Donations have continued to pour in to help a beleaguered North Carolina college. Officials at Bennett College, a historically black private women's college in North Carolina, said they have received more than $1 million in donations in their attempt to prevent the closure of the college.
The Greensboro Chamber of Commerce met with business leaders and foundation chairs in the community, Wednesday, to discuss ways to intervene and assist the college with a solution.
"During these moments of need, it really defines us as a community and how we respond to an opportunity, listen to the challenges but also be part of finding solutions," said Derek Ellington, chair of the chamber's board of directors.
In December 2018, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges voted to remove Bennett College's accreditation. The association cited years of financial struggles stemming from falling enrollment.
The decision by the SACSCOC comes on the end of Bennett College's two-year probation period.
School leaders have said the decision from SACS caught them off guard.
"There's no one way to demonstrate fiscal stability which is why we thought we were demonstrating fiscal stability," said Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, Bennett College's President.
The decision by the accreditation board was especially hard for the nearly 500 students enrolled at the school.
"For me, Bennett College is an oasis, it is the land of Black Girl Magic and I can't emphasize that enough because if Bennett College is not here then there no Black Girl Magic," said Brooke Kane, the current Miss Bennett College.
Many of the students are themselves galvanizing the social media campaign efforts along with their school's leadership.
"My sisters here are advocating just as I am advocating I know that they are seeing us and I know that we are being heard but do not get a response is demotivating a little bit," said Alexis Branch, the President of the Student Government.
The college is now trying to raise more than $5 million by February 1. A social media campaign #StandWithBennett has helped to galvanize donors from across the country to pitch in funds.
"We have been hashtagging every celebrity, from Oprah to Bill Gates to any celebrity that we like even Cardi B. People who can come and save our institution but also they can say they saved a historically black all women’s institution," said Kane.
So far donations to Bennett are approaching the $1.5 million mark. World Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount, NC donated nearly $22,000 raised during a 'Watch Night' collection. According to the Associated Press, a Georgia pastor urged his congregation to collect $10,000, and it came up with $12,000.
Bennett seniors are also being asked to give $20.19, symbolic because it stands for their graduation year.
The school's administration is also seeking various long term solutions to its financial woes.
"We are liquidating some of our assets and looking to try to get loan forgiveness for some of our debt to the other strategies. We're not going to close, we are not going to close, we are going to make this," concluded Dr. Dawkins.
Bennett College is appealing the decision and will keep its accreditation during that process. Students and Staff will be able to stay at least through next semester.