“I think it’s important that we do these things at scale and en masse because that’s how you lift up entire communities. Of course, we all like the great one story, but I want thousands of these stories. And I want thousands of Robert Smith’s out there who are actually looking to do some things in fields that are exciting to them and are giving back.”
If you haven’t caught on by now, these are the words of Robert Smith in regards to a program he’s set to start that aims to ease the debt of students at historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.
He’s also the wealthiest Black person in the U.S., according to Forbes and he’s definitely making better happen.
These institutions are the last cultural jewels that Black people have left in this country, so it’s good to see that he is continuing to uplift while he climbs, especially given his serious effort to help and support HBCU students. More on this later.
The program is dubbed “The Student Freedom Initiative” and some major movers and shakers are teaming up with Smith to make better happen.
From Diverse Education:
“The Student Freedom Initiative aims to address the disproportionate loan burden on Black students. The program’s partners include 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.
The initiative will launch in the fall of 2021 with an initial $50 million grant at up to 11 HBCUs that are yet to be named. The program will offer junior and senior STEM majors a flexible, lower-risk alternative to high-interest private student loans. Smith aims to support 5,000 new students each year and has set a goal of raising at least $500 million by October to make the program “self-sustaining” via investments and graduates’ income-based repayments.”
During a TIME 100 Talks session on Tuesday, Smith, who is chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, said “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.”
In case you missed it, he made good on his promise last year to settle the debt of the graduating Class of 2019 at historically Black Morehouse College in Atlanta, paying off the loans that these individuals accumulated at the tune of $34 million. He even widened his debt gift to parents.