MacKenzie Scott was married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for 25 years before their divorce in 2019. In April of that year, Bezos and Scott reached a settlement in their divorce that gave her a four percent stake in Amazon, valued at $38.3 billion at the time.
She vowed to give billions away–and has. In July and December 2020, Scott announced $5.8 billion in gifts to colleges and various nonprofit and charitable organizations, The Washington Post reported. Of that, $800 million went to institutions of higher education, with Historically Black Colleges and Universities getting substantial amounts. The charitable donations to HBCUs by Scott, who still had a net worth of $27 billion as of December 2022, were doled out in two parts.
So where did the money go? What are the HBCUs doing with the Bezos millions?
In July, MacKenzie Scott Gave $150 million to HBCUs to six schools: Xavier University, Tuskegee University, Hampton University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Howard University. Then she donated more to a slew of HBCUs in December.
The private, New Orleans-based school received a donation of $20 million. It marked the largest individual gift the university has ever received. According to the school’s administration, a major reason many students don’t finish at Xavier is finances. Half of its students receive Pell Grants, the federal program that gives grants to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial needs. “These students were one of the biggest priorities for the donation, so three-fourths — $15 million — was put into an endowment for need-based scholarships that Verret hopes will yield around $600,000 to $700,000 a year. These funds are already being allocated to returning students and first-year students in the incoming class,” reported The Plug. Scott’s transformative donation has also helped fund Xavier’s summer pre-college programs, with $1 million now allocated to them. Additionally, the school put $2 million into recruiting and retaining faculty, and another $2 million has gone to the unrestricted general fund.
$20 million went to Tuskegee, the largest single donation in the school’s history. The university announced the funds would go to student scholarships, faculty and curriculum development, interdisciplinary programs, and infrastructure improvements. President Lily D. McNair said, the unrestricted donation said she envisioned the gift being used to support four broad areas at Tuskegee: Increasing student access Strengthening signature programs Advancing research and innovation Preserving the university’s legacy “We will focus on student scholarships, faculty and curriculum development, interdisciplinary programs, and campus infrastructure improvements,” she said, according to a news release. “The gift will allow us to become the Tuskegee of the 21st century – a university that integrates knowledge, leadership, and service to solve the problems of a global, modern society.” No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
It received a $40 million gift— the largest single private donation in its history. “This monumental gift will change lives and shape futures,” President David Wilson said in a news release. “The unrestricted funds will be used to support university efforts essential to student success as well as to advance research and investments in other mission-focused priorities and initiatives.” No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
Scott donated $30 million to Hampton. It was the school’s most significant single gift. Plans were to use the money for the university’s cancer institute, Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, new scholarships, and supporting upgrades to the campus’ tech and laboratories. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
$20 million went to Spelman. Some of the money was allotted to beefing up its tech infrastructure and improving academic facilities. Funding will also go towards the “college’s goal of supporting scholarly and creative excellence by bolstering its technological infrastructure; developing new sources of revenue; promoting curricular innovations that enhance the competitiveness of Spelman students,” according to the school’s website. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
$20 million went to the men’s college. “This $20 million gift to Morehouse will help the College to build capacity and invest in strategic academic programs to enrich the experiences of the men of Morehouse,” Monique Dozier, vice president of the Office of Institutional Advancement, said at the time. “This gift will help Morehouse to lay the foundation for the campus of the 21st century and continue the important work we do to produce graduates who effect positive change in their communities, the nation, and the world,” David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College, said. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
A donation of $40 million went to Howard and was the largest gift from a single donor to the school. “We plan to immediately put this eight-figure gift to good use to support components of our 5-year strategic plan to help students graduate on time, retain our talented faculty, enhance our campus infrastructure, and support academic innovation and entrepreneurship,” Wayne Frederick, President of Howard University, said in a statement at the time. Howard also said it would put some of the money towards its student retention programs that match funds for Pell Grant students and give extra support for students from low-income families, the Graduation & Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) Grant, Watch The Yard reported. On top of this, Howard planned to implement a new faculty development plan, develop a program focused on social innovation and entrepreneurship, and enhance campus infrastructure. And it wanted to renovate its steam plant system, The Plug reported. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
The $25 million donation from novelist and philanthropist Scott was the largest single gift in the school’s history. Said Alcorn President Felecia M. Nave in a press release, “It will more than double the size of our endowment. The gift will allow the University to enhance its academic offerings and make much-needed investments to continue Alcorn’s mission as the nation’s first public, historically Black, land-grant university.” No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
The school received the largest gift when Scott donated $25 million. The school said the donation would go to “ensure the long-term viability of the institution, enabling investment in student financial support, advances in academic excellence and innovation, and substantial increases in the university endowment,” according to a news release from the school. No update on how the funds have been used.
