Helping Colleges Provide Scholarships and Financial Aid

Growing up on a small tobacco farm in rural North Carolina, James B. Duke had limited opportunities for a formal education. Still, as an adult, he felt strongly that qualified students should have access to higher education regardless of their financial status. Mr. Duke once said that education, “when conducted along sane and practical, as opposed to dogmatic and theoretical lines, is, next to religion the greatest civilizing influence."

When he established his Endowment in 1924, he specified that the greatest portion of the funds be awarded to four schools: Davidson College, Duke University and Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina and Furman University in South Carolina. Some of the funding provided to these institutions helps them increase access to educational opportunities and become more affordable for qualified students. Mr. Duke chose these schools for a variety of reasons, but ultimately wanted to strengthen and support higher education in the Carolinas.


According to The National Center for Educational Statistics, 89 percent of all undergraduates attending private not-for-profit four year institutions received some type of financial aid in 2012-2013. While tuition rates have steadily increased over the past 15 years, students are finding it nearly impossible to afford higher education without receiving some type of financial assistance. With tuition increase rates far exceeding increases in average family income, the ability for families to contribute financially has also decreased. In response to higher education affordability issues, institutions are implementing opportunities to provide support to qualified students.


Expanding Scholarships and Financial Aid

Over the years, The Duke Endowment has worked closely with each institution to make education more affordable. In response to Mr. Duke's sentiment that education opens doors to the future, the Endowment has supported scholarships and financial aid efforts in order to ensure access to higher education to qualified students

Examples include:

  • The Davidson Trust, supported by $21 million in grant funding to Davidson College, is a financial aid initiative that frees students from the burden of mandatory loans. Davidson was the first national liberal arts college to initiate such a policy.
  • The Financial Aid Initiative, a $75 million grant to Duke University supports undergraduate need-based financial aid.
  • The Townes Scholars, a major scholarship program established with a $14 million grant to Furman University, helps the University attract highly qualified students from South Carolina.
  • A scholarship program at Johnson C. Smith University, supported by a $3 million grant, helps the school attract high-caliber scholars.

Signature Scholarships

In addition to ongoing grants, The Duke Endowment also has endowed three signature scholarships at its four beneficiary schools.

1. The James B. Duke Scholarship

Offered at Davidson College, Furman University and Johnson C. Smith University. Each scholarship is administered differently at the three institutions, but all are based on academic excellence.

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2. The Angier B. Duke Scholarship at Duke University

  • Created by Benjamin N. and Sarah P. Duke to honor their son, Angier Buchanan Duke
  • Scholars are selected nationally and internationally
  • Based on academic merit and outstanding promise of achievement in their chosen fields

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View this Duke University video for an inside look at the man behind the B.N. Duke Scholarship Program.

3. The Benjamin N. Duke Scholarship at Duke University

  • Given to seniors from North Carolina and South Carolina
  • Based on academic achievement, leadership and community service
  • Covers full tuition, room, board, and mandatory fees for a total of eight semesters
  • Provides stipends for two summer experiences that allow scholars to enhance their personal and academic development

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Area of Work

  • Educational access and success

Program Area

  • Higher Education

Grantmaking Status

The Endowment is continuing to work through current grantees and is not accepting new applications.

Areas of Work

  • Prevention and early intervention for at-risk children

    To equip children and families with skills to ensure that children reach developmental milestones to lead successful lives.

  • Out-of-home care for youth

    To drive child welfare systems toward greater accountability for child well-being.

  • Quality and safety of health care

    Improving the quality and safety of health care delivery

  • Access to health care

    Improving health by increasing access to comprehensive care

  • Prevention

    Expanding programs to promote health and prevent disease

  • Academic excellence

    Enhancing academic excellence through program and campus development

  • Educational access and success

    Increasing educational access and supporting a learning environment that promotes achievement

  • Campus and community engagement

    Promoting a culture of service, collaboration and engagement among schools and communities

  • Rural church development

    Building the infrastructure and capacity of United Methodist churches to enhance ministry and mission

  • Clergy leadership

    Strengthening United Methodist churches by improving the quality and effectiveness of church leadership

  • Congregational outreach

    Engaging United Methodist congregations in programs that serve their communities