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Two Texas universities that serve students of color receive multimillion-dollar donations from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

The gifts to Prairie View A&M University and Texas A&M International University are the largest in history for each school.

MacKenzie Scott and her ex-husband, Jeff Bezos, at the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

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Two Texas A&M System universities that predominantly serve students of color have received multimillion-dollar donations from writer and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black university, received a $50 million donation, and Texas A&M International University in Laredo, which primarily serves Hispanic students, received $40 million. Both gifts are the largest in each university’s history.

The universities can use the money for whatever they like. At Prairie View, a historically Black university, school leaders have chosen to allocate $10 million to juniors and seniors who had dealt with financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rest of the money will go toward other university initiatives, including faculty development and recruiting, academic improvements and scholarships.

“This is a historic gift for Prairie View, coming at a time when the University had already decided and begun to invest heavily in key areas to strengthen its academic programs and improve student success,” President Ruth Simmons said in a statement. “The timing of this gift could therefore not be better.”

In a statement, Texas A&M International leaders said they are still creating a plan to maximize the gift.

“In the New Year, we will convene to map out a brighter future for TAMIU. In this time of such tremendous adversity and challenge, we hope that this news will continue to inspire hope and appreciation for the power of giving and kindness to change the world,” President Pablo Arenaz said.

The donation increases Prairie View’s endowment nearly 40% to almost $130 million, making it one of the largest endowments at any historically Black college or university.

Last month, Prairie View received a $10 million donation from an anonymous donor to help students impacted by the pandemic.

Scott, who is the former wife of Amazon CEO and billionaire Jeff Bezos, also donated $50 million to Morgan State University, a historically Black college in Maryland.

According to an announcement Scott made on Medium, she has given away $4 billion dollars in the past four months.

“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” she wrote. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

At least four other HBCUs received multimillion-dollar donations from Scott earlier this year.

Three El Paso nonprofit organizations — El Pasoans Fighting Hunger, the United Way of El Paso County and the YWCA Paso del Norte Region — are also receiving a total $34 million from Scott, according to El Paso Matters.

Disclosure: Amazon Web Services, Prairie View A&M University and Texas A&M International University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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