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Grant fills tuition gap at JCSU
$825K Belk Endowment gift for N.C. students
 
Published Friday, April 11, 2014 9:38 am
by Herbert L. White

A grant from the John M. Belk Endowment will help Johnson C. Smith University fill gaps in student financial aid.

JCSU President Ron Carter speaks on ParentPLUS

The gift of $825,000 will provide scholarships to offset a drop in aid due to changes in the federal Parent PLUS loan program. Parent PLUS, which determines eligibility based on a family’s credit history, has disproportionately affected historically black colleges, which serve greater numbers of low-income students. 

The Belk scholarships will go to first-generation college students who graduate from North Carolina high schools. Forty-five percent of JCSU’s 1,300 students are the first in their family to attend college.

“We recognize that for many first-generation college students, the cost of higher education is out of reach,” said M.C. Pilon, chair of the John M. Belk Endowment. “Our mission is to increase their access to higher education so they can get the skills they need to succeed – and to boost the quality of North Carolina’s workforce.”          

According to the Department of Education, of the 57,542 Parent PLUS applications considered in 2013, 39,206 – 68 percent – were declined. As a result, 101,740 fewer African-American students enrolled in college, including 14,616 at historically black campuses according to the Association for Public and Land-Grant Universities.

“Those changes impacted literally hundreds of thousands of minority students and their parents,” JCSU president Ronald Carter said. “It was devastating to see students standing in line to register for their classes to step out of line because they could not close that gap.”

Approximately 85 percent of JCSU students receive some form of financial aid and 70 percent come from low-income families. Nearly 300 JCSU students who qualified for Parent PLUS in the 2012-13 academic year were kicked off the program, which led to staff layoffs. A combination of JCSU reserve funding and a $2.5 million grant from the Duke Endowment financed the return of 180 students.

The John M. Belk Endowment is a private foundation that partners with N.C. colleges to create education opportunities for low-income and underrepresented students.

 

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