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On Monday, Bennett College, an all-female historically black college in Greensboro, North Carolina, announced that it had surpassed its fundraising goal of $5 million to help keep its accreditation and stay open, WXII reported.
At a 90-minute gathering, school officials announced that they had raised $8.2 million.
In December, students, alumnae and administration officials at Bennett were tasked with a seemingly impossible goal: raise $5 million or risk losing accreditation and closing its doors. After the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges voted to terminate Bennett's accreditation late last year, raising the money became a community-wide effort.
Alumnae, like Shawn Hall ’93, joined a committee called Change and Progress for Bennett, which she described as a “brain trust” in an earlier interview with NBC News.
“We formed to ensure the fiscal stability of Bennett College,” said Hall, who runs a small business called All Roads Education, which helps prospective students attend college debt free. “We plan on tracking down and pursuing every avenue to keep Bennett open by putting our heads together and reflecting on what we do well.”
Other supporters, including celebrities like the actor Jussie Smollett, posted on social media using #StandWithBennett in order to persuade others to donate to their cause.
“In the 1930s we had 121 #HBCUs now we’re at 101,” Smollett wrote on Instagram. “Don’t let us be down to 100 if #BennettCollege, who has made the education of black women a priority since 1926, closes its doors.”
Although Bennett has met its financial goal, the school still has to undergo a formal appeal for its accreditation on Feb. 18. Community members will learn the accreditation board’s decision on Feb. 25.
In the meantime, Bennett’s family and friends are celebrating this initial victory.
“WE’VE SURPASSED OUR GOAL. WE RAISED $8.2 MILLION DOLLARS!!,” Alexis Mitchell, a journalist at WBTV News wrote on Twitter. “Everyday is a day of Thanksgiving.”