WASHINGTON–() – The Student Freedom Initiative today announced the first historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that will participate in its program.

Selected institutions include Claflin University, Clark Atlanta University, Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Morehouse College, Prairie View A&M University, Tougaloo College, Tuskegee University, and University Xavier from Louisiana.

The Student Freedom Initiative will provide eligible students at participating institutions with an income-based funding alternative to high-cost, fixed-payment debt obligations, as well as holistic support services, including internships and mentoring. By helping students facing financial difficulties avoid unmanageable debt, the Student Freedom Initiative will enable students and their families to pursue higher education without sacrificing their economic security or postgraduate career options.

“The Student Freedom Initiative is inspired by our common goal of freeing the human spirit by removing systemic barriers that prevent students from maximizing their opportunities in life, ”said founder Robert F. Smith. “By tackling the financial stress of college and providing students with resources and community, we can finally expand the talent pool and create a more diverse and thriving economy. ”

“We have assembled an excellent team of subject matter experts committed to the vision of removing barriers to student career and life choices, ”said Keith B. Shoates, Executive Director of the Student Freedom Initiative. “Success will require collaboration, creativity, courage and flexibility. We appreciate the hard work and due diligence, during the COVID-19 pandemic, of the management at HBCU and their respective teams who have worked with us over the past nine months to make this announcement possible. These HBCUs are ideal partners as we continue to build and refine a student-centered, evidence-based and holistic program. ”

“2020 has been a very difficult year, but also inspiring, as we have seen educators, philanthropists, business leaders and elected officials stand up to find solutions that have plagued our country for far too long, ”said Michael Lomax. , CEO of the United Negro College Fund. “The Student Freedom Initiative delivers on the promise of making a real difference in the lives of thousands of students and in our communities.

Each participating HBCU will work with the Student Freedom Initiative to help make its products and services available to juniors and seniors specializing in STEM starting in fall 2021. Data and experiences from the initial HBCUs will then inform growth and development. ‘future expansion to serve more students and colleges. and universities.

Remarks from the Presidents of the participating HBCUs:

1) Dr Dwaun J. Warmack (Claflin University)

“Claflin University is thrilled and excited about the Student Freedom Initiative. It will provide tremendous opportunities for our future STEM students. This initiative is also in line with our goal of being among the top institutions that prioritize student success. It will also help remove concerns from students and parents about the financial challenges of pursuing a high quality education. We are grateful to Robert F. Smith and his wonderful team for including Claflin University in the first cohort of participating institutions and look forward to being successful in the Student Freedom Initiative.

2) Dr George French (Clark Atlanta University)

“Robert F. Smith’s generosity and commitment to the Student Freedom Initiative will make a monumental difference for STEM students at HBCUs. Clark University in Atlanta is very grateful to be included in the first HBCU cohort to benefit from this innovative program. By creating a financial bridge to support junior and senior STEM majors in HBCUs, our scholarship students and their families will be able to breathe a little easier and sleep a little better knowing that the path to achieving their educational dreams will not be. hampered by unmanageable obstacles. financial debt after graduation.

3) Dr Larry Robinson (Florida A&M University)

“The Student Freedom Initiative is an innovative approach to help students overcome one of their most important challenges during enrollment and in their professional careers – debt. With the additional economic challenges for students and parents caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the timing for this alternative funding option couldn’t be better. It is indeed an honor for FAMU to be a member of this first cohort of institutions.

4) Dr William R. Harvey (Hampton University)

“Hampton University is pleased to participate in the Student Freedom Initiative in the coming academic year 2021-2022. We are proud to be one of the HBCUs participating in the launch of the Student Freedom Initiative, which provides an affordable funding alternative for students, especially for STEM majors in their junior and senior years. We believe that the program’s core values ​​of being student-centered, evidence-based, and holistic align well with our mission of producing students who define THE Standard of excellence.

5) Dr David A. Thomas (Morehouse College)

“Morehouse College is proud to be a partner school of the Student Freedom Initiative. This is the single largest effort using private philanthropy to address the fundamental issue of college affordability and student debt that I am aware of. Most important is the focus on HBCUs, whose students typically graduate with student loan obligations above the national average. Hopefully others will follow Robert F. Smith’s lead and expand this effort to a national model.

6) Dr Ruth J. Simmons (Prairie View A&M University)

“The Student Freedom Initiative comes just in time. Our students, faced with a myriad of challenges that limit their choices and aspirations, need better options to finance their studies. This initiative and the commitment it represents on the part of Robert F. Smith and others is the nudge needed to encourage them to persist in their goals.

7) Dr Carmen J. Walters (Tougaloo College)

“With the increasing cost of higher education, we must continue to seek solutions to provide deserving students with the opportunity to pursue a college education. Year after year, historically black colleges and universities welcome students to our respective campuses with the mission of instilling educational, cultural, social and professional enrichment. Now more than ever, we must remain committed to investing in our HBCUs and preparing the next generation of academics and leaders. ”

8) Dr Lily McNair and Dr Charlotte Morris (Tuskegee University)

“Robert F. Smith and his team have put a tremendous amount of work into developing an innovative and cutting edge program in partnership with Tuskegee and other HBCUs. The Student Freedom Initiative will not only provide affordable funding options for our students, but also expand our work with leading R1 universities. By working together, TU and its partners will seek transformative grants that can accelerate our work in STEM disciplines.

The Initiative will be specifically tailored to the needs of our students, giving them access to a host of new and exciting opportunities.

9) Dr Reynold Verret (Xavier University of Louisiana)

“Thank you for this initiative which deeply reduces the debt burden of our students. This allows them to hone their talents and be of service to our communities and our nation. ”

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