Bennett College was on the ropes.
In its second year of probation and in danger of losing its accreditation, enrollment at Bennett had shrunk to just 469 students. And in January, school administrators acknowledged they’d need to come up with $5 million by Feb. 1. Bennett humbly asked for help from any and all quarters.
The short version of the story is that Bennett raised more than $8 million as of this week, and will walk into its re-accreditation hearing an adequately funded school.
The money came in two, three, four and five figures from more than 11,000 private individuals and organizations: Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Wells Fargo Bank, Papa John’s Pizza. High Point University came up with $1 million, and its president Nido Qubein brought another $350,000 or so in checks he raised on the way to the press conference. The artist Kwanza Jones and her partner José E. Feliciano gave $1 million — Jones’ mother and aunt were both Bennett Belles.
Really, the whole thing is just incredible — incredible that support came from so many disparate corners from people who all saw the importance of Bennett and its place in the world today, incredible that all this love was there but for the asking, incredible that in the middle of Reconstruction and through Jim Crow, when black women were the most vulnerable demographic in American society, they were earning college degrees in Greensboro.
It’s incredible that Bennett has survived so much, and in turn has been able to give so much to the world.
We are all winners here. In bearing witness to Bennett’s remarkable resurrection, we have seen something akin to a modern-day miracle.
It’s not over. Bennett’s accreditation hearing takes place next week. At stake is its ability to accept federal student loans, grants and other benefits.
But they’ll show up flush with donor cash and a solid plan to move forward. It will be tough to turn them down.
As we’ve seen: One should never, ever underestimate the power of the Bennett Belles.