Bennett College gets a $1 million lifeline from High Point University

It looks like Bennett College will reach its $5 million goal.

High Point University announced in February it is standing with Bennett with a gift of $1 million. This is the biggest donation Bennett has received since it began its aggressive fundraising effort in an effort to hold onto its accreditation.

The HPU gift raises Bennett's fundraising total to $4.8 million. Bennett officials said this amount doesn't include a flood of contributions in previous weeks as well as other significant gifts that the college hasn't yet made public.

Bennett President Phyllis Worthy Dawkins said she's sure the college will hit its fundraising target.

Bennett College is one of the black colleges supported by the Black College Fund which provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities.

"Bennett will cross this chasm successfully," HPU President Nido Qubein said. "We as a neighbor school cannot stand by and let Bennett just somehow go down a valley that's less than extraordinary."

Bennett College students celebrate at a press conference about HPU's $1 million contribution to Bennett College's fundraising campaign at High Point University in High Point, N.C., on Friday, February 1, 2019.

"All I can say is wow, wow, …" said Dawkins, who had on the same blue "Stand With Bennett" T-shirt that her students and many other supporters have worn since mid-December. "I am overwhelmed by the support."

Dawkins said she met Qubein shortly after she became Bennett's interim president in 2016. The two have kept in touch, and Qubein, she said, was one of the first college leaders to call her in December after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges decided to revoke Bennett's accreditation. Commission officials said Bennett fell short of its standards for having sufficient financial resources.

Colleges must be accredited to accept federal Pell Grants and student loans as payment for tuition, fees and other expenses. Non-accredited colleges often close. Bennett has appealed the commission's ruling and remains accredited for now.

Dawkins asked Qubein and N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin to pull together a meeting of area college presidents to talk about Bennett's plight. Qubein said he came away from that lunch meeting at Bennett with admiration for the grit and determination of the college's president, the professional achievements of its graduates and the college's history and unusual spot in the higher education landscape.

Qubein said he and other college leaders also were impressed by the fundraising campaign. This grass-roots effort attracted media attention, a few celebrity endorsements — and then thousands of donations from alumnae, friends, churches, sororities and numerous other groups from across North Carolina and the nation.

"We were moved by the situation Bennett was in," Qubein said. "As one of our faculty members said today, there but by the grace of God could go any one of us."

Bennett's biggest previous donations during its fundraising blitz came Jan. 24, when The Papa John's Foundation in Kentucky and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem announced separate $500,000 donations.

Donations flooded in after that.

Bennett leaders all along have said they're confident that the college will meet their fundraising goal and convince the commission to reverse its decision.

John Newsom, News & Record, Greensboro, NC

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Black College Fund provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities at 11 United Methodist-related historically black colleges and universities. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Black College Fund apportionment at 100 percent.