Closing the Education
Amid the current national economic crisis,
UNCF’s mission is more relevant than ever
for creating tomorrow’s leaders.
Martin Luther King Jr.; Brown University
President Dr. Ruth Simmons; former
U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman;
Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson.
Despite their successes in disparate fields, all
of these leaders are alumni of colleges that are
members of UNCF-the United Negro College
Fund, the nation’s largest and most effective
higher-education assistance organization for racial/
ethnically diverse students. Today, when a college
degree is what a high-school diploma was to
previous generations, UNCF’s mission has never
been more relevant—and critical—for creating
UNCF lives up to the value expressed in its
well-recognized motto—“A mind is a terrible
thing to waste”®—by providing scholarship support to 8,000 students at 900 colleges across
the country each year and operating funds to 39
member Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). For most of these students, the
dream of walking in the footsteps of Dr. Simmons,
Secretary Herman, Samuel L. Jackson or even Dr.
King would be out of reach without UNCF’s help.
A full 60 percent of students supported by the
organization are the first in their families to attend
college; 62 percent are from families with annual
incomes of less than $25,000.
“When UNCF was founded, the expectation that the nation held for African Americans
in terms of education were different than those
we have today. Their opportunities were separate
and certainly not as expansive,” says Dr. Michael
L. Lomax, UNCF’s president and CEO. “Today, diversity is valued quite differently. The expectations
for African Americans are the same as for anyone
wanting to succeed: If you prepare yourself fully,
get a quality education and become highly skilled,
you can play an important role in our economy
and in our nation.”
Thanks to UNCF’s support for students and
colleges, those roles reach from the boardroom
to the operating room to the research lab, changing as the workplace evolves. Over the past 30
years, as corporate America has expanded opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups,
more are preparing for careers in companies with
the expectation of greater leadership roles.
In addition to undergraduate coursework, they
gain valuable career experience through internships and earn MBAs. UNCF leaders have also
witnessed an increased interest in entrepreneurship among underrepresented students who attend UNCF member schools and receive UNCF
scholarships. At many UNCF schools, business is
the principal major.