Grambling State University President Frank G. Pogue had a big, bright smile on his face as he greeted the new year in his office Monday morning as he learned that GSU had won a $50,000 grand prize in a national contest among historically black colleges and universities.
“After the year we had last year, it was great to get such wonderful news first thing this morning,” said Pogue. “What a way to start the new year.”
As part of the daily online voting contest, HBCU supporters voted for Grambling State University as their favorite HBCU, giving GSU the championship. The university will receive a separate $50,000 donation from Allstate for scholarships. Allstate and the Tom Joyner Foundation announced on Twitter this morning that faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters of HBCUs raised $185,000 as part of the fifth annual Allstate Quotes for Education program, exceeding the original goal of $150,000.
A campus event with Allstate and foundation representatives is being planned for later this month.
Pogue said the scholarship money will be put to good use since the institution has about 90 percent of its student body on some form of federal or state financial aid. “Every single semester we work really hard to find ways to keep our students in school when they are in danger of not returning because their families just don’t have the money,” said the president.
“This unexpected and pleasant surprise will go a long way to help us keep some students in school this semester and help other start school or return to continue their college matriculation.”
Stacey Duhon, vice president of student affairs and enrollment, said the admissions, enrollment and recruiting staffs were pushing hard in the fall to find creative ways to help students but it often comes down to money. “When you hear from a good academic student that she just doesn’t know if she’ll be coming back, it breaks your heart,” said Duhon, a 19XX GSU graduate. “We do everything we can but we can’t manufacture money. We’re deeply grateful to Allstate and the Tom Joyner Morning Show for this infusion of scholarship money.”
Pogue said the university started its campaign shortly before the university started the academic year and primarily engaged alumni, faculty, staff and students via email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He said the school significantly ramped up its efforts in the last two months of the contest in October and November, with a daily push in late October and November. He said GSU asked other SWAC schools to vote for GSU once it became clear that those schools were not strong contenders. “We just did what we had to do to do our best,” said Pogue. “All we could do was to give it a great, big Gramblinite try – and it worked.”
The president said the Grambling University Alumni Association was a big part of the major push, generating lots of votes among GSU alumni online and during homecoming activities. “Nothing beats having alumni support,” said Pogue. “We need and want money from all supporters, but this was something that everyone could do, something that cost nothing but a little time.”
In a separate release, Allstate and the foundation said the large number of votes represented “a huge groundswell of support for HBCUs, many of which have experienced deep federal and state budget cuts to funding for student loans programs.” That was the case with Grambling State University, which has lost more than 56 percent of its state funding in the last six years, something that became a matter of national discussion in the fall.
The Quotes for Education contest was launched August 1 and ended on Nov. 30. The money raised for the foundation are earmarked for general scholarship funds to assist students attending HBCUs like Grambling State University. In 2012, Lincoln University of Missouri won the competition and distributed scholarship funds to 25 students.