By Frederick H. Lowe
Special to the NNPA from The North Star News & Analysis
The ultra-conservative Koch Brothers have announced that they have donated $25 million to the United Negro College Fund, whose members include 37 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The donation from the Koch Industries Inc. and the Charles Koch Foundation will provide nearly 3,000 merit-based awards to African-American undergraduate, graduate and post-doctorate students.
Key elements of the donation include:
- $18.5 million is directed to the UNCF/ Koch Scholars Program and its administration. Funds will be provided for exemplary students with demonstrated financial need and an interest in the study of entrepreneurship, economics and innovative ways to contribute to well-being of individuals, communities and society. The funds also will be used to provide an annual summit, mentorship opportunities and school programs;
- $6.5 million is provided for general support to HBCUs and the UNCF, with $4 million set aside for the 37 UNCF –member schools, HBCUs and their students to provide financial relief related to the Parent PLUS loan crisis.
The UNCF has published a 20-page report titled “The Parent Plus Loan Crisis: An Urgent Crisis Facing Students at the Nation’s HBCUs,” which stated that restrictive U.S. Department of Education guidelines have made it difficult, if not impossible, for needy students to attend HBCUs.
“America faces an ever-increasing need for college-educated African Americans and other Americans of color,” the report said. “But instead of making college more accessible to low-income, minority students, the U.S. Department of Education has erected barriers with unnecessarily restrictive eligibility criteria.” Because of the restrictions, HBCUs lost $156 million in PLUS loan funds, a 35 percent reduction, during the 2012-2013 academic year, the report stated.
Charles Koch, chairman of CEO of Koch Industries, said, “Increasing well-being by helping people improve their lives has long been our focus. Our partnership with UNCF will provide promising students with new educational opportunities that will help them reach their full potential.”
Michael Lomax, chairman and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, said hopefully the new commitment from Koch Industries and the Charles Koch Foundation will spur others to donate to the UNCF.
So what does this all mean? The Koch Brothers, who are billionaires, are riding to the rescue of the UNCF, whose member colleges have been suffering under misdirected guidelines put together by the U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama.
At the same time, the Koch Brothers have spent millions of dollars supporting groups like Americans for Prosperity that have worked to suppress African-American voter turnout.
Koch Industries is based in Wichita, Kan., and the Charles Koch Foundation supports college, universities and other non-profit organizations.