National Press Club

Historically black colleges, United Negro College Fund face severe financial crisis

March 25, 2014 | By Jennifer Ejim | akunnaya25@yahoo.com

Michael Lomax, president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund, told a March 25 Club luncheon that the fund is facing a severe financial crisis.

Michael Lomax, president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund, told a March 25 Club luncheon that the fund is facing a severe financial crisis.

Photo/Image: Marshall H. Cohen

America's historically black colleges and universities are suffering through a substantial budget crunch, Michael Lomax, president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund, told a March 25 National Press Club luncheon.

He said the fund was facing “a financial crisis as severe as any in its history” and that its member schools only have operating budgets that average 50 percent of those of other four-year private colleges.

“The irony of this situation is that the financial crisis comes at a time when interest by African-American high school students in attending HBCUs has been on the rise for over a decade," Lomax said. "Between the 2001–2002 academic year and the 2012-2013 year, UNCF-member institutions saw a 78 percent rise in applications and a 64 percent increase in admissions.”

Responding to a question from the audience, Lomax said that UNCF donations have not kept pace with demand because UNCF turns down nine scholarships for every scholarship it awards.

In 2014, he said, UNCF is on track to award 12,000 scholarships for a total of $100 million.

“UNCF is committed to redoubling our efforts to increase the amounts that we have to give out as scholarships to individual students and support to private historically black colleges,” Lomax said.

Most Americans of all backgrounds were familiar with the iconic motto of the UNCF -- “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” -- without knowing precisely the role of the fund, Lomax said.

The motto has been adjusted to “A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in” to reflect the goals and outlook of UNCF, according to Lomax.

Formed in 1944, UNCF was created primarily to help fund historically black institutions.

“During our 70 years, we have helped more than 400,000 students graduate from our partner schools by raising nearly $4 billion," Lomsx said. "Over time, we have developed a profile as a premium, well-run nonprofit, and an efficient manager of donated dollars.”

This reputation, he said, “led the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to entrust us with $1.6 billion in grants, beginning in 1999, to be used for scholarships for all communities of color.”

UNCF supports more than 12,000 students at 900 schools across the country each year, Lomax said. Its core mission remains its partnership with 37 four-year HBCUs and its advocacy all 105 HBCUs, a number that includes state-supported historically black institutions as well.