The United Negro College Fund announced a $25 million grant Friday from Koch Industries Inc. and the Charles Koch Foundation — a large donation from the conservative powerhouse Koch name that Democrats have sought to vilify heading into the 2014 midterm elections.
The UNCF, known for its iconic motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” supports historically black colleges and universities and provides scholarships.
From the donation, $18.5 million will go toward nearly 3,000 merit-based scholarships to African-American students, and $6.5 million will go toward general support for historically black colleges and universities and the UNCF.
African-Americans are a key constituency within the Democratic Party. But Michael Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF, said that since the organization’s inception in 1944, it has reached out to people of all backgrounds for support without an “ideological lens” because it is in everyone’s interest. The organization has awarded $100 million in scholarships to more than 12,000 students at 900 schools this year alone, but he said the need is so great that the organization turns away nine out of every 10 applicants, or about 100,000 students annually.
He said that in today’s politically charged climate, he’s prepared to take criticism from those of different political leanings than the Kochs.
“Criticism is a small price for helping young people get the chance to realize their dream of a college education, and if I’ve got to bear the brunt of someone else’s criticism to ensure that we have the resources to help those students, then I can handle it, and I can take the heat,” Lomax said.
Lomax said he and Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, based in Wichita, Kansas, had lunch together and were able to find that we “shared a profound belief in the importance of education.”
In a statement, Koch said that “increasing well-being by helping people improve their lives has long been our focus” and that the partnership will provide promising students with new educational opportunities.
“We have tremendous respect for UNCF and we are hopeful this investment will further its effectiveness in helping students pursue their dreams,” Koch said.
Historically black colleges and universities, which serve a disproportionately large share of low-income students, have been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn. Among the issues: a lack of healthy endowments, a high unemployment rate among black Americans and tougher credit standards implemented by the Education Department that make it harder to secure a federal Parent PLUS loan used by many of these students’ families.
Read more at The Huffington Post