KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Anonymous Western Michigan University alumni pledged to support every member of the college community, regardless of their differences.
On Tuesday, the university announced that it received a massive $550 million donation, an amount that WMU President Edward Montgomery called “historic.” Montgomery said it is the largest donation ever given to any public university in the country. The donation will be split between several departments connected to WMU, some focusing on equity.
“As a woman of color, that’s a crazy thing to hear that, you know, the focus is on diversity and inclusion,” student Syndey Chin said.
A portion of the donation will specifically support diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice, though the university is still working on exact amounts and how that money will be used.
When asked what the money represents for minority students, Candy McCorkle, vice president of Diversity and Inclusion at the university, responded, “We see you, we heard you and we value you.”
McCorkle said she’d like to see the generous donation support a multitude of areas. She spotlighted tuition and housing scholarships, diversity training for staff and students, and support programs for marginalized and first-generation college students.
“If we don’t do for all, none of us succeed,” McCorkle said.
That’s a phrase that underscores economists’ notion that the only way to permanently reduce inequality and poverty is through education — something difficult for many to afford.
“Even at a four-year college, 1 out of 3 aren’t going to get that bachelor’s degree in any reasonable length of time, and the numbers at community colleges are even worse,” said Brad Hershbein, senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
Experts said that’s because of a need for more financial assistance — a burden WMU donors are helping to ease.
“So, for this stuff to be dedicated to that, specifically, is really fantastic to know that sort of opportunity is being made for those students,” Chin said.