There are very few college scholarships that can boast that one of the most prominent figures of the 20th century was a beneficiary of their fund. But that’s just what the United Negro College Fund can do.

And just who was that man? It was Martin Luther King, Jr. Is there any better argument to support the existence of scholarships to help gifted but disadvantaged students win African-American scholarships?

The man who gave the “I Have a Dream” speech attended college with the help of the United Negro College Fund. How could he do that? Some prominent and influential black leaders had a dream too. That dream was to give African-American children who wanted to attend college the financial resources to do so.

The result has been nothing short of spectacular. Over 350,000 have earned degrees at historically black colleges and universities using money provided by the United Negro College Fund.

Each year the UNCF gives over $100 million for African-American scholarships. The fund is open to other minorities as well.

Fully 93% of those who receive money from UNCF qualify for financial aid—62% have annual incomes of less than $25,000. But where does all the money come from?

There are generous donors who support this mostly African-American scholarship fund. In fact, John F. Kennedy donated his Pulitzer Prize money and the fund once received a donation of $50 million.

Mostly, though, there is a lot of fundraising to help support the cause. The most prominent annual event is the Evening of the Stars, an event that gives wide visibility to the mission of the United Negro College Fund.

The target audience for the UNCF is African-American students who need financial help to attend college. On average more than 60,000 students a year receive financial help.

With the sheer number of African-American scholarship students receiving funds through UNCF each year, it has become the first and often best place to start looking for financial aid for college for many African-American students. There is absolutely no reason not to take advantage of this opportunity.

In 1972, the UNCF began using, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste” as its motto. Since that time those eight simple words have become a rallying cry in the African-American community. And, despite the increase in college attendees, there is still work to be done.

That’s where the UNCF becomes so vitally important. Its mission to end college funding inequities has succeeded on a grand scale. But they are not finished yet.

Headquartered in Virginia, the UNCF administers over four hundred fellowships and scholarship programs. Is this enough?

Ironically, one of the key issues with minority scholarship funds is simply educating those in the community about the availability of financial aid. Sadly, many in the African-American community dismiss the idea of going to college because they believe they can’t afford it.

This is exactly why the United Negro College Fund plays such an important role in higher education. Part of fulfilling its mission is just getting the word out. When the African-American community becomes aware of just how much the UNCF can help, it will become increasingly pro-active in realizing that “A Mind” is indeed “a Terrible Thing to Waste.”

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