Bowie State University plans to use a $25 million gift it received from MacKenzie Scott to grow its endowment, which will offer more financial help to students, enhance existing programs and create new ones, the college president said.
Generations to come will benefit from this gift from MacKenzie Scott, said Bowie State University President Aminta Breaux.The donation marks the largest single private donation in the university’s history.
Scott, a philanthropist and author, said in a post on Medium announcing gifts to many organizations that totaled more than $4.16 billion. Her team started with a list of nearly 6,500 organizations, which they culled to about 822. Then they dug into evidence of impact, management and other factors before choosing 384 organizations.
Breaux got a notification two months ago that the institution was under consideration.
“To have it finally come about this week is really exciting and especially during this holiday season, this a great gift,” Breaux said. “It was difficult to not mention it for months because it is the greatest gift we ever received to the university and it is historic for us.”
Breaux is ready to move forward with new initiatives and a strategic plan called, “Racing toward excellence.” She said this gift helps the university advance quickly with its plan.
Most of the funding will be used to grow the school’s endowment fund, which was just over $9 million before Scott’s gift.
“Growing the endowment has been a priority for me and it allows us to have a larger spend to put more scholarships for students. The growing also allows us to sustain the university for the long-term viability for the institution,” Breaux said. “We are planning for tomorrow not just looking how we can spend today. Preserving the university long after I leave is the plan.”
Bowie State is Maryland’s oldest historically Black university, with 6,250 students this semester. It offers 23 undergraduate degree programs as well as graduate programs offering master’s and doctorate degrees.
“It is rewarding the impact it will have on students and families who are seeking to come to Bowie State. There are many students who want to come that struggle financially, so for me it brings great joy to know that we will be able to help more students,” Breaux said.
Breaux sees the donations to HBCUs as a recognition of the value that they have provided over 150 years.
“It signals that we need to raise awareness and support our HBCUs and that you have to give to these universities on the list,” Breaux said. “We are worth the investment because of our mission and our return on the investment.”
HBCUs comprise of 3% of higher education institutions in the country but produce 20% of the African American graduates and 25% of graduates in the STEM field, according to Breaux.
Enrollment is up 1.3% and the first year student class is up 20%, which is the highest in the state among public colleges/universities, according to Breaux. The university spends 4% of the endowment on scholarships annually, so this gift will increase the amount offered in coming years.
This gift will not go to building any new infrastructures on campus, Breaux said. It will be used to enhance academic programs and add new ones. The STEM program, nursing and cybersecurity are a few programs that Breaux would like to enhance. One growing program has been the entrepreneurship academy and a new building coming in July will house it.
“We want to develop more certificate programs and badges for those who have to meet the changing needs of the environment. We want to ensure we continue to provide those credentials that are known as stackable credentials,” she said.
Breaux is hoping the university garners more support to enhance infrastructure for upgrades and renovations. Breaux believes this gift from Scott was a leadership gift and Scott wants others to step up and see the impact they can have by donating to one of these organizations.
“We are looking for this to spur on other’s giving because there is additional need at Bowie State,” Breaux said. “Scott wants others to follow her in her example and donate to the university and to the other organizations. She is leading the way.”
In May, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a bill that would disburse $580 million to the state’s historically Black colleges and universities that would have settled a long-running lawsuit over inequitable funding.
Breaux said this gift helps with academic programs but it doesn’t address the ruling that HBCUs were underfunded from the state. She would like the state to bring closure to the ruling and ensure those funds address the historic underfunding.
“This underfunding has brought the disparity of need that we have. To ensure we remain competitive in the marketplace and providing opportunities to students to realize their credentials, it is hard to remain competitive when it is that history and the court has ruled as such,” Breaux said.
The 2020 year for Bowie State has been a year of growth and challenges for the president but she is proud to be leading the university to the new year. Going into the new year Breaux is expecting to “springboard” from this gift to new opportunities. Breaux plans to do a hybrid model for students in the spring semester.