MacKenzie Scott, billionaire philanthropist and ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, recently announced she had gifted over $2.73 billion to dozens of universities and nonprofits to support access to higher education for underrepresented populations, including several CUMU member institutions. All donations were given with no restrictions, and in most cases were paid up front.
“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote in a Medium post. She wrote that she and her husband, Dan Jewett, made the donations to enable the recipients to continue their work and as a “signal of trust and encouragement.”
CUMU members Cal Poly Pomona, California State University, Northridge; Florida International University, University of Central Florida, and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) were all recipients.
Cal State Northridge received $40 million, the largest single-donor gift in the university’s history, and plans to use the funds “to eliminate equity pay gaps, diversify the faculty, promote academic excellence and provide holistic student support,” according to university president Erika Beck.
“While one-time dollars cannot be used to support long-term expenses in perpetuity, with a mix of focused spending and investment, we can, and will, use these dollars to transform our campus for generations to come,” Beck said in a statement.
Scott and Jewett recognized UTRGV, the second-largest Hispanic Serving Institution in the country, for its proven ability to transform the lives of underserved students through higher education.
“This is truly a significant day for UTRGV that should be celebrated by all of us. We are extremely grateful to Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett for their incredible generosity,” said UTRGV President Guy Bailey “This gift, and the support we continue to receive from many others, will help UTRGV continue to transform the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.”
This is third round of unrestricted donations Scott and her husband have made in the last year.
In December 2020, Scott surprised several HBCU’s and tribal colleges with donations ranging from $20 million to $50 million. Among those recipients was CUMU member Morgan State University. Scott’s multi-million dollar gift doubled Morgan State’s endowment.
In July 2020, Scott announced $1.7 billion in gifts, including gifts for HBCU’s and to many scholarship-granting or college access organizations focused on low-income, racial minority, LGBTQ or undocumented students. CUMU member Xavier University of Louisiana, the only Catholic HBCU in the country, was awarded $20 million in that round of gifts.
“This is a remarkable demonstration of support and encouragement for Xavier and its mission, and a reminder that what we do is important-not only at the University, but also within our global community. This gift will enhance the university’s capacity to educate in the medical sciences, pharmacy, law, the arts, and the social sciences,” Xavier University of Louisiana President Reynold Verret said.