

It will be aimed at providing four-year scholarships to veterans, community college transfers and those who are the first in their family to go to college.

"My years at Occidental College sparked my interest in social and political causes, and filled me with the idea that my voice could make a difference," Obama said in a statement. He said he hoped this program would "train the next generation of leaders and active citizens, and fill them with the conviction that they too can change the world."

The program has raised $7 million, enough to fund two scholarship, starting next fall.

Jonathan Veitch, the president of Occidental, said, "We thought this would be a great way to honor him and have our students emulate the values he represents."