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Johnson C. Smith University Gets $1M Grant from Leon Levine Foundation

In the midst of tough economic times, more and more colleges and universities are setting aside emergency funds to support students who face a shortfall between financial aid packages and the rising cost of tuition.

Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) — a historically Black university in Charlotte, North Carolina — is among the latest group of colleges and universities to embark on this endeavor, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Leon Levine Foundation. The Foundation, which is also headquartered in Charlotte, had already given the university a $200,000 gift.

The funds will go to the President’s Gap Scholarship Fund, an expendable and endowed scholarship fund that addresses gaps between the financial aid that students receive and the total cost of their college education.

According to JCSU officials, during the 2014-15 school year, a total of 484 students received funding, totaling almost $1.5 million in assistance.

“One of the four key reinforcing dimensions of retention and graduation rate success is funding to graduate,” said Dr. Ronald L. Carter, president of JCSU. “The gift from The Leon Levine Foundation makes a huge statement about the vital importance of helping our students secure the financial means to complete the coursework required for a JCSU degree. It’s a very transformative commitment.”

Kenyatta Little, a senior majoring in communication arts, received financial assistance from the President’s Gap Scholarship Fund after her mother was laid off from her job in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“We were unsure how we could make ends meet and cover the cost of the tuition payment plan,” said Little, who plans to attend law school once she graduates from JCSU next year. “The President’s Gap Scholarship Fund make up the difference my sophomore and junior years. It took a lot of stress off my family and enabled me to continue my education.”

Tom Lawrence, executive of The Leon Levine Foundation — whose mission “is to improve the human condition by creating permanent, measurable, life-changing impact” — said that the foundation’s support to the university’s scholarship fund will go a long way in helping students earn their degrees.

“The fund will help hundreds of students achieve their goals,” said Lawrence. “We believe that education is a pathway to self-sufficiency and young people should have access to a quality education, no matter their interests or financial means.”

Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson.

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