Olivia Viltz, Communications and Marketing Intern
November 17, 2022
American Express and United Negro College Fund (UNCF) have partnered on a three-year, $2 million education initiative to increase opportunities for college and career readiness in minority communities. The main focus is to provide grants, scholarships and job opportunities to HBCU students. As part of the initiative, 300 students will be awarded a $5,000 “Building Better Futures” grant.
American Express and UNCF are dedicated to being a part of a community that supports equity, diversity and advancement for underrepresented groups. Glenda McNeal ‘82, president of enterprise strategic partnerships at American Express, has a personal connection to the initiative as a Dillard University alumna; and can speak to the long-term benefits of the program. “(American Express is) really focusing on how to help young, diverse people be successful. We want to give them a real sense of belonging and community,” said McNeal.
According to the Wall Street Journal, college enrollment rates have been on a decline since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but HBCU enrollment has seen an upward trend as of the recent fall semester. “While the last few years have been unprecedented, what we’re doing is extremely powerful and acts as a support for college success, as well as career success,” said Seikou Biddle, vice president of advocacy and student professional development programs at UNCF. Both UNCF and American Express hope their efforts will increase access and understanding of higher education and its opportunities.
The initiative aims to do more than just issue grants. The main focus is on college and career readiness, financial literacy, and support for both high school and college students, parents, and their communities. While currently set to last three years, American Express and UNCF will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of their plan and make adjustments to focus resources better as they go. “As we continue to have conversations and we continue to understand where it makes the most sense strategically for us to work together, we’ll be open to further possibilities and opportunities,” said McNeal.
American Express and UNCF have many years of experience working together to advance marginalized communities. American Express has been a partner and sponsor to UNCF on many programs and initiatives including their K-12 Education Fellowship Program, Student Professional Development Program (SPDP), Panda Cares Scholars Program and numerous others. They are confident their continued efforts will lead to a more diverse, equitable, and financially independent environment for minority students everywhere.
Applications for the first 100 grants will open October 25, 2022 and remain open until January 18, 2023. Additionally, funding for the initiative will also benefit UNCF’s existing K-12 programs. To access the application or for more information about UNCF and American Express, visit their website at UNCF.org/American Express.
American Express, or AMEX, is a multinational corporation founded in 1850 specializing in card payments. However, the scope of their focus goes beyond financial services. AMEX is committed to supporting their customers, employees, and communities by upholding the values of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all. They focus on environmental, social, and governmental sustainability as well as financial literacy.
UNCF was founded in 1944 and has since more than doubled the number of students attending and increased graduation rates for HBCUs. UNCF works with 37 HBCUs across the country to support and advance K-12 and higher-level education minority students, schools, and communities. UNCF has raised over $5 billion and helped more than 500,000 students throughout its over 70-year history. They serve as the leading advocate for minority education in the United States.