Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, presented a $6 million grant to the presidents of Benedict College, Claflin University and Voorhees College.
At a Thursday press conference at Benedict College, Lomax and the presidents unveiled the Carolina Cluster Career Pathways Program. The program is a collaboration among the three schools to help address the social and economic issues of minority graduation, unemployment and underemployment.
“What’s really exciting here is you have institutions that represent over 4,000 students, in different parts of the state, that can create a unified marketing approach to meet the demands of the South Carolina economy,” Lomax said. “Students can come here, get a great education and go into employment in the state, not have to leave.”
The UNCF Career Pathways Initiative is funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. Claflin will receive $3.3 million, Benedict will receive $1.5 million and Voorhees will receive $1.2 million. A portion of the Claflin grant ($1.8 million) will operate a State Coordinating Office to direct and monitor all of the activities of the awarded institutions.
“This is our collaborative response to America’s need for talent and our graduates desire to be competitive in obtaining high-paying, 21st century jobs,” Claflin president Dr. Henry Tisdale said. “Through the work of the program we will leverage the capacity of our partner institutions and implement innovative strategies designed to nurture the talent of the students on our campuses.”
South Carolina is the state with the largest share of the grant. Lomax said more than 80 eligible schools applied for the grant, including Francis Marion University, but did not make the cut. He said the schools did not have to be Historically Black Colleges or Universities, but any school that was predominantly African American. FMU is 47% African American and 46% white.
“Hopefully what we will see is success with the program, Lilly will expand to other institutions as well,” Lomax said.