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UNCF INTENSIFIES EFFORTS TO RAISE $5 MILLION TO HELP MINORITY COLLEGE STUDENTS GRADUATE THIS YEAR

Hundreds of young American minority college students in their final year of college are in immediate danger of not graduating.

"They have hit the economic wall and have nowhere else to turn," said Pearl Algere-Lonian, Director of Financial Aid at Xavier University of Louisiana, one of the 38 historically black colleges and universities that are members of the UNCF (United Negro College Fund).

To address this specific issue, UNCF initiated its CESA (Campaign for Emergency Student Aid) program in 2009, and hopes to raise at least $5 million in scholarship aid to help this year's students get to the finish line.

The average CESA grant is $1,600 per student, the difference between a dropout and a graduate. "Imagine what $1,600 means to a family whose average income is $29,000 a year,” said Dr. Walter Kimbrough, President of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR.

"Keeping these young people on track to graduate is critical. They are often the first persons in their families to even go to college. Imagine the pride the whole family has when the student is accepting his diploma," said Dr. Kimbrough.

Historically black colleges and universities graduate over 50 percent of the country's African American professionals.

"The CESA program makes great sense because it keeps the door of success open. If we lose a student close to graduation, America loses because more often than not that student will not return to finish his or her studies," said Dr. Beverly Hogan, president of Tougaloo College in Mississippi, who pointed out that 66 percent of Tougaloo College graduates go on to graduate school.

In today's very challenging economy, students from low-income families are finding that sources of funds for their education are simply drying up. Federal programs have been cut, there is increasing difficulty getting private loans, and family income has been reduced because of job loss or a reduction in hours. The students simply have nowhere else to turn.

"A college diploma really can change the life of a student. That's what the CESA program is designed to do; to let corporations, foundations, churches and individuals know that their gift is a gift of graduation! That's a powerful message," said John Donohue, Executive Vice President at UNCF.

To learn more about CESA or to make a donation, please visit http://give.uncf.org/cesa.