Deferment reimbursement on its way, Bennett College is pressing on
By LAURIE D. WILLIS
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Bennett College will get reimbursed $1.1 million in cash from the HBCU Capital Finance Program, thanks to a bipartisan effort spearheaded by President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins.
Bennett faced serious financial challenges when Dawkins became president in July 2017, and she considered the College’s HBCU Capital Finance loan payments an area for possible relief. The federally funded HBCU Capital Finance Program lets institutions borrow money for new buildings, renovations and debt refinancing. In 2010, Bennett borrowed money in this fashion.
Dawkins sought help from UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax and UNCF Administrator Lodriguez Murray, who in turn went to Republican Congressman Ted Budd and Democratic Congresswoman Alma S. Adams, who convinced Congress to grant deferments on HBCU Capital Finance loan payments to Bennett and several other private HBCUs for as many as six years, ending in fiscal 2023.
Complementing return of $1.1 million in cash is the nearly $1.7 million contributed by Bennett alumnae during fiscal 2017. Also stepping up to the plate were members of the Board of Trustees, individual donors, corporations and foundations. In fact, under Dawkins’ watch and for the first time in many years, Bennett received several private donations totaling $100,000 or more, including one gift for $400,000.
“Dr. Michael Lomax and Lodriguez Murray listened to me in January and then contacted Congressman Budd and Congresswoman Adams on behalf of Bennett and other HBCUs,” Dawkins said. “This would not have happened without the persistence of the four of them.”
The historic legislation was written into law in just 51 days – a process that typically takes years.
“Republican Congressman Ted Budd and Democratic Congresswoman Alma Adams … worked together with us in record time to convince their fellow legislators to positively impact HBCUs that were being weighed down by the burden of debt servicing,” Lomax said. “Budd’s and Adams’ advocacy efforts for HBCUs, like Bennett College, show what’s possible when we put aside our differences and come together.”
Budd said he was honored to represent and advocate for Bennett and other HBCUs.
“Our area is fortunate to have several HBCUs deeply rooted in our community,” Budd said. “I worked closely with Representative Adams to secure $10 million per year, over the next six years, to provide for the deferment of loans made under the HBCU Capital Financing Program. Recently, Dr. Adams and I learned that Bennett College was selected as a recipient for this program, giving them and their President, Dr. Dawkins, the relief they need, right now, to plan for the future. As part of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus in Congress, I will continue working to ensure HBCUs across the 13th District are thriving. I look forward to being on campus soon.”
Adams, who taught art history at Bennett for more than 40 years, said Congress and the Department of Education have made it clear that America needs HBCUs for the country to thrive.
“I am proud of this bipartisan victory that will strengthen opportunities for current and future Bennett Belles,” Adams said. “This reform to the HBCU Capital Financing Program will provide Bennett with a $1.1 million cash reimbursement along with six other HBCUs and the thousands of students they serve. HBCUs contribute $15 billion to our nation’s economy and give thousands of low-income students a pipeline into all sectors of employment. It was a pleasure working with this coalition to secure sorely needed funding that will place Bennett and others back on stable footing. I will continue leading efforts in Congress with the Members of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus and others to uplift all HBCUs and their students.”
Florida Memorial University, Huston-Tillotson University, Saint Augustine’s University, Shaw University, Voorhees College, Wilberforce University and Wiley College were also granted deferments.
Now that Bennett’s financial picture is greatly improved, Dawkins hopes people will support the College. She lauds students like Shani McMichael, who entered Bennett with a 2.3 GPA but graduated in May with a 3.99 GPA and starts graduate school at Columbia University this month, as examples of why people should invest in Bennett.
“Bennett is one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the country, and our Belles are leaders in many fields locally, statewide, nationally and in some cases internationally,” she said.