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Financially Strapped HBCU Gets $500,000 in Scholarships

Financially strapped LeMoyne-Owen College, the lone historically Black college in Memphis, has been awarded $500,000 for scholarships by its founder, the United Church of Christ.

But the school, $6 million in debt, cannot use the new scholarship money for debt relief. LeMoyne-Owen had been placed on “probation with good cause” by the region’s accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, because of persistent financial problems.

The school must raise at least $1 million by the end of June to cover operating expenses, Wingate said, adding that he’s considering layoffs as a cost-cutting measure.

“This (scholarship grant) will go a long way toward the education of students,” LeMoyne-Owen president Dr. James Wingate told the Commerical Appeal newspaper. “(The funds) should help those individuals interested in the greater good for those who are interested in the college in the long run. But if you’re more interested in your job and security you may not be interested in that.”

-Owen once had up to 1,200 students but enrollment now is just over 800. Officials are in the middle of a recruiting effort to raise that number to 1,000 — the level it needs to meet expenses. The scholarships could help the school in its recruitment efforts. 

The college traces its roots to a school for freed slaves set up in 1862 by the American Missionary Association, a New England abolitionist group that helped free the survivors of the Amistad slave ship.

The school moved to Memphis in 1863 and became the LeMoyne Normal and Commercial School in 1871, created by the missionary association with a $20,000 donation from Francis J. LeMoyne, a Pennsylvania physician.

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