The school received an unprecedented $20 million boost, the largest gift. The school said it would support student retention, sustainability, community workforce and economic development. “The historic donation will be used to bolster Claflin’s teaching and learning; expand access to scholarships; increase the endowment to foster long-term sustainability; and support workforce and economic development,” a release stated. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
$15 million went to CAU. President George T. French, Jr. announced, “This transformational gift will enable the University to strengthen our academic programs; support academic innovation initiatives; enhance our campus infrastructure; provide scholarship support to students; and, build on our endowment.” No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
The school received $20 million from Scott. It was to be earmarked for “specific strategic investments to grow the University, extend its intellectual capital to help solve some of the global community’s most pressing problems, and enhance sustainability for generations to come.” Among the plans, the money was to be a “healthy investment into the University’s endowment which will open up additional scholarship opportunities for students while simultaneously increasing the institution’s financial resiliency in the face of future challenges like the covid-19 pandemic,” according to the school’s website. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
A $15 million gift from Scott marked the largest gift from a single donor in the university’s nearly 130-year history. Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon said the gift would help ECSU support strategic initiatives such as academic excellence, student experience, athletic success, and faculty and staff development. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
Dcott donated $20 million to Lincoln. “This transformational gift will allow us to sustain that legacy, reimagine the future of our University, and deepen our investments in students, who will, in turn, make positive impacts in their communities and society at large,” President Brenda A. Allen said. Lincoln announced it would use the gift to support its strategic plan centered around student success. Specifically, Scott’s gift will support new investments in teaching, research, and faculty development. The gift was also to be used to bolster the Brenda A. Allen Need-Based Scholarship Fund, which exists to close the financial gap that more than 65 percent of Lincoln University students face in covering their annual tuition. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
It received the largest individual donation in its history when Scott gifted $40 million to the school. The gift, the school said, would underwrite the university’s investment into key initiatives and programs. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
The school said it would use its $40 million gift to enhance its endowment, increase student scholarship opportunities, and pursue workforce and economic development activities. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
The school received $45 million. The university announced at the time it would invest the money in four major areas: Student Success, these programs that promote the enrollment, retention and timely graduation of students, as well as direct support for students in financial need; Preparation for the Workplace, which focuses on developing workplace-ready skills that enhance graduates’ success in first-destination jobs and advancement over the course of their careers; Civic Responsibility and Engagement, which is devoted to expanding initiatives that encourage students to give back to their communities, engage in the broader world and assume a mantle of leadership as graduates; Academic Programs, significant funding was slated to go to A&T’s academic programs No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
Scott gave $50 million and the school decided to designate $10 million of the total to create the Panther Success Grant Program. The Panther Success Grant assists juniors and seniors with unpaid balances created by the financial challenges posed by covid-19. The university also planned to allocate remaining funds to the university endowment to support high priority academic needs, including endowed faculty positions, faculty recruitment and faculty development, improvements in academic areas, undergraduate scholarships, and graduate fellowships. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
The school got a $6 million gift from Scott–the single largest gift from an individual donor in its history. The school said the gift will be placed in the newly established Preserving and Advancing Excellence Fund and will be used to support major initiatives at the college. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
The university got $30 million from Scott. There were no details on how it was to use its gift. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
The school received its largest single gift in its history of $4 million from Scott. “Her gift will be used in a variety of ways to include scholarship dollars for students, financial support to non-traditional and international students, healthcare for employees, facility upgrades and deferred maintenance, and the establishment of endowed chairs,” Voorhees College President W. Franklin Evans said. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
Scott’s donation was the largest in its 128-year history. The school said the gift would be strategically invested to meet the University’s highest priorities. No update on how the funds have ultimately been used.
As we can see, Jeff Bezos’s $100 million gift to many universities in the United States has far-reaching benefits. The funds will help increase access to education for a greater number of students, improve campus infrastructure, and create new economic opportunities for communities. Additionally, the investment will support research and innovation, promoting scientific discoveries and solutions to global challenges. Most importantly, Bezos’s gift will promote social equity by ensuring that more students from underprivileged backgrounds have access to higher education. All in all, this generous contribution has the potential to transform the lives of countless students and communities for the better.
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Not All the Same: Although HBCU's are frequently lumped together, contrary to popular belief, all HBCU's are not the same. →
When the Morrill Land-Grant Act was passed (1862) only Alcorn State University in Mississippi was open to African-Americans.