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Philander Smith College, an HBCU In Little Rock, Arkansas, Receives $2.5M Gift from Anonymous Donor

Philander Smith College, one of the schools with the highest four-year graduation rates out of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, has received the largest donation in the school’s history. 

Located in Little Rock, Arkansas, the college will receive $2.5 million from an anonymous donor to support low-income students desiring to obtain a bachelor’s degree. This donation is the biggest single gift in Philander’s 144-year history.

Dr. Roderick L. Smothers, Sr., president of Philander Smith College, announced the donation through a press release on the college’s website.

“My heart overflows with gratitude and amazement for the level of transformational generosity by our anonymous donor,” he stated. “This monumental donation will provide tremendous opportunities for our scholars who hail from every walk of life. This gesture not only affects the lives of our students but communities across the nation.”

This particular anonymous donor supported the school with a six-figure check just a few months ago. In August, he gave $250,000 to assist the institution’s Endeavour Scholarship, from the new Generational Access and Affordability Program initiative, which will award 100 juniors and seniors $2,500 respectively during the current 2021-2022 academic school year.

The G.A.A.P. program seeks to address students’ access to opportunities they otherwise might not be able to afford by making available several less-restrictive scholarships to learners. The goal of G.A.A.P. is to help reduce Philander Smith’s student body’s dependence on student loans.

Smothers stated in the press release, “It is our season at Philander Smith College. After two years of trudging through a pandemic, social unrest, and political change, we are beyond excited to be able to provide just what our scholars need to push through to the finish line.”

Part of helping students get to that “finish line” is through institution accessibility. 

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the school enrolled 700 students during the fall semester. Also, the newspaper reported, the United Negro College Fund’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute said that the school’s access rate is 69.1 percent, a score that lands the college at #9 among all colleges in the country that services students from “households where earnings were $46,000 and below.”

The average HBCU has an access rate of 51.3 percent and the average predominately white institution is 22.5 percent.

Earlier this year, Philander Smith College was listed as one of 11 HBCUs with the highest graduation rates in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The school came in at #7 with a 35 percent graduation rate, beating out other popular institutions like Morehouse College & Voorhees College (which tied with a 33 percent graduation rate) and Clark Atlanta University and Lincoln University (which tied with a 31 percent graduation rate). 

Smothers added, “We are committed to our mission to graduate academically accomplished students grounded as advocates for social justice, determined to change the world for the better.”


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