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January 31, 2024

Robert F. Smith’s Student Freedom Initiative Announces Collaboration with the Steinbridge Group on its $100 Million Capital Commitment to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority Serving Institutions

SFI will help Steinbridge Group to select the HBCUs and MSI institutions for its $100 million capital commitment announced in November 2023

PHILADELPHIA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, the Steinbridge Group announced a collaboration with the Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) on its recently-announced $100 million capital commitment to develop impact-focused real estate around Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Many HBCUs and other MSIs own underutilized land that Steinbridge Group’s capital commitment seeks to transform into economically productive uses that will support growth and empowerment of the organization.

This partnership accelerates Steinbridge’s $100 million, privately-funded capital commitment to the nation’s HBCUs and other MSIs. This commitment will transform the underutilized real estate assets owned by these institutions and help spur economic growth while addressing critical funding disparities between these and other higher education institutions.

Attainable housing will be one of the focuses of Steinbridge’s capital commitment. Currently, many faculty, first responders, and local professionals face the high cost of housing near the institutions where they teach and work. HBCUs receive less than 1% of the philanthropic giving of Ivy League institutions, which stunts their abilities to grow into research institutions and to impact regional economic development.

“Our nation’s HBCUs and other MSIs produce 75% of Ph.D.s, 46% of the Business Executives, 50% of the Engineers, 80% of the Federal Judges, 85% of the Doctors, and 75% of the Veterinarians in African American and minority communities,” said Tawan Davis, Founder and CEO of the Steinbridge Group. “This collaboration with the Student Freedom Initiative will help us engage with these institutions to discuss pathways to access our $100 million capital commitment that activates their underutilized real estate and expands their economic base.”

According to Dr. Mark Brown, President and CEO of the Student Freedom Initiative, “Many HBCU Presidents struggle with the challenge of long-term debt required to finance housing requirements that may otherwise not be readily available in their communities. This dilemma affects credit ratings, recruitment of high-quality faculty, and the entire student experience. Uniquely, the brilliance of the Steinbridge, SFI, and HBCU relationship is that the effort allows the acquisition and maintenance of the capital asset without the negative impact of long-term debt.”

Steinbridge and SFI will review interested HBCUs and MSIs based on a series of criteria and select those that will receive investments toward these development efforts. Eligibility criteria include land ownership within the community suitable for economic and community development, the capacity to execute an expansive development project, and leadership positioned to galvanize the initiative.

“In order to educate and train the next generation of diverse leaders and innovators, institutions must have access to an affordable education, and they must be surrounded by a thriving community,“ said Robert F. Smith, Founder and Chairman of Student Freedom Initiative. “Through Steinbridge’s commitment, these communities will have the resources to transform underutilized space to help to attract and retain talent while helping to make a college education affordable for students. By taking a holistic approach, we are driving greater educational and workforce equity to open career paths that will help to close the racial wealth gap through the lens of education.”

Keith B. Shoates, Chief Operating Officer of the Student Freedom Initiative, added that “This approach simultaneously addresses the $1.7 trillion student debt burden. There are 43.6 million students with an average student debt of $39,000. Disproportionately, Black students owe an average of $52,000 and tend to carry $25,000 more in student debt than their white peers. A portion of the proceeds of the developments will support the Student Freedom Agreement fund, SFI’s affordable student loan option. Notably, the Student Freedom Fund will ultimately become an Endowment Without Walls for all SFI partners.”

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, SFI was founded by Robert F. Smith (Founder, Chairman, and CEO, of Vista Equity Partners) to serve as a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choices for students attending HBCUs and other MSIs by increasing their social and economic mobility through reducing students’ debt burdens. SFI’s focus on the resource needs of these institutions and their students provides valuable expertise to help decide which institutions and local communities can benefit the most from these investments.

In the coming months, Steinbridge and SFI will review the HBCUs and other MSIs deemed eligible for funds and prepare a formal announcement of those selected to participate.

For more information about the Steinbridge Group, visit or Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

About Steinbridge

The Steinbridge Group is an impact investment company with an initial focus on impact through real estate. The company is currently positioned to develop a pipeline of up to $1.3 billion of impactful real estate projects by acquiring, renovating, and developing homes to lease and sell to working families in major cities throughout the United States. Steinbridge recently launched its $100 million Capital Commitment to HBCUs and other institutions to catalyze the institutions’ underutilized real estate assets into economically productive uses in ways that positively impact the institutions and the communities that they serve.

The Steinbridge team includes leading professionals with global experiences across real estate and finance with billions of dollars of investing, acquisitions, asset management, construction, development, and leasing experience.

About Student Freedom Initiative

A single purpose nonprofit organization, Student Freedom Initiative’s vision is to reduce the wealth gap through the lens of education. This vision is achieved through four pillars and associated outcomes: (1) Commercial alternative to Parent PLUS loans (Reduce student debt burden), (2) Internships & Certifications (Increase job readiness), (3) Comprehensive Support (Increase student persistence), and (4) Minority Serving Institutions (“MSIs”) Capacity Building (Increase resilience and competitiveness). Student Freedom Initiative collaborates with community-based organizations, businesses, and governmental entities through public-private partnerships to make sustainable, systemic changes to support the MSI ecosystem.

Student Freedom Initiative has received contributions or recognitions from Robert F. Smith, Fund 2 FoundationCiscoJane StreetPrudential FinancialCapitalOne, Visa FoundationFirst Republic FoundationWalmart.orgBase10Pivotal AdvisorsBivium Capital, and the Business Roundtable’s Racial Equity & Justice Subcommittee on Education.

To learn more, visit or find us on Twitter @StudentFreedom.



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