The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) was started in 1944 by William Trent, Frederick D. Patterson and Mary McLeod Bethune. It was created to help raise funds for scholarships for 37 private historically black colleges and universities.
Now, funding has expanded for scholarships to non-HBCUs. The group predominantly provides scholarships to African American students, but also extends funding to other minorities as well.
"We believe that it is in the interest of our nation to educate as many low-income, first-generation students as we can,” said Michael Lomax, Ph.D, the organization’s president and CEO on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air.
As federal funding dwindles and the price of college skyrockets, the UNCF’s work is more important than ever. As Lomax pointed out, Pell Grants now only cover about 30 percent of the college price tag.
Over the past 72 years, the organization has raised $4.5 billion and aided over 400,000 students in attending college.
Last year, UNCF awarded 55 St. Louis-area students with scholarships, said McFarlane Duncan, area development director for UNCF in Missouri and Kansas.
Funding is one of the largest factors in determining if students of color are able to complete their degrees, Lomax said. He also said that there needs to be an increase in Pell Grant funding for low-income students, more reasonable interest rate programs for student loans and an atmosphere on campuses that ensure first-generation college students get interpersonal support to continue through the higher education system.
UNCF turns down nine highly-qualified applicants for every student they give a scholarship to, Lomax said.
Listen to Lomax and Duncan discuss the issues facing UNCF today:
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