Money will go to scholarships at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges and United Negro College Fund
By Melissa KornJune 17, 2020 9:15 am ET
Netflix Inc. CEO Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, are donating $120 million to historically black colleges and universities, with the funds being split among Morehouse and Spelman Colleges and the United Negro College Fund.
The funds—which, when combined, make for the largest gift ever to historically black colleges—will be used for student scholarships and to help some schools rebound from the financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is a watershed moment,” said Morehouse President David A. Thomas. “It will send a signal that historically black colleges should be valued in the same way that we value our most successful undergraduate colleges in this country.
”Historically black colleges generally have less cash saved and receive much less philanthropic backing than predominantly white institutions. There are no HBCUs among the nation’s 100 largest endowments, according to the latest National Association of College and University Business Officers-TIAA survey of endowments.
The gift comes at a moment of reckoning for Americans in the wake of the death of George Floyd, which set off weeks of continuing protests, and a new acknowledgment by many white communities that they have benefited from certain privileges that left others—especially black people—at a disadvantage. Mr. Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis
Census data show that about 26% of black people aged 25 or older have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 36% of the total U.S. population and 40% of white people. Black students make up about 13% of the current undergraduate population, and comprise a disproportionately high share of the enrollment at for-profit colleges.
Spelman will use the donation to cover tuition and other expenses for 20 first-year students, renewable each year for the duration of their undergraduate studies, with new cohorts being added for at least 10 years. That will allow hundreds of students to graduate debt-free, “savor every bit of their education” and “take advantage of the gourmet feast of opportunities” they can have at a prestigious black college rather than work multiple jobs while pursuing a degree, said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell.
Dr. Thomas said he had desperately wanted to attend Morehouse as a student, but didn’t get a full ride there and so couldn’t afford it. (He instead attended Yale University, which gave him more financial aid.) “Today there are probably more David Thomases for whom Morehouse is the right place,” he said, “But they don’t come only because of money.”
Last spring, private-equity billionaire Robert F. Smith pledged to wipe out the loans of the Morehouse class of 2019; in September, he said he would also take care of the debts of their parents. Morehouse said at the time that he and his family donated $34 million to the cause.