ATLANTA—Twenty Morehouse College students began their college careers on the first day of classes last week debt-free, as the recipients of the Dr. Michael L. Lomax Student Success Scholarship.
The award offers students who meet academic achievement and household income criteria full rides to Morehouse College. The scholarship was named in honor of United Negro College Fund (UNCF) chief executive and 1968 Morehouse graduate, Michael Lomax. Funded by a $40-million gift from philanthropists Patty Quillin and Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix, the Lomax Student Success Program Scholarship will allow at least 180 more Morehouse students to graduate debt-free over the next decade.
Quillin and Hastings’ history-making contribution is the largest gift that Morehouse College has received in its l53-year history.
“I would like to congratulate the first recipients of the Lomax Student Success Program Scholarship,” said Morehouse President David A. Thomas. “We have high expectations for those students and for all of the men of Morehouse. We hope that our scholars will rise to the challenges ahead and make this a productive and successful start to the new academic year.
“And as they forge ahead, we, too, will continue our work in helping to identify more donors who can provide liberation gifts that will ease the burden of student loan debt on the men of Morehouse and their families,” Thomas added. “We are committed to making a Morehouse education more affordable for the deserving students who dream of becoming Morehouse Men.”
Quillin and Hastings made the donation establishing new Lomax Scholarship in June because they support Morehouse’s mission, which is to develop men with disciplined minds who are focused on academic excellence, leadership, and service. “Both of us had the privilege of a great education and we want to help more students—in particular students of color—get the same start in life,” the philanthropists have said.
Quillin and Hastings also wanted to invest in Morehouse’s work as the national epicenter for thought leadership on civil rights. Morehouse is committed to helping the nation to address the inequities caused by institutional racism, which have created disparities in income, employment, health, housing, and educational opportunities for people of African descent.
The Morehouse College Student Success Program, launched in 2019 by the Morehouse Board of Trustees, is one step toward addressing the income gap for Black families, who have the lowest median net worth of any racial group, according to the U.S. Census. The debt-erasing Student Success Program scholarship allows Morehouse Men to pursue advanced degrees, start careers, and build wealth without being tethered to undergraduate student loan debt related to their Morehouse education. Under the Student Success Program, Morehouse can solicit and accept donations to reduce or eliminate the student loan debt of Morehouse Men.
America’s student loan debt—now more than $1.5 trillion, according to the U.S. Department of Education—can exacerbate the wealth gap that exists between Black families facing generational poverty and other groups. Economic status can impact loan repayments, also, making it difficult for Black families to dig themselves out of debt, buy homes, and build wealth.
Nationwide, students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are more likely to graduate in debt because the schools disproportionately enroll students from low-income backgrounds who have to rely on federal student loans to pay for tuition. According to UNCF research, 80 percent of HBCU students use federal loans to fund their education, compared to 55 percent of their peers at other private and state institutions.
The average Morehouse student carries a student loan debt that is between $33,000 to $40,000. Sixty percent of Morehouse students live in a household that earns $40,000 or below.
For more information about the Student Success Scholarship Program, click here.