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The United Negro College Fund has been under fire for taking money from any available source. But the organization has struggled to find funding to support the many Historically Black Colleges and Universities in America that are under severe financial strain.
UNCF President Michael Lomax has taken criticism for accepting a large donation from Charles and David Koch, two billionaire brothers who recently gave $25 million to the organization.
The gift is the fifth largest ever received, and might be its most controversial. A total of $18.5 million will go to 3,000 merit-based scholarships for black students, and $6.5 million will go to support HBCUs and the UNCF itself.
The move to accept the money has ruffled the feathers of the Democratic Party, which depends heavily on African Americans as key constituents. But the organization’s president, Michael Lomax, says that he’s OK with the scrutiny.
“Criticism is a small price for helping young people get the chance to realize their dream of a college education, and if I’ve got to bear the brunt of someone else’s criticism to ensure that we have the resources to help those students, then I can handle it, and I can take the heat,” Lomax said.
Lomax says that he had lunch with the Koch brothers and that they had a great deal in common.
“We talked about students. We talked about the kinds of support they need. We talked about the shared belief that there are a lot of talented young people there whose lives will be transformed if they get a chance to complete a college degree,” Lomax said.
In a statement, David Koch said that “increasing well-being by helping people improve their lives has long been our focus. We have tremendous respect for UNCF and we are hopeful this investment will further its effectiveness in helping students pursue their dreams.”
The Kochs have been criticized for being heavily anti-Obama and funding political action committees that support staunchly conservative causes. The men have been accused of buying elections and working to reshape the American political landscape into one that is anti-regulation and pro-privatization. They are also the ones who funded the Citizens United case, The Tea Party Movement and other political acts that have created struggles for the first black president.
You can watch this video to see some of the worst criticism of the Koch brothers. But we also ask: Does the UNCF have to take sides in this political game, or can they take money from whoever they’d like? If the Democrats wanted more black loyalty, could they have done more to help struggling HBCUs?