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April 3, 2024

Student Freedom Initiative and Fusion Cyber Proud to Offer STEM Certification Funding through Denmark Technical College

WASHINGTON, DC [April 3, 2024] – Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) is proud to announce a partnership with Fusion Cyber to help students at Denmark Technical College in South Carolina achieve STEM certifications that will propel them into important and successful careers upon graduation.

SFI’s Student Freedom Loan Agreement (SFLA) includes funding for Denmark Tech students in all academic majors to obtain STEM certifications offered by Fusion Cyber. Denmark Tech is the first school within the SFI cohort to partner with Fusion Cyber, and Fusion Cyber is the first certification program of its kind to qualify for SFLA support.

“We are excited that Denmark Tech students will be able to use the SFLA to help them gain needed certifications in fields that will no doubt give them an edge in landing good jobs upon graduation, thanks to Fusion Cyber,” said Dr. Mark A. Brown, SFI’s president and CEO. “The SFLA for the last 4 years has offered up to $40,000 for STEM majors who are sophomores, juniors and seniors to cover costs over their college career.” Brown went on to say, “This benefit is now expanding to include STEM certifications for all academic majors. We did this based on economic demands, the future of work, and industry feedback on the value they placed on certifications, badging and various forms of micro-credentialing.

SFI’s partnership with Fusion Cyber is a significant step in our efforts to close the racial wealth gap through the lens of education. Across both race and gender, STEM majors and those with STEM certifications earn more than their non-STEM certified counterparts,” said Robert F. Smith, founder and chairman of SFI. “For students who are not majoring in STEM, these certifications will broaden their capabilities and make them more attractive candidates across industries. In our increasingly technical and digital world, STEM knowledge is more important than ever and students with experience in these fields will be better prepared to meet evolving business needs.”

In contrast to many other forms of student aid, an SFLA features unique benefits. There are no origination fees (unlike Parent PLUS), there is a low interest rate (below Parent PLUS), and interest never capitalizes (unlike Parent PLUS).  There are no payments required during school, students have an option to defer 12 monthly payments (and pay $0 during those months), there is $0 payment required if the student’s income is less than 300% of the Federal Poverty Level ($45,180 in 2024), and debt forgiveness begins the sixth year, if income is below that income threshold.

“Denmark Tech’s partnership with Fusion Cyber has been transformational for our institution and its ability to help equip our students for the Future of Work,” said Dr. Willie Todd, President of Denmark Technical College. “To be able to offer our students alternative, attractive student financial resources through this agreement with Student Freedom Initiative is a significant advantage to Denmark Tech and to the students we serve, and will help us achieve our ambitious goals for this program in the coming years. We aim to be a major disruptor in the trajectory of cybersecurity education.”

The partnership between SFI, Denmark Tech, Fusion Cyber and corporate leaders in cybersecurity like Cisco create a multi-dimensional impact model that has been heralded as both timely and important.

“We are thrilled to connect our impactful partnership with Denmark Tech to the mission and work of Student Freedom Initiative,” said Christopher Etesse, CEO of Fusion Cyber. “Our effort to train veterans and individuals from underrepresented communities is strategic in strengthening our nation’s response to the growing cyber security crisis. The partnership with Denmark Tech, in cooperation with Cisco, has been highlighted by the White House and is viewed as a model for addressing this opportunity in states across the country.  SFI’s support of participating students will enable us to scale much more rapidly with Denmark and other selected institutions in the SFI cohort.”


About Student Freedom Initiative

A single-purpose nonprofit organization, Student Freedom Initiative aims to reduce the wealth gap through the lens of education. This is achieved by providing a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choices for students attending Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) by increasing their social and economic mobility using a student-centric, evidence-based, holistic and collaborative approach. Initially focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Student Freedom Initiative enables mobility through four transformational components: (1) Student Freedom Fund as a private education loan alternative to Parent PLUS loans; (2) internships and industry-driven certifications; (3) comprehensive support; and (4) targeted MSI capacity building (e.g., access to affordable broadband, strengthening endowment governance and risk adjusted returns, workforce development in clean energy). Student Freedom Initiative collaborates with community-based organizations, businesses and governmental entities through public-private partnerships to make sustainable, systemic changes to support the entire MSI ecosystem.

To date, the Student Freedom Initiative has received generous contributions from Robert F. Smith, Fund 2 Foundation,Cisco, Jane Street, Prudential, First Republic and the Walmart Foundation. The program has also been acknowledged and supported by the Business Roundtable’s Racial Equity & Justice Subcommittee on Education. Our ability to provide support to MSI students is based on the continued financial support of these donors and others interested in aiding our mission. To learn more, visit, and follow us on social media @StudentFreedom.

About Denmark Technical College

Denmark Technical College is a public community college in Denmark, South Carolina. The college primarily serves Bamberg, Barnwell and Allendale counties in South Carolina, but is growing its reach based on its innovative approach to workforce development programs. The institution is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. In recent years, it has become a model for innovation in preparing students for Future of Work careers, and for its fast-track accreditation with partner colleges and universities. To learn more, visit

About Fusion Cyber

Fusion Cyber’s mission is to educate diverse groups of learners from varying backgrounds, building a generational impact for their families while protecting the nation and its business and civic institutions.  Our 24-week and 32-week Risk Management Framework (RMF) programs are facilitated by proven professionals, assisted by leading-edge, AI-forward implementation models. Fusion Cyber graduates are empowered to help organizations assess their resilience, defeat attacks, and stay ahead of the technological, legal, and policy challenges in play in today’s environment. To learn more, visit