Duke University has received $23 million to establish a challenge fund for undergraduate financial aid, President Richard H. Brodhead said Tuesday.
Almost half of Duke’s undergraduates receive need-based financial aid.
The Access and Opportunity Challenge was launched with a $10 million gift from alumni Barbara and Fred Sutherland, $10 million from The Duke Endowment and $3 million from other donors. The challenge will match every qualifying gift to financial aid dollar for dollar.
“We’re grateful for the extraordinary generosity of Barbara and Fred Sutherland, The Duke Endowment and the friends who have made the Access and Opportunity Challenge possible,” Brodhead said. “The challenge aims to inspire others to support financial aid at Duke and reflects one of Duke’s fundamental values: access to a Duke education should never be limited by a student's financial circumstances.”
He added: “Investment in financial aid also ensures support for a vibrant community of students who learn from one another and enrich our university."
Fred Sutherland, who graduated in 1973, said he and his wife were inspired to make their gift to establish the Access and Opportunity Challenge because they, like many other Duke students, experienced “something magical” while at the university.
“A big part of that experience was the student body, particularly the diversity. That can’t happen without financial aid,” said Sutherland, former executive vice president and chief financial officer of Aramark.
Barbara Sutherland, a 1975 graduate, said “the matching fund is particularly effective in attracting new donors. We thought it would encourage people who have not done this level of giving before to participate.”
The couple’s two sons also graduated from Duke and “clearly benefitted by being part of a talented and diverse student body, forming many lasting friendships,” she said.
Financial aid is a priority of Duke Forward, the seven-year, comprehensive fundraising campaign that aims to raise $3.25 billion by June 30, 2017, to support Duke's 10 schools, Duke Medicine and a range of university programs and initiatives.
The cost of supporting need-based undergraduate financial aid at Duke has risen steadily, more than doubling to $99 million between 2005 and 2015.
“We are pleased to be part of Duke’s commitment to financial aid and campus diversity,” said Minor Shaw, chair of The Duke Endowment, one of the largest private foundations in the Southeast. Established in 1924 by James B. Duke, the Endowment distributes grants to organizations across North Carolina and South Carolina through its four program areas -- child care, health care, higher education and rural churches.
“Our founder had limited formal schooling,” Shaw said, “but he believed that education had the power to transform lives and communities. Educational access and attainment remain an important focus of that legacy today.”
For Ileana Astorga, a junior from Colorado, financial aid not only allowed her to become the first person in her family to attend college, but it also has made possible field research in the American South and community work on social justice for her political science major.
Her time at Duke has opened her eyes to new possibilities and allowed her to meet a diverse array of people.
“In high school, everyone looked like me, with similar families and backgrounds. Here, I can talk with people very different from myself about race, class, women’s issues or what we’re learning in our courses,” said Astorga, who will graduate with minimal student loan debt because of financial aid.
“Duke provides students with resources that put us on even footing with everyone else,” she said. “I can focus on my coursework knowing Duke is doing as much as they can for me.”