Billionaire author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott on Tuesday announced that she is giving $2.7 billion in unrestricted grants to 287 nonprofit organizations – including 21 community colleges and several community college-related groups – working in areas that have been neglected.
The new round of gifts follows the nearly $4.2 billion to 384 organizations, including a dozen community colleges, that Scott made in December to help communities most in need due to the effects of the pandemic.
Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett, announced the most recent round of giving on Medium.com and explained the reasons for the choices. The couple wanted to support high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked. That includes higher education.
“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote.
The gifts are unrestricted to let the organizations – which were rigorously vetted like those selected in December – do what they do best, Scott said.
“Because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose,” she wrote.
A pleasant surprise
Most of the selected community colleges are in Texas (eight) and California (seven). The others are in Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, New York and Washington state. For most of the colleges, the multi-million-dollar gifts are the largest gifts they have received from a private donor. San Antonio College (SAC), which last month received $600,000 for winning the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, will receive $15 million.
“We are elated at this news,” SAC President Robert Vela, who also serves on the board of directors of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), said in a press release. “Just as we are catching our breath after being named the nation’s number-one community college, this donation takes us to yet another level of amazement, excitement, pride – and gratitude. This investment in SAC’s mission of service will have an enormous long-term impact on the future of our students and the San Antonio community. We are so thankful to Ms. Scott for her belief in us and we are deeply grateful for her generosity.”
The Texas college shared how it plans to use the funds:
- $5 million for Alamo Promise and need-based student scholarships
- $4.5 million for various student-focused centers to provide essential student supports outside the classroom
- $3.5 million for academic and instructional supports, including badging/micro-credentialing, faculty development and the nursing programs
- $2 million for general institutional reserve
“We weren’t expecting it, and it came at just the right time so we could put programs like 21Forward in place to help the students in East Harris County who made it through their senior year,” said Chancellor Brenda Hellyer. “These students were impacted by Covid, yet they persisted and graduated. We are honored to be able to use a portion of this gift to help students stay on their higher education pathway.”
SJC is developing plans for the rest of the gift amount.
Results of hard work
Long Beach City College (LBCC) will receive $30 million that it will use to:
- improve student academic outcomes by addressing racial equity gaps
- engage in race-conscious and equity-minded practices that promote an inclusive and affirming campus environment
- increase holistic support services for our most vulnerable students
In a press release, the California college noted some of its equity and racial justice accomplishments:
- Initiating strategies to create a more inclusive campus and programs that address issues that may take place beyond the classroom, including its Cultural Curriculum Audit and the Strong Beach Bus Pass Pilot Program.
- In the last three years, students transferring to a four-year institution increased by 16%. For Black students, the increase was 51% and Latinx students 19%.
- In the last five years, the number of degrees earned by students increased by 97%. The rate jumped by 119% for Black students and 125% for Latinx students.
- Black males matriculating from high school to LBCC increased by 25% from fall 2019 to fall 2020.
- Over the past decade, completion of transfer-level English has increased by 330%, with completions by Black students increasing by 433% and Latinx students increasing by 499%. The equity gap in completion rates between Latinx, White and Asian students has completely closed in the last year.
- In the past 10 years, completion of transfer-level math has increased by 149%, with completions by Black students increasing by 271% and completions by Latinx students increasing by 281%.
“It hasn’t been easy to have those hard and uncomfortable conversations about institutional racism within Long Beach City College,” said Interim Superintendent-President Mike Muñoz. “We acknowledged that we need to dismantle the barriers that sometimes prevent our most vulnerable students from succeeding. These courageous efforts made by our students and employees and led by our board of trustees are being recognized and validated. I hope this gift inspires those who may be uncertain about changing the status quo to join our institutional movement from being color blind to a race-conscious approach.”
California’s Porterville College, which will receive $7 million, gave kudos to Scott for recognizing the financial need of the selected organizations to do their work.
“Their efforts to support organizations that can help bridge equity gaps and of institutions often overlooked is to be commended, as it will lift up traditionally marginalized and low-income populations,” said President Claudia Lourido-Habib.
The college plans to consult with various stakeholders on how to use the funds.
“We have a unique opportunity to make an investment in our students and fulfill our mission,” Lourido-Habib said. “We will be thoughtful and purposeful as we plan how to apply this grant in initiatives we could not have funded otherwise.”
Amarillo College President Russell Lowery-Hart also expressed being overwhelmed by Scott’s generous philanthropy. The Texas college will receive $15 million.
“The majority of our students – working women of color with children – live in the war zone of poverty and just need a college and community to systemically love them to success,” Lowery-Hart said in a release. “This gift will ensure that Amarillo College can freely continue to reimagine education and remove even more barriers for students.”
Other AACC-member colleges that will receive gifts (and amounts, if available at our press time) include:
Broward College ($30 million)
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College ($20 million)
Hostos Community College ($15 million)