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Black College Fund Still Great Investment for The United Methodist Church

Education continues to be the great equalizer in our society, and for almost 150 years, having an educated laity and clergy has been important and critical to the future of The United Methodist Church, and to the future of our world. The Black College Fund is an important tool in achieving that goal. One of the biggest challenges facing the 11 United Methodist-related historically Black colleges is funding — funding for faculty development, funding to maintain infrastructure, and funding for students who need financial support and scholarships.

To meet that challenge, United Methodists give to the Black College Fund apportionment. In recent years, the percent of support for the BCF has been between 87 percent and 89 percent, even during the economic downturn. To support this important ministry of education, leadership, and spiritual development, however, 100 percent support is critical!

Another challenge is the belief that Black colleges are no longer needed because students can go anywhere they choose to pursue a college degree. While that may be true of students from the best schools with the best scores and no financial constraints, the UM-related Black colleges and universities offer a chance to everyone with a dream and a commitment to excel – regardless of race, class, gender, or ethnic heritage.

The work these schools do is not just impressive; it is critical because many of these students would fall through the cracks and never earn a college degree though they have the intellectual capacity to do so. These schools are a good source of diverse leadership for the church’s agencies, boards, annual conferences, and higher education institutions. Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, president emeritus of Dillard University in New Orleans, writes, “Black colleges are also sources and catalysts of leadership for the church, culture, and the professions, as well as shining examples of cultural pluralism, educational diversity, integrity, justice, humanistic consciousness and ethical sensitivity, and the liberal arts tradition. They effectively and passionately bridge the communities of faith and learning.”

Cooper Knew he Wanted to Attend a Black College

When it was time for Kevin Cooper to begin his college search, he knew exactly what he wanted. “I went down to the public library and got information on all the historically Black colleges in the U.S. Then I started my campus visits. When I got to Philander Smith College, I knew I’d found the place for me,” Cooper says.

It was the Southern hospitality at the school in Little Rock, Ark., that made the difference, according to this Maryland native. “Right away, I felt at home. People were kind and helpful. They seemed, right from the first, to care about me,” he says.

Cooper made the most of his time at Philander Smith. He was a music major, turned English major, turned Black family studies major, and a resident adviser in the student-residence halls. He was president of the student body for two years running and says he enjoyed the “political process of getting things done.”

Deciding to go to Philander Smith, a United Methodist-related historically Black college, was the best decision he could have made, Cooper says. “I’ve come to know many of my professors personally, and the quality of my education reflects that. I don’t know of many schools where individual students have ready access to the college president, but that was certainly true  at Philander. Dr. Walter Kimbrough, our president, had a unique way of empowering students that convinced me I was capable of just about anything I set myself to do,” Cooper said.

When asked about the benefits of getting his education at a historically Black college, Cooper answers, without hesitating, “Leadership development and spiritual growth. These two have been central in my college education, and they have become central to my life.”

That is the importance, Cooper asserts, of supporting the historically Black colleges. “They turn out good citizens, good leaders, and people of character. I’ve been changed by my time at Philander Smith. And I will carry that throughout the rest of my life.”

The Black College Fund Leads the Way

One of the most powerful and significant ways The United Methodist Church makes quality education available for all is in its support of the 11 historically Black colleges and universities related to the church — the largest number of Black colleges and universities supported by any church body in the United States. The faculty and staff of Black colleges are committed to helping everyone with a dream excel regardless of race, class, gender, or ethnic heritage.

Many of these students, often the first in their family to go to college, would fall through the cracks and never get the college degree they are capable of earning if not for The United Methodist Church’s historically Black colleges.

A Legacy of Leadership

These Black colleges and universities, far out of proportion to their numbers and financial resources, are responsible for educating some of the world’s most effective and popular leaders. That impressive cadre includes preachers, district superintendents, bishops, college professors and presidents, general agency staff, legislators, and community leaders. Among the well-known graduates of these Black colleges and universities are Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the first African American and the second woman to serve as the United States Surgeon General, and James L. Farmer Jr., a Civil Rights leader who helped found the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Elders graduated from Philander Smith in 1952, and Farmer graduated from Wiley College in 1938.

These schools and their graduates have a rich legacy of service and are a source of great pride and humanity in their communities.

Supporting the Black College Fund

Ninety percent of Black college students qualify for financial aid, so support of special offerings like United Methodist Student Day, which provides funds for loans and scholarships, is important – as well as support of the Black College Fund itself.

Less than 5 percent of the fund goes for overhead and administration expenses. The church has been supporting the Black College Fund at about 87 percent to 89 percent. In 2012, United Methodists gave $9.4 million which was 89.8 percent of the apportionment. Encourage your church to give faithfully to the Black College Fund, so this vital program can continue to provide educated leaders for the church and the world.

Students at historically Black colleges say, “Here, I’m more than a number.” “Here, the professors know me, and I know them.” “Here, I feel challenged to do my best.”

The colleges supported by the Black College Fund keep tuition relatively low so students with modest incomes may attend. And, these colleges are and always have been open to all.

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