Students and administration at Philander Smith College are rejoicing after receiving their largest-ever donation! Get the full story from Jaime Adame at Arkansas Democrat Gazette below.

A $2.5 million gift to Philander Smith College will help close the financial gaps for students at the historically Black college recently ranked as among the nation’s top 10 most accessible schools for lower-income students.

Announced as the largest gift in the Little Rock college’s 144-year history, the money comes from an “anonymous donor,” said Roderick Smothers, the college’s president, in a statement Wednesday.

“This monumental donation will provide tremendous opportunities for our scholars who hail from every walk of life. This gesture not only affects the lives of our students but communities across the nation,” Smothers said.

Scholarships — over 250 to be awarded annually for the next three academic years — will help students “push through to the finish line” and complete their degrees, Smothers added. The new initiative will be known as the Generational Access and Affordability Program.

The college enrolled about 700 students this fall, according to the state Division of Higher Education. For students who entered in the fall of 2014, the six-year graduation rate was 34%, according to federal data.

Carmen Bradford, the college’s marketing coordinator, said Wednesday that the donor is an individual, with no additional information available about their identity.

The same donor in August gave $250,000 to Philander Smith College, also for student scholarships, according to Wednesday’s announcement of the gift.

In recent days, Fort Valley State University in Georgia and Talladega College in Alabama — also historically Black colleges and universities — have announced $2.5 million “anonymous” gifts supporting student scholarships.

Philander Smith College ranked ninth among all colleges nationally in its “access rate” for students coming from households where earnings were $46,000 and below, according to a report published last month from the United Negro College Fund’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute.

The report examined all colleges, finding that historically Black colleges and universities made up four of the top 10 four-year schools as ranked by “access rate,” defined in the report as the percentage of students from what’s considered the bottom 40% of household earnings.

Philander Smith College’s “access rate” was 69.1%, according to the report, which highlighted that historically Black colleges and universities had an average “access rate” of 51.3% compared with a nationwide college average of 22.5%.

The report examined 1,285 colleges, including 50 historically Black colleges and universities. Available data on students born in 1980-82 showed that historically Black colleges and universities — with their larger percentage of lower-income students — also had a higher economic “mobility rate,” defined in the report as the share of a college’s students moving from the bottom 40% in household income into the top 60%.

The new Philander Smith College scholarships will range from $1,500 to $5,000 annually and be given out starting this spring, Bradford said, with award amounts to factor in account balances owed by students.

Amounts will average $3,500 per award, Bradford said.

“We really want them to graduate without them having to take out so many loans,” Bradford said.

Priority for the scholarships will go to students majoring in certain career-focused disciplines that include computer science, criminal justice, business administration, social work, biology and education, Bradford said.

Other criteria for the scholarships include demonstrating a commitment to the college’s social justice mission, according to Wednesday’s announcement.

“We are committed to our mission to graduate academically accomplished students grounded as advocates for social justice, determined to change the world for the better,” Smothers said.