Bennett College, a private women’s college in Greensboro, North Carolina, was has been offered two $500,000 donations. The donations arrive after the college was threatened to be revoked because of a lack of financial resources in recent months.. The two half million dollar donations bring the college over halfway to its fundraising goal of $5 million, which they were hoping to reach by Feb. 1.
The first of the two donations was given by the Papa John’s Foundation, a charity run by the company in charge of the chain pizza restaurant. The second of the two donations was given by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation from Winston-Salem. Both of these donations are the largest the college has received since the start of their fundraising.
“To get (these donations) back to back, it’s overwhelming,” said President of Bennett College Phyllis Worthy Dawkins.
The donation was the first to be made by the Papa John’s Foundation since being scrutinized for blaming NFL player protests for a slowdown in sales. The company founder, John Schnatter, was reported to have used racist language in a conference call, and then resigned from the position of board chairman. The Foundation was created with inclusion and diversity in mind, with its primary goal being to help communities where pizzas are sold.
The other organization, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, is led by former Guilford County Schools Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green. Green is familiar with Bennett College through their Middle College program.
“Our support of Bennett College aligns well with out own values as an organization,” said Green, who believes keeping Bennet open is incredibly important. “As one of the only two historically black women’s colleges in this country, we are blessed to have this treasure in North Carolina. We’re even more fortunate to have it located here in the Triad.”
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges announced in December that the accreditation of Bennett College would be revoked out of concern for insufficient funds and financial resources to remain open. Declines in student enrollment has led to several years of annual budget deficits up until the 2017-18 school year. In the fall of 2018, only 470 students were enrolled.
Accreditation for all colleges, especially Bennett, is crucial because it is a requirement to receive federal grants and student loans to help students pay for tuition, fees and other necessary expenses.
Since the announcement of the possible loss of accreditation, a social media hashtag #StandWithBennett, was created to find potential donors and raise awareness of the college. Dawkins, Bennett College President, has done interviews with local, state and national publications, as well as appearances on radio shows.
On Feb. 1, the last day for Bennett to have completed their fundraising, High Point University donated one million dollars in a last minute attempt to push Bennett closer to its goal. High Point’s donation upped the total fundraising amount to $4.8 million, not including other gifts made before the deadline that have not yet been announced.
Bennett College leaders feel confident that they will find other organizations who will financially support them and will ultimately reach their goal.