The inaugural recipients of the Diversity Fund, a new scholarship fund designed to remove financial barriers for students of color, are arriving on campus for their first year at Fordham.  

Incoming student Kadidia Keita said she was so excited to learn she was admitted to Fordham—with a sizable scholarship. But her family still couldn’t afford the remaining tuition. She was about to decline.  

“Then Fordham sent me an email saying that I was eligible to apply for this emergency fund. I requested more money, and they really pulled through,” said Kadidia Keita, an incoming first-year psychology student who plans on commuting to Fordham College at Lincoln Center from her home in the Bronx. “My parents will have a much easier time affording this, we don’t have to take out loans, and now I can go to my dream school.”

Keita is among 14 incoming first-year students who were awarded “last-dollar” financial aid to help them attend Fordham this fall. The scholarship fund, which was created by University trustees earlier this year, aims to retain students who may not be able to attend Fordham otherwise and to encourage a diverse student body. 

The creation of the fund coincides with a large jump in the number of underrepresented first-year undergraduates arriving on campus this fall, compared to last year. The number of Black students increased from 77 to 211; the number of Latinx students increased from 337 to 528. 

“We were able to use this money to help meet the gap between the financial aid package we originally offered our students and what they needed to attend,” said Jaime Harkin, associate director of student financial services.

Individual award amounts range from $3,000 to $8,000, said Harkin. More than $60,000 has been distributed to students so far. The University is currently reviewing candidates to receive support from the fund for the upcoming academic year. 

Eileen FitzGerald Sudler, TMC ’71, a member of the Board of Trustees who made a gift to the fund, said the board is “really committed” to helping students with this scholarship money.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of a few thousand dollars. Even with a full scholarship, there are other costs involved. And there are families who cannot flip that billa couple of thousand dollars, whether those are for books, fees, or commuting,” said Sudler. “On an ethical and moral basis, it’s really the fiber of what Fordham was founded to do. And we’d like to see great strides in this.” 

In a phone conversation, Keita said she was initially attracted to Fordham’s psychology program, the University’s proximity to her high school in the Bronx, and the beauty of the Rose Hill campus. After speaking with trustee Valerie Irick Rainford, FCRH ’86, she said she felt more compelled to apply to Fordham. 

Coming from the South Bronx, she said, there’s a certain pressure in attending what she called a PWI, or a predominantly white institution. 

“I was very nervous about what the sense of community would be like for me. But Ms. Rainford made it so clear to me that Fordham had a really great sense of community, and that’s what hooked me even more to the school,” Keita said.

The following spring, when Keita received her acceptance letter along with a large scholarship from Fordham, her family was struggling. They were still recovering after a fire ravaged their home last year, and her father, the family breadwinner, had lost his job in March 2020 and was still looking for full-time work, she said. They couldn’t afford to pay the remaining $12,000 per year in Fordham tuition. But thanks to the Diversity Fund, which covers more than three-quarters of the remaining cost, she said she could afford to attend Fordham. 

“I’m so looking forward to making new friends of different races, cultures, and backgrounds and to participate in clubs, especially MSA [the Muslim Students Association], because I’m Muslim,” said Keita, who plans on becoming a child psychologist or therapist for minority children in her community.  

Kweku Andoh, an incoming first-year marketing student at the Gabelli School of Business, said the fund has helped him and his family, too. Andoh is originally from Washington, but he and his parents—a federal employee and a member of the U.S. Army for more than two decadeshave been stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, over the past five years.

“This has been an incredibly stressful few months for my family moving back overseas from Germany, and the Diversity Fund has definitely helped to alleviate some of that stress,” Andoh wrote in an email. “I’m really looking forward to receiving a top-tier education that I know will immensely prepare me for my time after Fordham, and also becoming a part of an educational community that makes me feel welcome and will be another place for me to call home.”