Robert F. Smith—the billionaire who pledged during a commencement speech last year to pay off the student debt of the Morehouse College class of 2019—is, according to time.com, launching a new initiative to help ease the burden of student loans at all HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
The Student Freedom Initiative, a nonprofit organization, will launch in 2021 at up to 11 HBCUS and will offer juniors and seniors who are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors a flexible, lower-risk alternative to high-interest private student loans.
The list of HBCUs participating in the initial rollout has not been finalized. SFI will target the disproportionate loan burden on Black students while creating more choices for students whose career options or further educational opportunities might be limited by heavy student debt.
The aims of the Initiative is to help 5,000 new students each year via a $50 million grant from Fund II Foundation, a charitable organization of which Smith is founding director and president.
Fund II has set a goal of raising at least $500 million by October to make the program “self-sustaining” through investments and graduates’ income-based repayments. Fund II will partner with Michael Lomax, CEO of the United Negro College Fund; Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard; the Jain Family Institute and the Education Finance Institute.
To quote from Time:
“You think about these students graduating and then plowing so much of their wealth opportunity into supporting this student debt, that’s a travesty in and of itself,” Smith, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, said Tuesday during a TIME100 Talks discussion with Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal.
[To see Robert Smith speak on the need for this initiative, watch here]
Smith—the wealthiest Black man in the United States, according to Forbes—donated $34 million last year that covered the student debt of about 400 Morehouse graduates, including the educational debt incurred by their families. He says his new initiative is an effort to create a more sustainable model for thousands more students.
“I think it’s important that we do these things at scale and en masse because that’s how you lift up entire communities,” he says. “Of course, we all like the great one story, but I want thousands of these stories. And I want thousands of Robert Smiths out there who are actually looking to do some things in fields that are exciting to them and are giving back.”
Read more: https://time.com/5857186/robert-f-smith-historically-black-colleges/
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