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Duke University announces $100 million gift to expand education access

Duke's campus spans over 8,600 acres in Durham, N.C.
Richard Ricciardi
Duke, via Flickr
The gift will be used for undergraduate and graduate student scholarships.

The Charlotte-based Duke Endowment is giving $100 million to Duke University to help provide scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students. The donation is the largest single award in the university’s history.

Duke University president Vincent Price said the funds will be used to support the school's mission of building a more diverse student body. Part of this mission includes supporting students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The university is designating some of the $100 million gift to Duke graduate and professional students with an undergraduate degree from HBCUs, particularly from North and South Carolina.

“We have the highest concentration of HBCUs right here in this part of the country,” Price told WUNC. “So, this is an opportunity for us to find these tremendously talented students who are coming from HBCUs … to partner in a way that maintains, for generations to come, the kind of leadership that this region of the country will need to move forward.”

The money will also be used to fund Duke’s new financial aid program for undergraduate students.

In June, the university announced that it will provide free tuition for students whose families make less than $150,000 a year. Those that make less than $65,000 will also receive free housing and meals.

The announcement was made about a week before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned affirmative action and was followed by similar commitments from other North Carolina universities.

Price said the financial aid program isn’t a direct response to the Supreme Court's decision — rather, it's Duke’s mission to continue to diversify its student body.

“We do intend to communicate more clearly to students throughout North and South Carolina how much we want them to come and study at Duke University,” Price said. “We want every student — in any kind of high school background or if they’re currently studying at a HBCU – to understand that Duke is a place where they can thrive.”

In addition to providing scholarships and tuition assistance, Duke will also use the money to update its Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke Building. It’s named after one of the first five Black students to attend the university 60 years ago.

The donation comes as Duke University prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024. Price said the $100 million gift will fuel the university’s future.

“(It's important) we meet the needs of an evolving world,” Price said. “We do this through identifying the most diverse and talented population of students we can, making sure that diversity and talent is reflected in our faculty and in our alumni.”

Other initiatives funded by the donation include providing Ph.D. fellowships, matching donor financial aid funds and supporting pro bono work at Duke law school clinics.

Brianna Atkinson is WUNC’s 2024 Fletcher Fellow and covers higher education in partnership with Open Campus.
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