AJC On Campus: Oprah’s gift; Regent resigns; an easier FAFSA?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 05: Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham attend Tyler Perry Studios grand opening gala at Tyler Perry Studios on October 05, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images)

Credit: Paul R. Giunta

Credit: Paul R. Giunta

The purpose of higher education is to prepare young people for life. But educating young people requires money. In recent days, several Georgia colleges and universities were the recipients of some big checks that will help educate more students.

However, one Georgia leader stands accused of using at least two institutions in a scheme to collect cash for his company.

Here’s a look at some of these developments in the latest edition of AJC On Campus.

Oprah’s $13 million gift to Morehouse

Megastar Oprah Winfrey visited Morehouse College on Monday and like any good guest, she brought a gift. A $13 million gift. Winfrey made the donation to a scholarship fund she started 30 years ago.

Our guess is Morehouse will welcome Winfrey anytime she wants to stop by.

Georgia Regent resigns amid criminal investigation


Gov. Brian Kemp demanded and got the resignation of state Board of Regents member Dean Alford last week, who turned himself in on fraud and racketeering charges.

The state Attorney General's Office is leading an investigation into its claims that Alford, 66, sent false invoices saying he did work for some business and schools, including the University of Georgia. The charges and Alford's resignation surprised many in state government. Read more about the resignation here and about the case against Alford here.

We caught up with Alford’s attorney, Robert E. Wilson, by telephone Monday afternoon. Wilson, the former district attorney of DeKalb County, said his client is cooperating with authorities, but declined to discuss details since the investigation is ongoing. We’ll keep you updated as the investigation continues.

An easier FASFA form in the works?

Jim Zaffiro, left, and his daughter Emily Zaffiro, 17, work on filling out a FAFSA form, which determines how much and what types of financial aid students are eligible for when starting college. MICHAEL SEARS/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL/TNS

A bipartisan bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate could make it easier for students and parents to apply for financial aid. The bill would reduce the number of questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from 108 to between 17-30, said U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat who co-sponsored the bill with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee. Oct. 1 was the start date for students and parents to fill out the form.

One of the big complaints about FAFSA is how difficult it is to fill out the form. U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia co-sponsored a bill several weeks ago to allow low-income students to fill out the FAFSA by allowing them to bypass some financial information requested on the application. We’ll stay tuned on the progress of both pieces of legislation.

UGA to partner in effort to preserve Hispanic impact in state politics

Hispanic turnout has surged in Georgia in recent years. On Friday, two organizations and the University of Georgia announced an effort to catalog Hispanic impact in Georgia elections.

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) and the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund will help capture oral histories with elected officials, activists, and business leaders. The records will be housed at UGA’s Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies.

GALEO Executive Director Jerry Gonzalez, left, helps Voeung Trung, from Cambodia, fill out a voter registration form.



The collection will begin with the papers of former state Senator Sam Zamarripa, the first Hispanic to serve in the Georgia State Senate; longtime state Rep. Pedro Marin, the first Hispanic member of the state’s House of Representatives; Brenda Lopez and Deborah Gonzalez, the first Latina state representatives; four community leaders — Leonard Gomez, Jason Esteves, Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson, and Adela Yelton, and the organizational records of GALEO.

Speaking of UGA partnerships...

Students wait for buses at the Tate Student Center bus stop on the University of Georgia campus in Athens in this AJC file photo. This year, UGA produced a handbook for freshmen who were the first in their families to go to college, using simple and clear English. REANN HUBER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

The university announced last week it has embarked on a new effort to recruit students from the Atlanta Public Schools district. UGA officials said in a statement they want more Atlanta students on campus. There were 62 students from the Atlanta school district’s graduating class of 2018 who attended UGA. That was fifth among all colleges and universities, according to an report by Achieve Atlanta, which partners with the school district to help its students enroll in college.

University System employees push back against rising health care costs

Georgia State University employee Deb Loden talks to another employee about a proposal by United Campus Workers of Georgia to demand the University System of Georgia stop its plan to increase employee health care costs next year. Loden, who's worked nearly 12 years at the university, said the cost increases are more than her raises. "It's going to get to a point where I can't work here anymore," Loden said. ERIC STIRGUS/ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM.

Several University System of Georgia employees canvasses their campuses last week to gain support for their demands that the system rescind a recent decision to increase employee health care costs in 2020. System leaders have said they had no choice because of rising health care costs. Read more about the employees' effort here.

Emory gets major Alzheimer’s research grant

The main sign leading to Emory University’s campus in Atlanta’s Druid Hills neighborhood. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

We talked earlier about some schools getting major checks in recent days. Emory University got a major check last week for some important research. Georgia's largest private university announced it will be the lead institution for a major $37.5 million federal grant to speed up the development of new therapies and technologies to slow, prevent and cure Alzheimer's. Read our story here.

Georgia must do more to enroll, support low-income and rural students

That’s a key conclusion to a report recently released by the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. The institute held a webinar last week about the report. Some key findings included the six-year graduation rate for students with family incomes greater than $75,000 a year is 70% as opposed to a 46% graduation rate for students with family incomes below $35,000.

Columbus Technical College’s new president

A veteran educator will take the helm as the new president of Columbus Technical College. Martha Ann Todd, who has been serving as Interim President at Columbus Technical College since July 1, was named its president, the Technical College System of Georgia announced Monday.

Todd was Deputy Commissioner for Adult and Technical Education at TCSG. She previously worked as the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, Assistant Superintendent for Meriwether County Schools and an Associate Superintendent of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness with the Georgia Department of Education.

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