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Netflix CEO and his wife give $120 million to HBCUs

June 17, 2020, 1:26 PM UTC

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his wife, philanthropist Patty Quillin, announced today that they have made a personal donation of $120 million to fund scholarships at historically black colleges and universities, known as HBCUs.

“Both of us had the privilege of a great education, and we want to help more students—in particular students of color—get the same start in life,” they said in a statement. 

It’s also a call to action: “Generally, white capital flows to predominantly white institutions, perpetuating capital isolation. We hope this additional $120 million donation will help more black students follow their dreams and also encourage more people to support these institutions—helping to reverse generations of inequity in our country.” 

The donation will be distributed three ways, with $40 million each given to the UNCF (United Negro College Fund), Spelman College, and Morehouse College, institutions they’ve supported in the past. Hastings and Quillin have also previously visited the Morehouse and Spelman campuses.

The high-profile donation comes at a time when major employers are grappling with a national reckoning on systemic racism and a widespread failure to diversify their workforces. Advocates hope the donation will prove a much-needed boost at a critical time.

“HBCUs produce an unmatched level of black talent—some 40% of all [black] engineers and 80% of all [black] doctors and dentists come from these schools,” says Jonathan Speed, a Bay Area–based adviser and higher-education policy expert, who has been surveying, advising, and mentoring HBCU students and tech entrepreneurs for more than a decade.

The $120 million gift is unprecedented, but Speed believes the attention around the donation may be just as valuable. “Tech companies pay lip service to the idea of recruiting from these schools but haven’t followed through,” he says. “Reed’s donation not only fuels the necessary and critical mission of HBCUs, but draws attention to the fact that tens of thousands of dynamic, innovative, and intelligent college graduates are ready and able to join the workforce.”  

HBCUs lag in overall financial support, which the pair hope to reverse. The median endowment across all of the country’s HBCUs is $15.7 million compared with $36.8 million for predominantly white institutions (PWIs). No HBCU endowment ranks in the top 100. 

“This gift from Patty and Reed comes from two people who care deeply about education, equity, and the future of our country,” Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell said in a statement. Among other distinctions, Spelman produces more black female Ph.D.s in STEM fields than any other school in the country. “We are enormously grateful for their affirmation of the work of Spelman College.”

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