COLUMBIA, S.C. — BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina announced Tuesday the company is providing funding to the state's five qualified, private four-year Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).
The money is "to help with immediate financial needs to ensure sustainability, and assist in getting as many students as possible to begin or continue their education with these institutions."
Colleges and universities throughout the state are struggling with budget shortfalls, due in part with lost revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic. With BlueCross BlueShield's donation, more than 6,300 students at faculty at the state's HBCUs -- Allen University and Benedict College in Columbia, Claflin University in Orangeburg, Morris College in Sumter and Voorhees College in Denmark -- will benefit. HBCUs are at unique risk because these private colleges receive little to no state support and distance learning is complicated because many students live in areas where there is not high-speed internet service nor do they have computers.
The funds will be allocated based on enrollment levels and support specific priorities identified by the institution. The bulk of the funding will go toward technology-based support.
The priority funding is as follows:
- Technology infrastructures, devices and hotspots Allen, Benedict, Claflin and Morris will use nearly $2 million dollars to upgrade their I/T network security and bandwidth. They will also provide laptops and internet service to enhance virtual learning for students and faculty.
- eLearning platforms, training and certification for faculty Benedict, Claflin, Morris and Voorhees will apply more than $1 million to ensure their faculty members are equipped and prepared to offer effective virtual instruction.
- Tuition‐based scholarships and hardship/emergency relief stipends All five schools will receive nearly $3 million to help students struggling financially to return to school, as well as those who are unable to cover living expenses (books and supplies, meals, etc.).
- Health and wellness services Benedict will use $400,000 to provide nursing and counseling services to its students.
According to David Pankau, president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, the devastation wreaked by the coronavirus on individuals, families, businesses and communities has been amplified among South Carolina’s vulnerable and minority populations. He said, “It has been well reported that the coronavirus revealed our minority communities encounter profound disparities in many ways. At BlueCross, we believe healthy communities are defined not only by access to health care services, but also by the fostering of opportunity that comes from education, employment and the potential for an improved quality of life for everyone.”