ATLANTA >> Oprah Winfrey says she’s giving $13 million to increase a scholarship endowment at a historically black college.
Winfrey announced her plan Monday at Morehouse College in Atlanta, adding to the $12 million she gave to the all-male college in 1989. She was meeting with 47 students who benefit from the existing endowment.
“I was really surprised to learn that it’s been 30 years since I made that $12 million donation to Morehouse, so today, I’d like to add $13 million to that,” Winfrey said as cheers erupted, in a video released by Morehouse.
Morehouse President David Thomas said Winfrey’s endowment has paid to educate nearly 600 students over the past three decades.
The college described the gift as a surprise. Last month, Winfrey also sprung a surprise college donation on an audience, saying she’d give more than $1 million to the United Negro College Fund at a North Carolina fundraiser.
Winfrey’s announcement came weeks after 2,200-student Morehouse announced it would impose an unpaid monthly furlough day for 415 professional employees and stop retirement contributions of 3% of employee salaries. Some jobs will also be eliminated, with the overall cost-cutting effort meant to redirect $3 million to student aid.
Billionaire Robert Smith won wide attention earlier this year when he promised to repay all student and family loans accumulated by Morehouse’s class of 2019. That one-time gift will be worth $34 million, the college said last month.
Thomas said in a statement that he is “feeling hopeful for Morehouse and what it has garnered in terms of philanthropic support with gifts like Oprah’s and Robert Smith’s. I am hopeful that this will also get others to step up with their support of Morehouse, but even more broadly, historically black colleges and universities.”
Many historically black colleges and universities struggle to raise money from private donors, and African American students often accumulate large amounts of debt because their families are not as wealthy as their white peers.