The “Diversity Fund” Begins Its First Run


Fall 2021 marks the first semester in which students have benefitted from the new Diversity Fund. (Courtesy of the Ram Archives)

In 2021, Fordham University admitted the first recipients of a new scholarship program called the Diversity Fund. The Diversity Fund was started by Valerie Rainford, FCRH ’86, a current member of Fordham’s Board of Trustees.  

The Fund focuses on helping remove financial barriers for residential students of color who are in their first year at Fordham, explained Rainford. “The fund will be used to provide additional financial aid support, including room and board assistance, to undergraduate students at the Rose Hill or Lincoln Center campus for whom affordability is an obstacle and who might otherwise be unable to attend the university as residential students,” she said.

Creating funds and additional support for students who may not be able to attend Fordham otherwise is crucial in increasing access to higher education, said Rainford. In addition, funding and aid regarding housing is very important and is typically underfunded. 

“In addition to the cost of tuition, the cost of on-campus housing is one of the biggest obstacles to underrepresented and under-resourced students experiencing residential education,” said Rainford. “By offering support to help with both tuition and housing expenses, the Diversity Fund cultivates a more diverse campus. This is important not only to the Fund recipients, but to all students: diversity improves the educational experience for everyone.”

The Diversity Fund is a part of Fordham’s bigger diversity action plan, Addressing Racism, Educating for Justice. This plan was created in June 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that spread across the globe in response to it. Fordham’s plan aimed to “address racism and educate for justice” by taking on specific initiatives. 

According to Patricia Peek, dean of undergraduate admission and assistant vice president, Fordham has been implementing other diversity programs aside from the Diversity Fund. The university also offers students of color specific admission events. According to Peek, the Office of Admissions has planned a number of in-person as well as virtual events for the fall of 2021. In each of these events, there will be programming specifically catered to students of color. Additionally, Peek said that the university’s new test-optional policy helps diversify the students able to apply to Fordham. 

The implementation of the Diversity Fund coincides with the arrival of Fordham’s largest and most diverse class ever, the class of 2025. Of this class, 44% are domestic students of color and 6.5% are international students. According to Rainford, there are currently 15 Diversity Scholars that received financial support through the Diversity Fund, 13 of which are in the class of 2025. 

That is not a fixed number of scholars, explained Rainford. Going forward, the number of Diversity Scholars could fluctuate. “The number of recipients is determined by the combined consideration of the financial need of selected students, as demonstrated on the financial aid applications and the available funding,” said Rainford. 

Although the Diversity Fund is only in its first year, the university will continue to raise money to support it. “[Long term, the Diversity Funds hopes to] enable the university to continue to advance broad diversity goals by assisting talented students who may need some additional financial assistance.” said Rainford, “This initiative aligns well with Fordham’s educational mission as a Jesuit, Catholic institution and with its Strategic Planning efforts.” 

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Diversity Fund or donating to it can visit Fordham’s website.