UNCF Marks 70 Years of Bringing Students To and Through College

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Organization has raised $4 billion for students' educational pursuits; UNCF alumni include renowned teachers, doctors, scientists, and community leaders.

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They are our children. Their education is our responsibility, a responsibility we accept as part of our work for UNCF. The money we raise, the volunteers we rally, the messaging we communicate are all for them, our students.

Today, UNCF (the United Negro College Fund), the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization, celebrates the organization’s 70th anniversary.

“Birthdays are a time to celebrate, and as the current stewards of UNCF’s mission and brand, there is much to celebrate,” said Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., president and CEO, UNCF. “But there is much more work ahead of us than there is behind us. Students attend the historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) we support—but many, many more cannot, and they need and deserve an education as much as those who can now afford to attend. We award 12,000 scholarships a year—but for every scholarship we award, there are ten qualified applicants we cannot help.”

UNCF was founded on April 25, 1944 by Frederick Patterson, President of the Tuskegee Institute, and Mary McLeod Bethune, an advisor to the Franklin Roosevelt Administration, to provide a steady, consistent stream of funding to financially struggling small HBCUs scattered across the south. It also hoped to support access to higher education for impoverished African American students by "an appeal to the national conscience.”

Today, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities.

When UNCF’s iconic motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”®, debuted more than 40 years ago, the idea that African Americans should go to college was not widely accepted. Today, the UNCF motto is almost universally known and almost every college has black students. The latest iteration of UNCF’s PSAs frame support for minority education as investment in better futures for students and expands the iconic motto to, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in.”

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have invested $4 billion in better futures for students and the country. 400,000 students have earned degrees at UNCF member HBCUs and with UNCF scholarships—people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., congressman and civil rights pioneer John Lewis, former Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, former Brown University president Ruth Simmons (the first African American president of an Ivy League university), and countless teachers, doctors, scientists, and leaders who have touched lives and changed our country for the better.

UNCF Member Institutions educate 60,000 students each year at tuitions averaging 30 percent less than those charged by comparable institutions. Findings from UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute shows that HBCUs out-perform many larger and better-funded schools at graduating low-income students—the students the country most needs to have college degrees. UNCF Scholarship Programs increase the likelihood that students will graduate. African American recipients of UNCF scholarships have a 70 percent six-year graduation rate, 10 percentage points higher than the national average, and 30 percent higher than the average for all African Americans. A $5,000 UNCF scholarship increases by seven percent the likelihood that its recipient will graduate from college. In fact, the low-income minority recipients of Gates Millennium Scholarships, a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have average graduation rates of 90 percent.

UNCF plays a critical role in enabling students each year to attend college and get the education they need and that the nation needs them to have. This is done by advocating nationally for the importance of education and college readiness through its annual television program, a national public service announcement campaign, in national media; and advocating locally at events across the country such as Governor’s and Mayor’s luncheons, Walk for Education events and Mayor’s Masked Balls. Additionally, UNCF’s Patterson Institute issues studies that improve understanding of the issues that face minority education and points the way to solutions. UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building, a unique institutional improvement initiative, helps member colleges and universities become stronger and more self-sustaining in areas that can make the difference between success and struggle, such as curriculum and faculty enhancement, student recruitment and retention and fundraising.

“I am proud of the work we have done together. I know we can discharge our responsibility as fully as those who founded UNCF 70 years ago, and as fully as those who have come before us as stewards of UNCF’s mission, the giants on whose shoulders we stand,” Lomax said. “They are our children. Their education is our responsibility, a responsibility we accept as part of our work for UNCF. The money we raise, the volunteers we rally, the messaging we communicate are all for them, our students.”

Learn more at http://www.UNCF.org.

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