Lumina Foundation Shifts Course to Promote Racial Justice on College Campuses

The Lumina Foundation is a private, Indianapolis-based foundation with about $1.4 billion in assets. The organization is the nation’s largest private foundation focused solely on increasing Americans’ success in higher education. In 2000, USA Group, Inc., the nation’s largest private guarantor and administrator of education loans, sold most of its operating assets to the Student Loan Marketing Association, Inc. (Sallie Mae). Proceeds from the sale established the USA Group Foundation, which later changed its name to the Lumina Foundation.

In 2016, the Lumina Foundation awarded 87 grants, totaling more than $45 million. Most grants are for programs to increase the number of Americans with higher education credentials, with special emphasis on underrepresented populations.

Now, in a departure from its usual mission, the foundation has allocated $2.5 million to support racial justice work on college campuses. The largest portion of the grant will fund a national study on the racial climate on college campuses. A series of $100,000 grants will be given to colleges and universities who have made significant efforts to foster educational equality and reduce racism on campus. Other grants will be available for colleges and universities that seek to improve or expand racial justice programs.

Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, stated that “after the racist chaos of Charlottesville, many leaders said something needed to change, that we needed to go beyond words to action. I was one of those people, pointing out that we can and must do more. Ensuring fair and equitable results in a country sullied by an enduring legacy of systemic racism and oppression is not just a part of our collective work in philanthropy. It is the work.”

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