Q. What does UNCF do?
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) serves students, communities and the nation by helping African Americans and other students of color go to and through college so they can compete for the best jobs in the 21st century economy. UNCF invests in students by:
  • Awarding 10,000 scholarships under 400 programs each year to students at 900 colleges and universities;
  • Supporting UNCF's 37 member historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs);
  • Advocating for the importance of college education and college readiness.
Q. What is the importance in today's world of UNCF-member historically black colleges and universities?
Since their founding, private HBCUs like those that are members of UNCF have served the education needs of students not well-served by other education institutions. Research from UNCF's Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute shows that HBCUs out-perform other institutions when it comes to graduating students from low-income families—many of them high-achievers with high aspirations. A 2013 National Science Foundation study, for example, found that 10 HBCUs were among the top 11 colleges in producing African American undergraduates who went on to earn doctoral degrees in science and engineering. Research also shows that UNCF-member HBCUs offer lower tuition—an average of 30 percent lower— than comparable institutions. With these advantages, it's not surprising that more students graduate from UNCF-member HBCUs today than in 1972, the first year of "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."®
Q. Do students have to attend a UNCF-member college to receive financial support?
No. UNCF provides support to students at approximately 900 colleges across the country—including elite private colleges, flagship state universities and historically black colleges and universities.
Q. Does UNCF help only African Americans?
Not at all. UNCF's member colleges and universities admit students without reference to race or ethnicity. UNCF's largest scholarship program, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, supports Hispanic American, Asian/Pacific American and Native American students as well as African Americans.
Q. What is the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, and how does it help students get the support they need to get to and through college?
Funded by a grant from the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program is a 20-year $1.6 billion initiative that awards scholarships to 5,000 low-income, high achieving minority students each year. Its aim is to educate a diverse new generation of leaders by expanding opportunity and access to education to students who reflect the diversity of our society, a diversity we need to see in our college graduates if the nation is to be able to compete in a 21st century global economy. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program retains 98 percent of its freshmen into sophomore year. Its 90 percent graduation rate speaks to the effectiveness of its approach of providing students with a suite of programs that include academic, financial and personal support. This graduation rate, which is substantially higher than the national six-year graduation rate of 59 percent and comparable to the rates for students from higher income families, demonstrates that students of color can not only compete but excel in education and in life if they are given an equal place at the starting line.
Q. Does UNCF provide internships?
Yes. Hundreds of students receive internship and fellowship opportunities through the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative and the UNCF Corporate Scholars, UNCF Gateway to Leadership and UNCF Social Entrepreneurship programs as well as many others.
Q. So many people go to college already. Why do we need more college graduates?
The workforce is changing. While there was a time when a high school diploma and a good work ethic qualified a worker for a good job, today almost all the fastest-growing and best-paying jobs require a college education, and employers need college-educated employees to compete in the global economy. And with the U.S. on track to become a "majority-minority" country (a country with a majority of people of color), many of the new college graduates the country needs will have to come from the ranks of African Americans, Hispanics and other Americans of color—exactly the young women and men UNCF-member colleges and universities have been so successful in enrolling and educating.
Q. At this point in our history, why does the U.S. still need an educational organization and programs targeted at African Americans and other students of color?
Much progress has been made since UNCF was founded in 1944 and especially since "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"® was created more than 40 years ago and helped to change the way Americans think about education and race. But African American rates of college attendance and graduation are still much lower than those of other groups, due primarily to three factors: the high cost of college; the fact that African Americans disproportionately do not receive a high school education that adequately prepares them for college; and lower income levels for African Americans. At a time when a college degree is the basic educational qualification for almost every fast-growing, well-paying job and career, these students need and deserve help getting a college education. And at a time when, as President Barack Obama has said, "The countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow," the nation needs this fast-growing segment of the population to have the education the 21st century economy demands.
Q. What is UNCF An Evening of Stars®?
UNCF An Evening of Stars® is an annual TV program, produced by UNCF and broadcast across the country. It has combined performances and appearance by the hottest names in entertainment—including Usher, Yolanda Adams, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson and more—with moving and inspiring first-person stories about students UNCF is helping to get an education. Go to the UNCF An Evening of Stars® Web site to find out about this year's program.
Q. What's the story on UNCF's new PSA campaign? Why did UNCF decide to bring out a new PSA campaign when "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"® is one of the most successful and iconic campaigns of all time?
The new campaign, known as Better Futures, is a new iteration of the classic "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"® campaign. It emphasizes a new philanthropy of that emphasizes investing in the potential of young people. This support will ensure that the country has the leaders it needs to thrive in a global economy that is tougher than ever before—and that an investment in education is an excellent return on investment for our country. Better Futures shows how investing in young people will pay dividends for all of us.

To underscore the new philosophy, UNCF has expanded the iconic tag line from "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"® to "A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in."

The PSAs (public service advertisements) that make up the Better Futures campaign are designed to do something else, too. We're hoping that the real-life education success stories of the students in them will not only raise money, but will set an example, an example we hope will lead other young men and women to aspire to go to and through college at UNCF-member colleges and universities, other HBCUs or other institutions.

Click here to see the new PSAs and learn more about investing in better futures or go to UNCF.org/invest.
Q. What are the results of my investment in UNCF?
The return on your investment in UNCF and better futures is measured in students graduating from college. More than 400,000 students have earned college degrees from UNCF-member HBCUs and with UNCF scholarships, a total that increases by more than 8,000 every year. Recent research by UNCF's Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute highlights UNCF's recipe for success:

  • UNCF-member HBCUs out-perform non-HBCUs at graduating students from low-income families—the students the country most needs to go to and through college.
  • UNCF-member colleges and universities are more affordable, with tuition levels that average 30 percent less than comparable institutions.
  • African American recipients of UNCF scholarships have a higher graduation rate, 70 percent, than non-recipients. In fact, UNCF scholarship students graduate at nearly twice the rate of all African American students. That impact, extrapolated to all African American college students, would increase the annual number of African Americans earning college degrees by 15,876 annually.
Those college graduates are the return on your investment in UNCF and better futures. They're your dividends.
Q. The economy is still tough and can present financial challenges to students trying to stay in school and pay for an education. What can I do to help?
Developed in 2009 during the height of the recession, the UNCF Campaign for Emergency Student Aid was developed to help the students—including the 57,000 at UNCF-member HBCUs, many of whom come from families making less than $30,000 a year—who are most vulnerable to economic and financial challenges.

To date, CESA has raised more than $20 million from more than 10,000 donors and awarded almost 9,000 education-saving CESA scholarships.
Q. How can I volunteer to help?
UNCF offices across the country work all year long helping students go to and through college by hosting galas, walkathons and other fundraising events, and by working in the local community to make sure students get the education they need to go to college and graduate. If you want to help, click on this link to see a list of our offices. Click on the office closest to you to get a phone number you can call to find out about volunteer opportunities.