“We want to be in a position by 2030 where we are close to, if not have achieved, that status,” Wilson said in an interview. “We’re very excited about that.”
Scott also donated money to other schools in the Washington region. The gifts include a $25 million donation to Bowie State University and $20 million to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, officials from both schools said Tuesday.
She also announced multimillion-dollar donations to Virginia State and Norfolk State universities in Virginia, as well as to several Hispanic- and Indigenous-serving schools throughout the country.
Scott pledged last year to give away most of her wealth. Her former husband, Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.
Scott announced in July the first round of donations — $1.7 billion — which included a $40 million gift to Howard University. She updated that commitment Tuesday by unveiling $4 billion in donations to 384 schools and organizations that are committed to racial and gender equity, and that have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, she announced in a Medium blog post.
“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” Scott wrote. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”
Scott urged others to support almost 400 organizations — including food banks and domestic violence helplines — “operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates and low access to philanthropic capital.”
Morgan State and other HBCUs have traditionally been neglected by big donors, leaders said. And a public underinvestment has created disparities that affect the way these schools operate.
Maryland lawmakers this year moved to end a 13-year-old lawsuit over inequitable funding at HBCUs by approving legislation to provide $580 million over 10 years to the state’s four historically Black schools. But Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed the bill in May, citing the costly impact of the pandemic on the state.
“It’s been very challenging to remain competitive when we need the help with our infrastructure, we need the help with growing and expanding and creating new, innovative programs,” said Aminta H. Breaux, president of Bowie State, adding that the Scott gift will be used to bolster the school’s endowment. “It’s been challenging to do that when, historically, we’ve not been on an even playing field.”
Officials said the disparities are felt when universities determine how many scholarships they can provide or how much research they can produce. Roughly a quarter of Morgan State’s more than 7,700 students are the first in their families to attend college, Wilson said. More than half qualify for federal Pell grants for students from low-income families, education data shows.
Morgan State is “devoted to the urban condition, looking at what is happening in marginalized communities, in urban spaces and bringing forward evidence-based research,” Wilson said, but the funding needed to support those efforts has historically been missing.
So far, no historically Black university has reached R1 status, a distinction that denotes “very high research activity,” according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which groups schools based on research activity.
But the Scott gift gives Wilson hope that will change.
“It’s about time that [philanthropists] figure out how to invest in HBCUs in a way that the Carnegies, the Mellons, the du Ponts, the Rockefellers did a hundred or so years ago,” Wilson said. “There is a great opportunity for investment in this institution, and Ms. Scott is saying that publicly.”